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Thread: Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)

  1. #1
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Default Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)

    Intro & Table of Contents

    Please be patient while I set this up. I have a lot written out but I need to figure out how to organize it properly.
    Last edited by Ebi; May 27th, 2015 at 18:03.

  2. #2
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please


    Comprehensible Input: This refers to language that is understood by a non-native listener, even if they don't understand all of the parts of what is being said. You can make input comprehensible by using scaffolding. For example, you could stress key words; add gestures that give hints for the meaning; or demonstrating what the desired response might sound like.

    Original sentence: "What sushi do you like?"
    With gestures & emphasis: "What sushi do you *point at student* like? *make heart gesture*
    Modeling answers: "What sushi do you like? I like tuna. And I like ikura. What do you like?"

    Comprehension Checks: Never ask "Do you understand?" It's pointless at best and condescending at worst. If students are lost, they won't want to announce that to the whole class. Even if they are confident, it's possible that they misunderstood something fundamental. "Do you have any questions?" is slightly better, but students are still unlikely to respond.

    A better way confirm understanding is to use "comprehension checks". A comprehension check is anything that tests the students' level of comprehension. The simplest method is to ask pointed questions about the concept you just discussed.

    For example, let's say students were just introduced to the concept of third-person singular "s" for action verbs ("Emi walks to school"). Here are some possible questions with increasing levels of difficulty that would help you evaluate how well students understand.

    "'Becky like dogs.' Is this OK?" <- Yes/No
    Which is OK? "Kevin and Becky eats an apple." or "Kevin and Becky eat an apple." <- Either/Or
    *show a picture card of a boy playing basketball* "What sport does Kevin play?" <- Who/What/Where/When
    "They plays tennis." Is this OK? Why? How can we make it OK? <- Why/How

    Graphic Organizers: WIP (Further reading.)

    IPA/Phonetic symbols: WIP (Further reading.)

    Modified Speech: WIP

    Scaffolding: Scaffolding is guidance provided by a more knowledgeable person (i.e. the teacher) to help a learner accomplish something they could not have otherwise done successfully on their own. Teachers of ESL/EFL students need to take care to employ strategies to lower the difficulty, raise the ability of students, and provide as much comprehensible input as possible. This might include using gestures, authentic materials, or other visual aids; modeling examples; activating prior knowledge so students recognize patterns; or having students work in groups or pairs.

    Visual Aids: WIP


    TPR: WIP
    Last edited by Ebi; May 27th, 2015 at 19:22.

  3. #3
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Planning A Lesson

    As ALTs we probably won't get many opportunities to teach lessons on our own, but there are times when we are asked to lead all or part of a lesson or introduce an activity. So how do you lead a lesson if you've never taught before? Even if you're good at improvising, it helps to have at least a rough plan in place. I would recommend starting with very detailed and concrete plans at first until you get the hang of it, but do what works best for you.

    Determine Your Goals

    First, think about the goals of the lesson or activity, and make sure they are clear and achievable. "I will teach how to use 'can"." isn't a very good goal. For one thing, a goal should focus on what your students and it should be possible to evaluate if you achieved that goal or not. A phrase I like to use when thinking of goals is "Students will be able to ___." often shortened to SWBAT.

    However, "Students will be able to use 'can'" is still too vague. Try to be precise and also try to consider the different types of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Here are some better examples:

    Speaking: "Students will be able to describe activities they can or cannot do." "SWBAT ask classmates if they are able to perform an activity."
    Writing: "SWBAT make a predictions about the abilities of their classmate and write their guesses and answers." "SWBAT write sentences about third-person singular subjects without using 's' following 'can'."
    Listening: "SWABAT differentiate between the sounds 'can' and 'can't' and recognize if their classmates have answered affirmatively or not."
    Reading: "SWBAT identify if a sentence using 'can' or 'can't' is positive or negative." "SWBAT locate the verb and helping verb (modal) in a sentence."

    Those are all specific, testable goals that you can design lessons and activities around to help students achieve them. (Further reading about developing learning goals.)

    Think About the Materials Available

    Once you have goals in mind, start thinking about the materials you need. What do students usually have on hand? What can you use that is already available and what do you need to supplement? This step doesn't necessarily need to come first, as you will probably realize you need more materials as your plan takes shape, but it can be a useful starting point. Be extra careful to not forget the small things, like making sure you have enough magnets. And don't skimp on the visual aids!

