Resources in teaching language is a rather tricky issue. Even those of us who like to think we create our own resources heavily rely on what has been said before. We build on foundations that have been safely laid for us. Therefore, what I am going to say in the next few paragraphs is said without losing sight of the mass of material already available to us thanks to which we can make our own contribution.
The point is that even the best thought-out presentation or resource works with some learners, not necessarily all of them, and a teacher knows their students’ needs, preferences and ability and can adapt activities accordingly.
I thoroughly enjoy creating my own activities and exercises or adapting already-existing ones . I normally use authentic material: poems, literary extracts and articles or news items and customise the activities for my learners.
I make a point of updating my material so as to stimulate the learner’s interest with items which are relevant to their reality. This means learners have the opportunity to read some of the latest news stories and do specific tasks on them.
Having said that, however, I do make exceptions for stories or articles that for various reasons never lose their appeal and can be appreciated regardless of the time of their publication.
Each text lends itself to different kinds of exercises and of course the activities are adapted to the learner’s goals and ability.
The range of topics is wide, from lifestyle and travel to scientific and philosophical, depending on the level of the learner.
I place particular emphasis on vocabulary practice and, therefore, accompany most of my texts with custom made vocabulary exercises which test the words unknown to a specific group of learners and which have been presented while working on the text and written in their vocabulary books.
Here is a sample of my work at an advanced level:
See pdf 1
See pdf 2
The first document is the student’s worksheet while the second is the teacher’s copy with answers in bold type and a guide for the summary exercise. Surely different teachers have their own ways of making a teacher’s guide for convenience reasons and in order to focus on real teaching in class. This is just my way.
As regards the more essential question of choosing which words to remove in the first activity, there is a number of criteria. My students may have come across a grammatical or lexical item recently and I need to reinforce it by testing it. Or there may be some details which I can only explain in context or I might even want to throw a little challenge here and there!
Next issue, a really big one, is the type of activity chosen. As the popular saying goes, it is … complicated. The activities used in this particular case are very familiar especially to those who have sat a Cambridge exam and preparing for a higher-level qualification. However, by no means do I limit myself to those only. As one can see, there are comprehension questions, which, despite their removal from most exams, do provide the learner with the opportunity to talk on a subject using ideas from the text. There is also a summary question, which again does not figure in most exams but which is an old-fashioned (I say, timeless) method of digging deeper into the text and going home having really learnt something.