We’ve all been there: “I’ll just print something off the web and wing it.”
Our students will never be able to tell the difference, right?
Even if your students are too concerned with their own language skills, they will quickly notice that something is amiss when their English doesn’t improve. Let's remember that your students are paying good money to learn from you. They trust you not to cheat them of their time or cash. After all, printing off an article and blithely declaring, “Discuss this!” isn’t much of a lesson plan. Nor is handing out pages filled with exercises from one of the myriad of materials for tired and lazy teacher websites. After all, just because your students' language skills in English are not as developed as yours doesn't mean they can't go to the same web sites you do. And if they can, then what is the point of having you as their teacher.
No one is saying the internet is bad. The web’s a fantastic resource for teachers and it would be shortsighted not to make the most of it. My message here, however, is to tell you not to rely on it too much - use the web to enhance your lessons rather than make them for you.
Here are some things I keep in mind when I prepare supplementary materials:
1) Discover your students’ strengths and weaknesses so you can teach at a level that is appropriate but challenging for them. Keep brief notes on each student to help you remember their particular needs. Now you can tailor your classes to suit them. The web’s great, but it has no idea about Amalie’s confusion with the /p/ and /b/ phonemes, Hans’ overuse of the present perfect tense, or how Momoko reaches for her electronic translator at the sight of every new word. Search the internet to find something that will be relevant AND useful to your students.
2) It’s your job to make sure your students learn something new in every class. Pick a clear teaching point for each lesson. Now search the web with that specific goal in mind, rather than trawling through random ESL websites.
3) Make a lesson plan. It will help you control your time and make sure you stick to your teaching point. The web has some great ideas, but remember to always keep your own students in mind. Browse lesson plans online to get ideas to create your own plan rather than printing out a generic one and dashing off to class.
4) Thinking about your class ahead of time also allows you to see if there’s a problem – too much new vocab to take in, or too many repetitive exercises. Use the internet to locate different exercises or games to mix things up a bit, or find some pictures to make memory aids or flashcards. You get to be creative here. Use your imagination.
5) Move around. Students sit hunched over a book when they study at home. Make class fun for them. Use internet dialogues to practice reading skills, but then ask the students to stand up and use the dialogue as a basis for role play. You could even print out some pictures to use as props.
Finally, always remember that the internet isn’t the teacher; you are.