    Write Things Out

    When you start planning a lesson, try to imagine how things might unfold in the classroom. Brainstorm in whatever order works for you, but I tend to imagine things from start to finish. If you're a new ALT, I recommend writing things out explicitly. You can bring a copy, or preferably simplified outline, of your lesson plan with you to class so you can check it periodically to stay on track. It's easy to forget and skip vital steps if you're nervous.

    A finished, detailed lesson plan might look something like this:

    (Worksheet for activity: p.52 - When Pictures.doc)

    Unit New Horizon 2, Unit 5, p. 52
    Lesson Topic Using "when" as a conjunction
    Student Level and Population Second year JHS students, about 32 students per class
    Functional Objective To be able to express how events are related in time
    Language Objectives Students will be able to:

    Writing: Write a sentence using "when" at both the beginning and middle of a sentence. Using the new grammar and known vocabulary, students will be able to describe seven events in time.
    Speaking: Pronounce new vocabulary and share their original sentences orally with other students.
    Listening: Listen to their classmates' original sentences and receive simple instructions in spoken English.
    Reading: Read and translate the example sentences into Japanese.
    Materials List One copy of the attached worksheet printed front and back per student. Students will need pencils or another kind of writing utensil. Colored pencils or markers are optional for students who finish writing early.
    Lesson Outline Time
    Roles of the JTE, ALT, and Students
    Interactive Warm-up
    & Background Building
    ALT and JTE will greet the students and ask review questions, such as "How is the weather?"
    Using picture cards, ALT and JTE will take turns asking students questions about the story of Unit 5 for review. (Such as "Where does Mrs. Okada live?" "What is she going to do?")
    Presentation 10 minutes JTE will introduce the new grammar point "when". ALT will support by providing examples, demonstrating native pronunciation, and facilitating read/repeat practice or choral reading.
    Controlled Practice 10
    ALT will distribute worksheet and tell students to read the provided example. ALT will ask students, "When I came home, what was my brother doing?" JTE will ask students to translate the example sentences into Japanese. JTE will emphasize that the meaning of both sentences is identical, but the order and punctuation is different.
    ALT will instruct students to look at picture #1. JTE will ask ALT "It's 2015. How old are you now?" When ALT answers, JTE will ask "OK. How old were you in 2005?" ALT will state her age in a sentence using "when", such as "When it was 2005, I was 15 years old." Following this model, JTE or ALT can call on a few students. ALT will instruct students to write their age in the blank space. If students have a different preferred age/date, they can cross out "2005" and write a different year.
    Semi-controlled Practice 15 minutes ALT will instruct students to look at picture #2. ALT will ask "When do you use a spoon?" JTE will call on students to answer. ALT will encourage students to choose any food they want and fill in the blanks. They may also draw a picture of the food in the space provided.
    ALT will instruct students to look at the remaining pictures. ALT will ask students "What's this?" for each picture to check comprehension. ALT will explain that students are free to interpret the pictures however they want, but they should write sentences before spending time drawing pictures.
    Applied Practice 5

    (Next class)
    ALT will tell students to write a completely original sentence for #7. JTE will check comprehension in Japanese and explain when necessary.
    While students are working, ALT and JTE will circulate around the classroom to answer questions, provide correct spelling, and encourage students. Students that finish early will be told to write additional sentences or share their finished sentences with other students.

    *At the start of the next class hour immediately following this lesson, students will be asked to make small groups or pairs and read their sentences aloud to their classmates. Their classmates will actively listen and recommend one sentence to be shared with the whole class. ALT or JTE will choose a few interesting examples from these sentences to share with the whole class.
    Closure 5
    JTE and ALT will tell students to finish working for now. Students who have not finished will be told to finish the worksheet as homework. JTE and ALT will end the class with a summary of the topic studied and a farewell greeting.
    Plan for Evaluation/
    JTE will collect the worksheets after students have finished presenting in the next class hour. ALT will review the students' work and assess the usage of "when", known grammar and vocabulary, and punctuation. ALT will make corrections and write comments on worksheets and return them to JTE for review. These will be returned to the students as soon as possible.

