How to Choose Your ESL Materials?Avoid These Kinds of Pages

​I’d like to start a discussion on the qualities that make for good ESL materials. 

Hopefully, these next few weeks will help when you are searching and sifting through all of the many materials you have available to you on- or off-line. 

First up this week: quality over quantity.

In many ESL materials, a page is like an overworked mother trying to do 10 things at once. 

Often, an author has tried to pack as much practice onto a single piece of paper as possible.

Many times the font is so small and the lines so packed together that students have to lean over and squint at the page in order to complete it. (Here is an example.)

Tightly-packed pages usually lead to groans, frustration, confusion, and student overwhelm--not to mention upset parents concerned about their child's eyesight.

Often though, it’s not just the volume of questions packed onto a page that is at issue, it’s also the volume of question types

In many ESL materials, there are also many different kinds of questions on a single page.

On a single page, there might be a past tense explanation, 20 past tense irregular verb fill-in-the-blanks, 10 fill-in-the-blank with the correct verb type questions, 5 change the sentence practice questions with mixed sentence types including negatives and questions. (Here is an example.)

Unless your students already know the material and you are simply using this as a review, a page packed with so many different types of questions is a nightmare to teach.

When it is hard to get all students looking at the right part of the page together, and right when students are starting to get the hang of one type of question, the question type changes, you end up spending as much or more time explaining as you do practicing. 

It is incredibly helpful to you and your students to find pages that have a single question type with fewer sentences packed in.

  1. You will be able to focus your explanation on one grammar idea rather than five 
  2. Your students won't need to squint
  3. There will be less groaning and overwhelm
  4. It's easier to correct when there are mistakes and it's easier for a student to redo if needed 
  5. Students can do more independent practice rather than needing you to walk them through everything

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

I have some big news to announce in a few weeks.

I am going to try and solve one of the biggest problems ESL teachers face—and I can’t do it without your help. 

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