In an ESL lesson, the materials chosen to present the new grammar and vocabulary are a very important part of the teacher?s preparation and largely determine how well the lesson will be understood and enjoyed by the students. The options of materials are many but all have their own appropriate uses. It is a good idea for ESL teachers to build up a collection of teaching materials and ideas that span from fun games to worksheets to short, easy novels. Often, a course book is the main guideline but other materials should be used to complement and diversify the lessons. Choosing the correct materials depend on many different areas such as class size, language level, personal interests of the students, student ages, etc. But the teacher should view this part of planning as a chance to be creative and have fun since the best way to learn is through having a good time. Two unique materials that can be used within lessons at very different times are: online English speaking newspapers and cartoon strips. In the following paragraphs both sources will be briefly analyzed for their benefits in teaching ESL.
In the online article, Some Possibilities for Using On-line Newspapers in the ESL Classroom, by Jarek Krajka, the advantages and disadvantages of accessing English speaking newspapers for ESL use is researched. As Krajka states, ?if suited to the students&acute; level of English, newspaper articles can be interesting to read and may trigger some in-class discussion, as well as increase students&acute; cultural awareness? (Krajka, 2000, Introduction section, para. 2). For many students in non-English speaking countries, the price of actual English speaking newspapers is much too expensive and they can be hard to come by. But with the increasing usage of the internet, access to websites with up-to-date news in English is much easier and many times free within a school setting. There are concerns that students will be easily distracted from the assigned website or article once online and that reading text on a screen, especially with lots of extra, unnecessary graphics, might be difficult and distracting. But with the proper supervision by the teacher and motivation by the students, very appealing and fascinating lessons can develop from this worldwide source. An example might be assigning students in pairs or in threes to research a recent event in another country related to a topic such as natural disasters and then present their findings in an oral presentation. The online English speaking newspaper is a rich source of interesting and creative uses for the ESL classroom.
Another good ESL source is that of comic strips. In the article, Serious ESL lessons await students in the funny pages, comic strips are analyzed for their benefits in teaching English to foreign students. As the article reports, ?(comic strips are) beneficial in part because they provide brief conversations in English with pictures that help convey the meaning of the words? (Curriculum Review, 2005, para. 1). By presenting small phrases, it is less overwhelming for the student in comprehending the message. The images that follow the text also make reading more interesting for the student as well as offering clues to the phrases. Another big advantage is the cultural humour that comes with comic strips. In the article, ESL program director of Northwestern University, Julia Moore states, "I have found comics to be useful because humor often trades on the fact that words can have more than one sense or meaning, and the context of an utterance can dramatically change its meaning" (Curriculum Review, 2005, para. 4). It is often rare that a student is exposed to such cultural jokes and plays on words but comic strips are a powerful teaching tool in that area.
In conclusion, the use of online English speaking newspapers and comic strips are just two of a multitude of resources available for ESL teaching. By adding materials such as these into lesson plans, students are challenged and at the same time enjoy themselves while being motivated to learn English. Learning a foreign language is difficult but it should be entertaining and appealing for both the teacher and the students. The proper, creative materials incorporated into lesson plans are an important step in achieving this goal.
Author: Halina Wloka
Date of post: 2007-04-12