    Now let's be realistic: you're probably not going to write out a lesson plan in full like this very often (if ever). You're probably not even going to be teaching a full lesson very often. And you're probably not going to dictate to your JTEs what they should do, although you can probably guess how they will act once you learn their teaching styles. But I argue it's still helpful to follow this sort of framework as a beginner because it forces you to think about exactly what you should be doing at each step to help your students achieve the goals of the lesson. If you repeatedly use this framework, over time you will start to think about these steps automatically.

    (If this is framework looks too intimidating, I've provided a simplified outline you can use for activity planning here.)

    Parts of a Lesson

    You'll notice the lesson above has been split up into different sections: Warm-up & Background Building, Presentation, Controlled Practice, Semi-controlled Practice, Applied Practice, Closure, and Evaluation/Assessment. These are the parts of a lesson as I learned them, but there are plenty of alternatives out there if you start exploring more TESOL methodology.

    Warm-up & Background Building: Usually every lesson starts with some sort of a warm-up or at least a greeting in English. Ideally you should review material studied in previous lessons, generate interested in the day's topic, and get students in the mental zone to communicate in English. Some TESOL methodologies advocate that you should always tell students explicitly what the goals for the day's lesson will be, but that's probably not feasible as an ALT.

    Many JTEs insist on playing criss-cross as their warm-up, which is a quiz review game where students are allowed to sit down only if they or a person in their row or column successfully answers a question. There are tons of variations of criss-cross, so you might be able to spice things up if your JTE prefers this method.

    Alternatively, you may do an oral introduction for the lesson's topic. For example, if you're introducing past-tense this lesson, before you explain anything you and your JTE could have a dialogue using the new grammar. "What did you do yesterday, Ebi-sensei?" "I studied Japanese yesterday. And I cooked dinner. And I used my computer. How about you, Tanaka-sensei?" "I played tennis yesterday. And I watched TV." Your JTE can use this as a lead into their presentation about the new grammar point.

    Presentation: Most likely your JTE will be responsible for this part of the lesson. During the presentation stage, the teacher explains in detail the form and function of a particular grammar point or target language. This stage is teacher-centered, so students are primarily taking in input passively while the teacher imparts knowledge. Ideally this should be broken up by comprehension checks to ensure that students are following along and understand the concept. Unfortunately a lot of JTEs like to spend a long time on this step rather than move on to student-centered practice.

    So what can you do while your JTEs are presenting in Japanese? Well first priority should go toward what your JTE wants you to do. You may be asked to read examples and model pronunciation. If you don't know what they want, ask them. Otherwise you can always walk around the classroom and check student work. A lot of students will copy down notes incorrectly from the blackboard which you can point out gently. You can also provide one-on-one help to any student who is struggling. If a lot of students have finished writing but you're waiting on a few stragglers, you can try giving some genki students pop quizzes. My students get really competitive and try to answer quicker than their neighbors.

    You can also use this opportunity to study Japanese. During my first year, I brought a mini-notebook to class every day and took notes when my JTEs used words I didn't understand. I would copy their explanations of certain grammar points in Japanese so I would know how to explain it later.

    Controlled Practice: You may be asked to lead an activity to help students practice what the JTE just presented. You should start with controlled practice, which is exactly what it sounds like: students are given a chance to practice the new target language, but in a controlled way. This might be in the form of Yes/No or Either/Or questions, translating, or fill-in-the-blanks. There's not a lot of room for creativity yet, as there is only one correct answer, but students get a chance to familiarize themselves with the how the target language works. This might seem too easy, but I assure you it's important not to skip this step. Starting practice with success builds up your students' confidence and it also functions as a comprehension check. If you notice a lot of students are having problems at this stage, you can go back to the presentation stage and revise your explanation.

    If you're introducing an activity that requires interaction with other classmates, then it's important to model what that interaction should look like. You can perform an example with your JTE or even student "volunteers" if you provide adequate support. Students should have ample opportunity to practice the language needed as a whole class before moving to pairs or small groups.

    Semi-Controlled Practice: Again, the title is pretty self-explanatory. The lesson is moving away from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning as students have more freedom to play with the language and generate more varied responses. The teacher provides a framework that students must adhere to, but the content is up to the students' needs, background knowledge, and interests.

