Skills

A simple blueprint for making creative ESL worksheets

Robert Dobie

Robert Dobie is an ELT teacher and owner of the popular ESL resource site, All Things Grammar. This article follows on from Three ways to get the most out of speaking activities and is the final in the series. In this post, Robert talks about how to create effective ESL worksheets.

As language teachers, we are all very familiar with worksheets.  We know one when we see one.  Very simply, it’s a sheet of paper used for work, and we use them often in our teaching.  However, if I could, I would change the word ‘worksheet’ to a completely different word.  Why?  Because the word ‘work’ is often associated with boring, repetitive tasks – like factory work.  In fact, some worksheets provide learning practice that may actually feel like factory work!  That’s why we are teachers, but we are all also (to at least some extent) materials writers – because we want to tear down the factory walls and make worksheets that are exciting, fun and rewarding.  The following is a simple blueprint for making creative ESL worksheets.

Step One – Brainstorm:

Take a large, blank piece of paper and make three columns.  In each column, write a long list of verbs that can describe anything that could possibly be done (by either learners or teachers) in a typical classroom.  Here’s an example:

 

Column 1
Column 2
Column 3
Say Remember Spell
Write Test Sing
Listen Repeat Answer
Stand Lie Read
Sit Draw Advise
Whisper Ask Give
Shout Look Take
Cut Dictate Introduce
Tape Run Tell
Hide Think Forget
Make Throw Hold
Walk Teach Exchange

Step Two – Make Connections:

Take a minute or two and scan the three columns.  Use your imagination, and try to make connections between the different verbs.  In Column 1, for example, you might draw a line from the word ‘cut’ to the word ‘remember’ in Column 2; you might then draw a line from ‘remember’ to the word ‘tell’ in Column 3.  You now have the words ‘cut’, ‘remember’ and ‘tell’.

These three words, you may recall, form the basis of the instructions of my worksheet called ‘Scissors Crossword – Places Around Town’  [Before class, the teacher cuts out the crossword clues and gives one clue to each student to remember; the students then tell the clues (from memory) to their classmates].

Column 1
Column 2
Column 3
Say Remember Spell
Write Test Sing
Listen Repeat Answer
Stand Lie Read
Sit Draw Advise
Whisper Ask Give
Shout Look Take
Cut Dictate Introduce
Tape Run Tell
Hide Think Forget
Make Throw Hold
Walk Teach Exchange

You can see how I used this strategy in another of my worksheets called Grammar and Listening – Present Perfect.  In the extension activity part of this worksheet, the teachers says a missing word; the students spell the word on their worksheets; finally, they ask their classmates the questions (using the completed exercise).  In this case, I start with Column 1 and then head straight over to Column 3, and then turn back to Column 2.  This is completely okay because Step 2 is simply a part of the brainstorming process – you don’t have to worry about making it look beautiful.  In fact, the messier the better!  It means that your creative energy is flowing!

Column 1
Column 2
Column 3
Say Remember Spell
Write Test Sing
Listen Repeat Answer
Stand Lie Read
Sit Draw Advise
Whisper Ask Give
Shout Look Take
Cut Dictate Introduce
Tape Run Tell
Hide Think Forget
Make Throw Hold
Walk Teach Exchange

 

You might want to experiment with this blueprint for making creative ESL worksheets.  You might want to cut the columns into three pieces and rearrange them to look at them from a different perspective.  You might want to try two columns, or maybe four.  And it’s very likely that you can add your own verbs to the list above.  Perhaps add nouns?  So, what other connections can you see in the three columns?  Are you getting any ideas for your own creative worksheets?

If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to start this series from the beginning, check out Robert’s first post, 5 activities using only a crossword and a pair of scissors!


Share your ideas for a post below.
We're looking forward to hearing about it
and will be in touch once we've had a read.
0/5000 characters

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

We will take a read through your ideas and be in touch shortly.