Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being an ALT #8: Making Activites

Although some ALTs get by without making any, I am always asked to make worksheets, games and activities.

Sometimes it's a real headache coming up with original ideas, and although we covered some places you can find TEFL worksheets in part 4 you will sometimes find yourself totally on your own.

Remember these tips for those times.
  • Resources.
    As covered last week, physical resources add a lot to your classes, so try to think of ways to use objects in your activities. Whether it's just a piko-piko hammer, or a set of quiz-style buzzers, it adds something. These two entries cover some time-filling games, several of which use props.
  • Most simply, (and you would think obviously) use images on your worksheets. There's nothing more boring than a wall of text and lines. You'd be surprised how many sheets of this type I've inherited. You can make an inevitably dull sheet a lot more appealing this way. Be careful not to overdo it, but a nice border and a couple of little characters sprinkled around will go a long way.

  • Students like to know more about you, so incorporate facts about yourself into activities where possible. For example, on the second sheet of this "I Can, Can You?" activity, the students must guess things about the ALT and then play a bingo game with the truth.

  • Japanese celebreties also go down well. Especially the (urghhh...) comedians. Trying to use characters and celebreties from your country is amusing the first time, but they quickly get bored of looking at strangers.

  • Getting students up and about is a productive way of making repetitive grammar practice more interesting. Interview games, bingos or fun group activities like our Typhoon Game really get things moving. Just make sure the Baseball Boys don't clump together in the corner of the class.

  • Use video clips when possible.
    It needn't be a full episode, or even as long as my Mr Bean Sequence Sandwich clip. As Steve pointed out a couple of weeks ago, you can find and freely use short clips from movies which utilise certain grammar points. If you're lucky these may snowball with a "Yes We Can" effect, and your students will be shouting them down the corridors at each other all year. Students always come up to me with lines they must have got off the TV (and not just "Fuck you"), like "I want you, I need you!" and "Marry me, make me happy!", so I think this works very well. Music and lyrics is also a good one, though used quite a lot.

  • Don't be afraid to do the same thing more than once.
    Or something very similar. It's fine to play the Salty Snail game half a dozen times with the same class over the course of the year. In fact that's a perfect example because it can be used with a very wide variety of grammar points. Slight alterations can completely change the learning objectives, plus cut down on complicated explanations of how things work.
    Similarly, if you use the same idea for slightly different points on a worksheet, no problem (for example, the same ALT bingo sheet may work for both "can" and "will" with slight changes). Just make sure they aren't done too close together and/or too often.
    There are only so many really effective ideas out there. If one works well, then make the most of it.

I hope that helps you find your feet.  If you have any feedback then please drop it in the comments below.


    1. Why are there no comments? Thank you's? Sadly..a lot of teachers wanna forget about their jobs and dive into a beer right after work. Let the lack of comments or appreciation be a testament to that.

    2. I'm going to be starting as an ALT in Saitama this September. I have no previous teaching experience, I have found all of this very useful!

      Thank you and keep it up!


    3. thank you for your help

    4. Dom,

      I think I've read and enjoyed all of your posts here. Thanks for the info and the laughs along the way,


    5. I would show the clip from the Trevor Noah stand-up comedy show as he explains American culture and American English language. His "Nameen" bit is particularly funny. Show name: Trevor Noah: African American.

      Nameen = know what I mean, slang term, words smashed together to make a new word as is common in American English. Similar to y'all for you all.

      clip from a TV appearance