    If your activity involves student interaction, you can ask students to try working with the partner sitting next to them using the framework you already modeled and practiced in the Controlled Practice stage. Circulate the class to observe the students' interactions and answer any questions that might arise. You can have them practice with another student sitting next to them before moving on if necessary.

    Applied Practice: Also called "free activities" in some TESOL literature. At this stage students should have a solid grasp of how to use the target language and no longer require hand-holding to complete the activity's objective. At this stage, the teacher doesn't control what sort of answers students produce. It's important to give students the chance to experiment, personalize the language, and reuse previously learned vocabulary because real, relevant practice leads to higher levels of retention.

    This stage should always come last because without controlled/semi-controlled practice, students won't have the skills to produce original language with a minimal amount of errors. (Further reading about Controlled -> Semi-Controlled -> Applied (Free) Practice.)

    Closure: At the end of each lesson you will likely perform a farewell greeting in English. You might not have time to do anything else, especially if your lessons last until the bell rings, but if possible it's a good idea to end each lesson with a brief summary of the topic studied and goals achieved. Obviously defer to your JTEs if they have a preferred way to end the class.

    Evaluation/Assessment: This stage will most likely occur outside of the classroom. If you planned the entire lesson, then this would be your opportunity to assess how well students met the goals you created. But realistically your JTEs will probably be in charge of this step as they will be giving tests and assigning grades based on their own rubric. However, ALTs are often involved in assessment too. If you're asked to correct papers, you can take note of how well students seem to understand the target language they're using. When I notice a particular error occurring very often in papers I've been asked to check, I inform my JTE of my findings so they know what area to review next lesson.

    As a new ALT, you might want to check with your JTE how strict or lenient they want you to be when marking student papers. I usually run through a few examples together and see if we agree how many points they should be worth. If I find a questionable paper mid-way through, I'll set it aside and ask my JTE to make the final decision.

    Again, this is just one framework - and a very idealistic one - so the reality of your classes likely won't match up. But there's value in using a framework like this if you're new to teaching non-native English speakers.

    If you'd like to use this framework, here is a blank template you can download: Lesson Plan Outline Template.doc
    Last edited by Ebi; May 27th, 2015 at 19:24.

  4. #4
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Making An Activity

    What do you do when your JTE tells you they need an activity for a specific textbook page or grammar point? Where do you start? First, I would look at what people before you have done. Did your predecessor leave you any materials? Does Englipedia or another JET website have activities that meet your needs? It's far easier to adapt a worksheet or activity than it is to make one from scratch.

    But that doesn't mean you should pick an activity and use it as-is. Let's be honest, a lot of activities on Englipedia and similar websites are mediocre at best. So you must ALWAYS CHECK WORKSHEETS FOR ERRORS BEFORE YOU MAKE COPIES. It's very easy for typos to go unnoticed until the middle of class time. You'd think people would fix their mistakes before they upload activities for other people to use, but you'd be wrong.

    Evaluate Pre-Made Activities

    How can you evaluate if an activity meets your needs? Ask yourself:

    1. Is it easy to understand at first glance what to do? Would be difficult to explain what to do in simple English? If you don't know how to complete the activity or explain it effectively, then your students also won't have much success. Learn the answers to any problems on the worksheet and become an expert at the game's rules.

    2. Is it formatted properly? Does the activity progress in a logical way? A poorly formatted worksheet can be salvaged, but sometimes it's better to use it as inspiration and make your own version from scratch. (See here for tips.) Games can also suffer from poor formatting if the difficulty level suddenly jumps without providing enough scaffolding.

    3. Is the activity at my students' level? Compare the language in the activity with the language in your textbook. Reword parts as needed. You also may need to replace names, locations, and any characters/people that might not be relevant anymore since many worksheets online are several years old.

    4. Are students required to communicate? Don't make a game for game's sake, but try to avoid always using dry worksheets. Sometimes individual writing practice is the best choice, but ideally your students should interact in English as much as possible.

    5. Does this activity actually practice the target language? Often you'll find worksheets or games that technically use a grammar point, but students are just mindlessly recycling example phrases over and over rather than using the target language in an organic way. If students can successfully complete the activity without ever needing to create original responses, then it's not very good applied practice. But it might be useful for controlled/semi-controlled practice. Recognize the activity's limits and combine/adapt as needed.

