In this post you will find some conclusions we have all drawn from our recent round table session on the topic of using supplementary materials.
To remind you, we looked at various photocopies and answered the following questions:
We talked about how different the needs of students of various ages are. We agreed on the following:
- children and teenagers don’t usually collect the handouts they are given unless they are specifically told to keep them in an organised way; they often throw away loose copies as they don’t know what else to do with them
- adults tend to prefer to have their own copy of materials rather than share and they like to store their copies (however, we are not sure whether or how many of our students look back at those materials at home)
Hence, we concluded that there are a few principles that can help us decide whether to use photocopied material in class:
- assess the usefulness of the material you are going to use
- decide whether a hard copy is necessary and beneficial to students’ learning
- decide on what form of the material (paper or digital) it is best to use
- decide how to use it trying to engage all students and save on the material you are using
The first two steps are essential in lesson planning in general. The material that we use has to make sense and stem from a logical progression of activities in the lesson. If we have done written exercises available in the coursebook or workbook, what is the benefit of photocopying another sheet of exercises for the students to do in the same class? Don’t they need to do a communicative task after that? Does the fact that they have completed a series of exercises on a photocopy we have given them guarantee that learning has taken place? Surely, the quality of the task we give our students will be more important than the quantity. The more we push our students to think, analyse, negotiate and justify their answers, the more they will get from the activity. We may not even need any supplementary material altogether.
However, if we do decide to use additional exercises, we agreed there are several ways of going about the task, which will allow us to either eliminate photocopying or reduce it significantly. The ideas we came up with included:
- projecting exercises on the board (students either write their answers in their notebooks or complete on the board; kids and teenagers will appreciate a competitive aspect to the activity)
- cutting up the material (students work in groups and get a part of the material, the mingle or exchange the material in the next step or simply work on their part and exchange information in group feedback later on)
- posting cut up material on the walls (this involves students working in pairs or groups competing to complete all displayed tasks fast)
- rewriting the material changing it into an interactive game (e.g. Kahoot, Blockbusters, a trivia quiz, a pub quiz, an auction, etc.)
Although some of these ideas mean some extra work on our part, which may seem more time-consuming than simple photocopying, let’s remember that we do it for our students’ benefit. Quite often we will feel that it’s worth the effort, since our students are bound to take something away from materials that have been well thought through and selected with their specific needs in mind.
We decided in our session that although there are a few occasions when a hard copy will be necessary (e.g. tests, some info gap activities, some vocabulary handouts, some exercises sheets for adults), we can very often eliminate photocopying materials altogether. Going further, we may decide that we don’t actually need any supplementary material if we plan to exploit coursebook material to the maximum and use communicative practice rather than written exercises more often (Ceri Jone’s book may be useful for this).
So, handout or no handout? My own conclusion to the question I’d asked, and I have a feeling all of us present had similar thoughts, is that we have to reassess our approach to material selection and look at every piece of material we are about to photocopy and double check – is this necessary? is it beneficial? how can I use it? I know I’ve got some rethinking to do. After all, all the photocopies we used in the session were made by me ;P
by Kasia Kepka