Lots of bits of paper

What you get a lot of in CELTA is trainees throwing new bits of paper at the students for every single task. Some of them creatively cut up on coloured cards (yep, that was me too), some of them beautifully printed on sheets of paper then cut up (again) so that there’s one activity per piece of paper. It’s a bug bear of mine, and it’s always a pleasure when you see someone starting to maximise resources, rather than just slinging stuff at the students.

It’s comment like that, of course, that have led to me developing a reputation as being anti-resources and anti-handouts, but that’s not what it is. However it has taken me a while to work it into something simple about resources and handouts.

Basically, ask yourself:

  • Does it make the learning better than not using it?
  • Is it essential for the task?
  • Does it give the students something to refer to later?

If the answer to these is no, then you have to ask yourself this:

How would the activity work without the resource? What would happen to the task if you took that away?

Sometimes (but not always, mind you) the idea you come up with to replace the handout might actually be a better activity than the one you have faithfully copied 20 times. And so what if you have copied it 20 times, or spent 20 minutes carefully chopping up a matching task when you think of an idea? (I can hear my managers cursing me as we waste hundreds of pounds on printing…) If the idea you have come up with is better than the chopped up bits of photocopy then do the better idea. Indeed, I get some of my best ideas when I am hunched over the guillotine or while sorting my cut ups into little heaps and carefully clipping them together with a paper clip.

The reality is that I am not anti-resources, or anti-coursebooks, or anti-paper. I am simply pro-ideas. And I think that sometimes the obsession with resources of any kind can get in the way of ideas.



  1. I love to watch my colleagues, mainly out of self interest, cutting up and spending their well-deserved time preparing great pieces of handouts to only curse about how the students didn’t appreciate the effort one had put into their lesson. I sometimes wonder why a teacher would waste their valuable time preparing matching activities if it really isn’t suitable for the learners nor the lesson.

    However, it is a joy when students really enjoy a lesson that you’ve prepared and they go leaving the class with a smile on their faces. I suppose that is what we all strive towards.

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