    6. Will I have enough time to do this? Sometimes you'll find a great activity but your JTE only allots you a small amount of class time. Whatever you do, DON'T try to rush through the instructions as quick as possible to try to make it fit. In this case you have three options: find an alternative and hope you can use the activity some other time, talk to your JTE and convince them to give you more time, or find a way to shorten the activity that doesn't sacrifice time spent on explanation/practice.

    Making Original Activities

    But what if you do want to make something from scratch? Where do you start? I always start with a goal. Most likely the goal will be based on a request from your JTE. Let's say your JHS first year JTE asks you "Hey, Ebi-sensei. I want to do an activity that practices the numbers 1-100." Start by thinking about what sort of activity would facilitate practice for that target language. When do we naturally use it?

    Get Input From Your JTE

    If you're stuck, ask your JTE to narrow the parameters. Do they want a group activity? Should the activity focus on speaking and listening or reading and writing? How long should the activity take? It's actually easier to decide when you have limited conditions.

    In this case, I discussed a few ideas with my JTE and we agreed to focus on differentiating between numbers that are easily confused (13 vs 30, 15 vs 50, etc.) We decided the activity should use all of the areas of language except for writing because students hadn't finished learning how to write lower-case letters. And I was free to use most of the class period for the activity after we finished a short alphabet review.


    With those conditions in mind, I started brainstorming. A matching game seemed appropriate for practicing similar numbers, so I made one using data from an old worksheet with a similar format. I know from experience that bingo-style listening games work well when you have a ton of vocab, so I started looking online for number charts featuring 1 to 100. A picture of snakes and ladders popped up and I instantly liked the idea. So I set about making my own snakes and ladders game board.

    Draft an Idea, Make Adjustments

    The finished product looked like this: p.8 - Numbers 1-100.doc, printed front and back on the same paper. My JTE liked the board game idea, but worried we wouldn't have enough time to play it. (She was right.) So I went back to my original idea to use the game board for listening practice. My JTE mentioned that we need to review colors, so instead of bingo we settled on a game where students listen and color in the number squares I say aloud. For speaking practice, we decided to have students make pairs and do the same activity on their own, taking turns saying numbers and coloring in the appropriate squares. Then on a different date we'd use the game board for review. Thus, after some back and forth with my JTE, a little online research, and a lot of tweaking, we came up with a solid activity idea to meet our goals for the lesson.

    This is just one example, of course. Unfortunately some JTEs are so busy it's difficult to get ahold of them and others seem complete averse to involving ALTs in the planning process. On the extreme ends, JTEs might dump all responsibility for planning on the ALT or they might restrict the ALT's involvement to bare minimum. You'll have to figure out your situation and adjust accordingly, but I advise getting JTE input on your activities whenever possible. Plus, it's easier to convince JTEs to do an activity you want to do if they think it was their idea in the first place.

    Think Things Out Step By Step

    However, having some materials and a solid idea doesn't mean you've finished planning your activity. You still need to think about the execution step by step. This will eventually become automatic if you teach long enough, but I strongly advise writing things down when you're a beginner so you think things through carefully and don't skip vital steps.

    Since I realize the lesson plan outline I posted above is pretty intimidating, here's an alternative framework that is useful if you're just writing up an activity description:

    Download the Word file here: Activity Instructions Template.doc

    Activity Title: [The title of the activity.]
    Target Level: [Target grade level: elementary, JHS, or SHS? Special Needs? What year? Include unit and page number from the textbook if applicable.]
    Target Grammar / Theme: [The grammar point being practiced or theme being explored. What is the activity about?]
    Activity Type: [Type of activity: pair work, group game, whole class, warm up, etc.
    Note if the activity involves speaking, reading, listening, and/or writing.]
    Time: [How much time should this activity take?]
    Materials: [What additional materials are needed? How many copies per student?]
    Instructions: [Write step by step instructions on how to use the worksheet or perform the activity. Use clear, imperative sentences.]
    Comments: [Include any additional information, such as alternative rules, suggestions, etc.]

    Not bad, right? Note that this framework does not have sections asking you to explicitly state goals and evaluation methods, but it's imperative that you think about them when designing your activity.

