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Teach English in Dongdongtinghu Guanweihui - Yueyang Shi
What I understand by 'Materials' When I think of materials in terms of English Second Language (ESL) teaching, I think of a broad range of items, from worksheets to pictures, flash cards to figurines, exercises, tests, and so on. To put 'materials' more in perspective, these are materials needed to deliver an ESL course. Why this topic? I have created course material and training material since 1995, firstly for training artisans in development projects in South Africa, and later from 2001 to 2006 in Wales, training Voluntary Sector groups. For one employer I created a 'Behavioural Based Safety' course for North Sea Safety Standby Vessels (Offshore operations), which included four booklets, tests, e-learning, and one to one sessions to check understanding. Creating materials for courses really inspires me! Not from the point of view of creating something for myself, bur for creating something that will be successful in training out, or teaching, the subject. A Process Before creating any materials for a course, we first need to have an understanding of the students and their needs. This is directly relevant to me at this time, since I have been asked by colleagues in Hungary to teach them English, and I want to put together a relevant, motivating, and ultimately successful course! The starting point is to gauge the level of the prospective students. In my current case, they are lawyers, and I already know that they have an intermediate level of English. If I didn't already know this, I might interview them informally to find out, or engage in conversation or exchange of email in order to assess their level. The next step is the 'Training Needs Analysis' (TNA), which determines what the students learning needs are. This must not be a clinical analysis, only academically based, but must be based on what the student wants, what motivates them, what is of interest, what they will use regularly, and what is relevant. This is something that has come over strongly in this TEFL course - that the teaching is not clinical grammar, but rather English language, taught in relevant subjects/ sections /pieces. Out of the TNA, both common and specific areas of learning needs can be worked out for planning the course materials. Again, from the TNA, and considering the time available from the students (for the lessons), I would start to plan a skeleton of a course, outlining the duration (weeks), number of lessons per week, and time per lesson. Into the available framework, I would match the TNA from the students. Subjects would be slotted into the lessons based on the amount of time needed for the subject. I see this planning as part of 'creating material' - we are creating our course plan. At the end of this exercise, we are able to add in the educational material - relevant material to the course plan. Material The possibilities for material are almost limitless these days, given even a small budget. For example, to create a small A5 booklet of 8 pages needs two double sided A4 photocopies! Any size of booklet, containing any sort of material can be created for the students. For example, a booklet with key vocabulary for the lesson, with pictures demonstrating the words, a gap fill exercise and another 'tester', and some reading to revise the lesson. The availability of material to go within our material (what we can find to put in our handouts, booklets, overheads, power points, videos, etc.) is also almost limitless. These include pictures and photographs, text of any size and shape, simple videos (explanatory videos, non-authentic material), authentic video material, authentic and non-authentic texts (news, stories, blogs, etc.), all types and sorts of puzzles and games, class groups on social network sites to encourage interaction (also course material!), live and recorded voices (the News, documentaries, etc.), and much more! Having pointed out that there is a huge range of material (resources) available to use, and great opportunities to incorporate this into our course material, I have to point out that this must all be done as relevant to the TNA and course outline that has been worked out. The material that is created must not be 'over the top', and must not overshadow the learning. It is there as an aid, and should be made to be the best aid possible, but not a distraction! All this course material must of course be fitted into Lesson Plans, with a structured plan per lesson, based on the Engage, Study, Activate methodology taught in this course. The plans need to be tested to check that the timing will be enough and not too much for the activities, and the equipment needed to present the materials also needs to be tested (projectors, laptop, etc.). At this stage we should have a course, with topics relevant to the students, that they will want to learn and will engage with, and with good quality material relevant to the topics. We will have a plan for delivery of the course material in terms of length of the course overall, number and length of lessons, what is delivered in each lesson, and how. Delivery of Materials! The delivery (teaching / receiving) of the materials is equally important as the material itself and no matter how good the material, or how well the course has been planned, a poor delivery will not have good learning outcomes. In creating the materials, effort also needs to be put into guiding the teacher in delivery, eg. not simply saying 'Talk about tables' in the lesson plan, but have prompts for the teacher such as 'Talk about tables....kitchen, dining room, coffee tables, round ones, square ones, ones with sharp corners...etc.'. This means significant effort in the lesson planning, but this will maximise the use of the material. Overall, creating materials should be motivating for the teacher, and using well created material should be motivating for both teacher and student.