Designing my own material: Have I gone mad?

Designing materials

How good are you at designing your own teaching material? Are you always on the lookout for new ideas or resources that you can later modify and turn them into feasible lesson plans?

I am one of those, in fact. That is, every time I’m watching a movie or a TV series, reading authentic materials I got on my last holidays or even when someone posts a picture with a text in English I cannot help thinking about how to exploit them in my lessons with my students. To illustrate this at work, here’s my latest example.

I was just browsing through my facebook newsfeed when all of sudden I came across this video about two of the most important universities in the UK Oxford vs. Cambridge

The moment I started watching it, I realized I would be using it in my lessons since the content is educational and it is presented in a very innovative and catching way. As you may have seen if you watched the video, it is a point by point description of relevant facts to show which university has achieved the highest number of things or the most successful ones throughout their existence, only to arrive to the conclusion that both are equally important and there is no such thing as a winner.

I spent some time thinking of possible activities to be used with this video until I came up with one which was the following one:

Title: The War of the Titans

Possible objectives? Well, lots of them:

  • To introduce CLIL to my lessons
  • To make students work in pairs on a CLIL project
  • To combine learning English with fun activities
  • To make students work with technological resources (Power Point docs, video making programs, screen capture softwares, projectors)
  • To involve students with their own learning by engaging them in research to find relevant content (and of their own choice) to make their own videos.

Here’s a detailed student’s worksheet:The War of the Titans_Students’ worksheets

Note that this activity was intended to be done with intermediate and upper-intermediate students to give them more freedom about what to say. However, I bet you can adapt it to lower levels as well since the difficulty here lies on how well they manage to use the resources involved. The technological resources used are: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, search engines, PowerPoint, aTube Catcher (for screen capture) and a projector.

Other factors to consider

It’s worth mentioning that if your students are not tech-savvy or if they don’t have mobiles or any other of the resources mentioned before then you should consider using this activity in a more traditional way. One alternative would be to make them look for useful information and just distribute it as a pair so that each member of the pair reads his/her part. You would be working with content all the same and it would still be a game.

So, if while talking to other colleagues about materials design they seem to suggest that you are mad because you waste time creating your own material when there are so many ready-to-use resources, then you can come up with what I call a witticism,

Hatter, “Have I gone mad?”

Alice, “I’m afraid so; you’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret: all the best people are.”

Alice in Wonderland. Watch it, here.
Source: Film: Alice in Wonderland, 2010. Directed by Tim Burton and written by Linda Woolverton



Filed under ELT, ELT activities for teenagers, Materials design, Teaching with technology

4 responses to “Designing my own material: Have I gone mad?

  1. One size never fits all. Designing one’s own materials is not a choice, it’s a part of teaching. Only you know your students well enough to tap into their interests and provide for appropriate challenge and, ultimately, progress. Though, it is indeed ‘demand high’ for teachers:) Best of luck with your blog! P.S. Great pic, Nat:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Lana. It’s really time-consuming but it’s also worthwhile. Thanks for your best wishes and as for the pic, no copyright problems whatsoever here. Actually, I’m thinking of being the “model” for every picture on my blog just to be on the safe side, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. María Eugenia Pellegrin

    I would also say that, apart from worthwhile, it is highly rewarding when you design your own material and see your students “feel” your ideas. And the moment you have a connection with them through your work, you have added something not only to their knowledge, but to their souls.
    Nati, as I have already told you, reading YOU is a pleasure. Keep on inspiring students and colleagues with your kind and positive nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your comment, Mauge! “Rewarding”, as you say, is another positive adjective that we can use to describe the feeling we get by creating our own materials. I know how much you like deviating from the coursebook to “experiment” with your own ideas/activities as well. 🙂


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