    Using this framework, the activity I described above might look like this:

    Activity Title: Number Matching & Listening Practice 1-100
    Target Level: JHS 1, New Horizon, "Warm-up 5" p. 8
    Target Grammar / Theme: Numbers 1-100, primarily differentiating between similar sounds; names of colors
    Activity Type: Individual & pair work; reading, listening, and speaking practice
    Time: review = 5 min, matching = 15 min, listening game = 10 min, pair listening/speaking game = 5 min +
    Materials: One worksheet (printed front and back) per student, colored pencils
    Instructions: 1. Review numbers: pay special attention to similar sounds like 13 vs 30, 15 vs 50, etc. and stress the differences in pronunciation. (Reviewing TH sound is advised.)
    2. When students seem confident, pass out worksheet to each student.
    3. Write a few examples of unused numbers on the blackboard (A. 2 --- two, 7 --- seven, 11 --- eleven) arranged like the worksheet.
    4. Demonstrate how to match numbers using these examples.
    5. Give students a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the numbers and match anything that seems familiar.
    6. While students are attempting to complete the worksheet, write a copy of the worksheet on the blackboard.
    7. When finished copying, direct students' attention to blackboard and slowly read the pronunciation of each word in the right column.
    8. Give students another minute or so to finish the worksheet; re-read words if necessary
    9. Check answers using the numbers written on the blackboard.
    10. Tell students to flip over the worksheet and prepare their colored pencils.
    11. Draw a few example squares on the blackboard and quickly review color names.
    12. With your JTE, demonstrate the listening activity: for example, JTE says "14 is blue" and ALT colors in the 14 square on the blackboard.
    13. After a few examples, start quizzing students.
    14. Check the answers by writing the number/color combos on the blackboard.
    15. Have students make pairs.
    16. Students take turns doing the same activity: one listens and colors while the other says "14 is blue", then switch.
    17. When finished, ask students how many numbers they colored.
    Comments: *If you have access to a large printer, you could print a large version of the worksheet to check answers rather than drawing it each time on the blackboard.
    *If students don't have colored pencils, you can have them write memos. Alternatively, just circling numbers works too if colors aren't a priority.
    *The 1-100 grid doubles as a "snakes and ladders" game board. In Japanese, these kinds of games are called "sugoroku," so students will instantly understand the rules if you explain it as such. Landing at the bottom of a ladder moves you to the square at the top. Landing on a snake's head moves you to the square at the snake's tail.

    If you haven't noticed already, I like writing out descriptions in detail step by step. Mostly because I reuse successful activities year after year, so it helps having thorough instructions for next time. This style suits me, but you should use whatever style that works for you. These days I don't usually write out an activity description in full unless I plan to share it with other ALTs, but I always think about what steps are necessary from start to finish before I start teaching.
    Last edited by Ebi; May 27th, 2015 at 19:05.

  5. #5
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Making High-Quality Worksheets

    Worksheets are the backbone of English education in Japan, so odds are you will be asked to make a lot of them. But not all worksheets are created equal. In particular, you should approach any worksheet you find online with intense scrutiny. (Ask yourself these questions to evaluate if it's even worth your time.) Then check to see if it meets your standards.

    Everyone has their own standards, but here are my criteria for "high-quality" worksheets:

    *Easy to use and understand
    - has adequate space to write answers
    - flows in a logical way
    - written instructions are clear
    - level of English is appropriate for the audience

    *Text is easy to read
    - uses sans-serif fonts (Comic Sans MS vs Times New Roman)
    - text is a decent size
    - text is well spaced
    - a & g letters match handwritten English (ɡ vs g, ɑ vs a)

    *Utilizes visual cues to increase comprehension
    - has quality clipart
    - follows a pattern
    - meanings of symbols or other imagery are obvious
    - prints clearly in black & white

    Poor-Quality vs High-Quality Worksheets

    Let's look at some examples to show what I mean.

    Poor-Quality Example #1:
    I searched for an activity for page 80 of New Horizon Book 1 for first grade JHS students. Students are asked to choose a theme and write at least one original greeting card. Here is a real activity example I found on Englipedia: NH1 p.80 - Bad Example.doc What are your first impressions? Try evaluating it with the criteria I posted above.

    My first impression was "Holy cow, that's a lot crammed into one worksheet." To their credit, it's meant to be printed on B4 paper (which is larger than typical worksheets that print on A4 paper) so there might actually be sufficient space to write, but it's still way too busy for my taste.

