Nailing It

I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. For all my woo, do it without paper, learner centred stuff, I actually really love resources. In particular, I really enjoy making my own. A lot of people might say that I make a rod for my own back, in terms of time and energy spent, when, because of our tendency to share resources and schemes of work in a shared drive, I could access loads of suitable resources, and yet I still make or design a lot of my own resources. I have to have the resources to fit the lesson I have in mind, rather than alter the lesson to fit the resources. This means a lot of published material is sometimes almost there, but not quite enough, and the same for shared resources from colleagues: they are good, but they don’t do exactly the job for the lesson I have in mind;I am, in short, a picky bastard.

There are several drawbacks to this: not least the quantity of time and effort, (although very often I can create a worksheet on a given subject in more or less the same time as it might take to find one). These aside, however, and challenges still remain. Lesson and materials design is essentially a form of writing (hands up ELT professionals who would give it all up to be a novelist/poet/playwright) and like any writing, is something of a process of trial and error: version 1 is ok, but lacks a proper follow up, version 2 has a better follow up, but needs tweaking at the start, version 3… well, you know what I mean. Eventually it all comes together: half lessons, mini lessons, and so on eventually gather all the bits to become proper, meaty lessons.

There have been a few of these these “coming together” moments in the last two weeks: my Halfords lorry – reading/review of definite and indefinite articles lesson, my ICT sessions on keyboard shortcuts and on online safety, and my “make a poster describing people / revising present simple third person singular” lesson. It’s very satisfying when you finally crack that elusive final practice activity, then watch all the component parts link together properly, tweakable to take into account the various needs of the class, nicely bookended with clear opening and closing activities: very satisfying indeed.

This is probably the main reason I stick with it. Sometimes, indeed quite often, you nail it from the off, and the materials and the lesson idea come together beautifully. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error, a bit of bodging and persuasion, but it does come together. Sometimes, of course, you try it, it bombs, and you simply don’t bother going back to it. But you end up with materials and lesson ideas that not only suit you but also the lesson, the students and the context: they just work. Sometimes I think this does make for lessons which are too personalised to me and the way I teach, but hey, I’m paid to teach, not to design universally applicable teaching materials. If you can’t make the resources work for you, well, you know what my answer is to that… 

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