Theresa Clementson’s session (worksheet)
The attached worksheet is made for students in the intermediate level (grade 8). As you can see from the worksheet, the topic is Island Life and the unit is about the environment in general. Before producing any worksheet it is very important to set your objectives, and this is done in this worksheet. First, the students will warm up with the vocabulary exercise. Then there is the grammar part, where students will use relative pronouns (clauses). Third, there is the speaking part in which students will discuss issues relating to the environment. Finally, the students will be able to write about their likes and dislikes.
In the first exercise the teacher should read out each word and check that students know its meaning. Then the teacher can ask the students to name an example of each place, and maybe can use a map.
The second exercise is the grammar part; the teacher can provide the students with a paragraph full of relative pronouns, or can write example sentences on the board. Then, the teacher should allow the students time to complete the sentences in the task, going round and offering help where needed.
The following exercise practises the function of expressing opinions. The teacher should read out the instructions and the example sentences, and then should ask the students to help the teacher to build similar sentences. The teacher can supply the beginning. To make this exercise more effective, the teacher can put the students in pairs to produce more sentences, using where, that/which and who. The teacher should tell the students that they can use the ideas in the box or their own ideas.
The last exercise is the writing paragraph; the students earlier talked about and expressed their likes and dislikes, and used the relative pronouns to complete sentences. Now is the time for the teacher to tell the students to write a couple of sentences or a paragraph about their own likes and dislikes, using who, that/which and where. The teacher can go round and make corrections where necessary.
I have produced the worksheet and lesson plan in quite a similar way and with a similar design to the lessons in the Target English coursebooks by Pearson Longman which are currently being used in government (state) schools in Kuwait. This lesson was prepared for students at grade 8 in intermediate (middle) school. It is culturally appropriate, and is related to our country because there are more than ten islands in Kuwait. This is my first experience in producing materials, because we English teachers in Kuwait often tend to use coursebooks to follow the national curriculum of the Ministry of Education (MOE).
In the session we had with Theresa Clementson, one of the writers of English Unlimited (a coursebook by Cambridge University Press), we discussed some of the advantages of using coursebooks, such as saving time, and the advantages of teacher-produced materials, such as personalisation, flexibility and being up-to-date. We were all happy and eager to produce and use our own materials in our classes, because we know our learners’ needs better than anyone else, and this would be the perfect scenario for us. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that in real life: how many teachers would be interested in spending hours in producing materials without being paid? We all agreed with this. There are other reasons, and I would like to mention them here from the perspective of an English teacher in Kuwait; probably they are the reasons why I have not previously produced any materials. The first reason is that the students will be tested from the coursebook, so the principal and the parents want to make sure that the teacher is using the coursebook. Also, time is sometimes an important factor, and does not allow you to use your own materials, as you want to focus in depth on what is in the coursebook. The other reason is that the supervisors evaluate teachers according to their performance and their use of the coursebook in classrooms. Frankly, teachers want to keep their jobs and get a good evaluation at the end of the year; they don’t want to gamble by using something different from what the system is asking them to use.
The evaluation session we had in TLM25 with Paul made me start looking at coursebooks from different and new perspectives. After the discussion we had in the class, I realised that evaluation is not about saying ‘yes, this is good, we can use it’ or ‘no, it’s not good enough, we can’t use it’, and this will never be the case. Evaluation is about identifying the gaps in a coursebook because ‘the needs of a specific class of learners can never be perfectly met by a single coursebook, even when the coursebook has been carefully designed to cater for the needs of learners in that context’ (McGrath, 2002: p. 80). And if we (ESL/EFL teachers) are able to find these gaps, we will be able to use coursebooks and (or with) the materials we produce ourselves together in order to tackle those gaps, as we know our students’ needs. As a Master’s student, this course gave me the chance to look at the different trends and methods in teaching. Both content and format are important, and teachers should be able to find the right balance of these. And once they do, they will be able to bridge the gap between coursebooks and their students’ needs.
Another important point that we came across in Theresa Clementson’s session is that producing our own materials can offer the students up-to-date data, and this is important in order to keep up the momentum in the learning process. I totally agree with that, because once a coursebook is published it is rare to see significant changes to its content in the later editions. This is especially true with the emergence of new devices and technologies such as smartphones (apps), tablets, blogs and social networks, which I think will play a part in ESL/EFL learners’ life in the future. Materials produced by teachers using new technology can help to bridge some of the gaps in the coursebooks. Technology is a trend in language learning we cannot ignore. Again I think it is really important for teachers to find the combination (and balance) between coursebooks and materials they produce themselves.
McGrath, I. (2002) Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.