    High-Quality Example #1:
    Here is my version: NH1 p.80 - Good Example.doc There was so much I wanted to change about the layout that I remade the activity from scratch. I also provided four greeting cards examples, but I decided against using "birthday" as a theme because there is already an example in the textbook. I did not include space for vocabulary practice since my students generally do that in their notebooks. I like that the original added some extra phrases in their examples, so I tried to emulate that while staying closer to the language in the textbook. Using word art wasn't a bad idea, but I made my text less stylized so it would be easier to read and print neatly in black & white. To compensate for the lack of text style, I added clipart to each card instead.

    I also added a new feature: I labeled my card examples A-D. Why? Because when you're explaining an activity, it's much easier for students to understand "Look at C." than "Look at the Valentine's Day card." It also helps you direct attention to an area without giving away the content. So you could ask "What is the theme of card D?"

    Poor-Quality Example #2:
    Let's look at a less extreme example. This time I searched for speaking activities for page 58 of New Horizon 1 to practice simple telephone conversations in English. I found this example: NH1 p.58 - Bad Example.doc Again, what are you first impressions?

    My first thought were: fill in the blank is a poor title choice; there are tons of lines but it's unclear what to write on them; the O/X section seemed unusable since their only reply option appears to be "Great. See you then"; the clipart isn't very clear or effective; but I liked the general layout since it split the conversation into logical parts.

    High-Quality Example #2:
    Here's my remake of this same worksheet: NH1 p.58 - Good Example.doc I didn't change a lot, but did my tweaks make a noticeable impact? I changed the title to be more descriptive and adjusted the way things were spaced, but otherwise the text remains mostly intact. I also added symbols to make it clear what should be written in the boxes. Symbols are another way to make directions easy to understand without using Japanese at all. Lastly I replaced the clipart with better pictures. They might need to be updated again soon now that everyone uses smartphones, but I still think it's an improvement over the original rotary-dial phone.

    Poor-Quality Example #3:
    Let's look at one last example. This time I searched for activities for the second year New Horizon textbook, specifically I wanted to practice "think" from page 51. I came across this battleship game on Englipedia, which I thought would be great for controlled practice: NH2 p.51 - Bad Example.doc It has a lot of good things going for it: nice layout, quality clipart, and neat concept. But if you look closer, you might notice that it has some pretty major flaws.

    For one thing, can you even read the text in the vertical columns? It's tiny. So tiny in fact that the person who made this apparently didn't notice that some text was cut off since they didn't have enough space (look at the "Doraemon is popular" column, for example). "Arashi" and "kocho" are also spelled wrong in the bottom table. I have to assume this person used a different version in class and hastily replaced the text before sharing it online. Another obvious mistake is at the top of the page. It says students have two submarines in their fleet, but there's only one pictured. I have no idea why there's a random "Fold" under the title. I assume it was a placeholder they forgot to delete. Sloppy? Yes. But overall these mistakes are fairly minor and easy to fix. More importantly, did you notice any problems with the game itself? (Take another look before reading my answer.)

    Well for one thing, there are 9 columns and 9 rows, which means there are a whopping 81 spaces in which to hide a boats that only take up 14 blocks of space. With those odds, you'd be lucky to sink even one ship by the time class is over. I also don't like the language they chose for the answers: Hit = "Me too." Miss = "I don't think so." Sink = "Me too." Using "Me too" seems like a wasted opportunity for this grammar point considering they just learned "I think so, too." Additionally, using the same answer for both hit and sink means that your partner will have no idea if they sunk your ship or not.

    High-Quality Example #3:
    So here is my version that aims to fix all of those problems: NH2 p.51 - Good Example.doc You'll notice that I've cut down the number of columns and rows to 6 by 6, which increases the odds of hitting significantly without being too easy. I added the missing submarine to the fleet, enlarged the text size, switched to a cleaner font style, and changed the text in the answer box. I also fixed a problem that you'd probably never notice until you tried to print: I resized the margins from 0mm to 8mm.

    If you try printing the original, you'll be greeted with an error message in Japanese that says "Yo, your margins are really tiny so I can't guarantee things will print well, are you sure you want to print?" Using any margin smaller than 8mm may cause this error to message to occur because the printer may accidentally cut-off text or pictures near the edges of a page. You can click yes and print anyway and hope nothing gets lost, but I would caution against using tiny margins to avoid this problem.


    I hope these examples highlight what big difference small changes can make to the look and effectiveness of a worksheet. But I don't think every worksheet needs to be a perfect. In real life, you may have relatively little time to prepare so you will need to do the best you can with the time you have. Just try to avoid some of the major mistakes beginners tend to make. Namely, avoid using tiny, hard-to-read font and ugly, hard-to-recognize clip art.

    To learn more techniques for making quality worksheets and trouble-shooting problems in Microsoft Word, check out (WIP)
    Last edited by Ebi; May 27th, 2015 at 22:38.

  6. #6
    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Making Worksheets from Scratch: Choosing Fonts

    How do you choose a font? There aren't many black and white rules about what fonts to use for worksheets. It largely depends on your style and the situation. But if you're doing things right, people should hardly notice your font choices at all. Here are some guidelines to help you decide which fonts to use.

    Download file here: How do you choose a font.doc

    My Recommendations

    I went through all of the fonts installed on my work computer and compiled a list of the ones that seem practical for English worksheets. They are all sans-serif and resemble the font used in my school's textbook to varying degrees. I've highlighted letters in yellow that are noticeably different.

    Download file here: Font Reviews.doc

    I also included some "modified font sets" that combine fonts to replace letters that are not consistent with the textbook's font. Some of these require small alterations, like scaling and line placement adjustments. Some fonts can easily be "fixed" by replacing the lowercase "a" with the symbol "ɑ". To learn some advanced font-editing techniques, check out my guide here: [WIP]

    Missing Fonts?

    If you downloaded the above files and find that some of the fonts are missing, you can download them here.
    Download includes: AR P丸ゴシック体E, AR P丸ゴシック体M, HGP教科書体, HGP創英角ポップ体, and School PMSP Block.
    Last edited by Ebi; June 7th, 2015 at 21:46.

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    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    Reserved 2

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    Reserved 3

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    Reserved 4

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    Reserved 5

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    Crustacean Sensation Ebi's Avatar
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    That's probably enough reserved posts. I'm not really sure how much else I'm going to add here or what I'll split into a different thread.

    Feel free to post/comment! This is still a WIP obviously, but I have a few sections up.

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    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)

    Wow Ebi, this looks great. I won't get a chance to read it til later, but just wanted to say thanks for putting it together!
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    Frigga please.
    RIP Virgil of 2015

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    Gross. I hate people and their sexy times.

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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Looks like a pretty handy set of outlines, shrimp.
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    But what if we reverse the polarity of the quantum string theory? According to uncertainty principle there are infinite worlds out there, so it stands to reason schrodinger's cat is alive in one of them.

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    U da real mvp.

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    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ebi View Post
    That's probably enough reserved posts. I'm not really sure how much else I'm going to add here or what I'll split into a different thread.

    Feel free to post/comment! This is still a WIP obviously, but I have a few sections up.
    This is excellent. No worries; if you need anything done for cleaning/clarity's sake, just contact one of the mods! We'll be more than happy to help!
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    When I read your post I suddenly feel like I am so far away from being crazy.
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    It's festivals days like these on which I really try really hard to make up for not partying in college.
    yeah, because who needs free flowing drugs and alcohol fueling adventorous sex with taut, lithe young bodies when you could wander around a dying town in the freezing cold with a can of asahi super dry in your hand while some toothless old farmer shouts at you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Wow Ebi, this looks great. I won't get a chance to read it til later, but just wanted to say thanks for putting it together!
    No problem, I hope people don't feel pressured to read everything in one sitting anyway. I tried to break things up into sections that can stand alone but still support each other. Let me know if there's anything I can improve if/when you get a chance to read through it.

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    Looks like a pretty handy set of outlines, shrimp.
    Thanks, that means a lot!

    Quote Originally Posted by word View Post
    This is excellent. No worries; if you need anything done for cleaning/clarity's sake, just contact one of the mods! We'll be more than happy to help!
    Actually, can I ask a favor? I tried editing the title and realized it only changed the title in my post rather than the whole thread. Can you rename it "Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)" until I can think of a better title?

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    PIKITIS!!!!! x_stei's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Oh my God! This is amazing! Thank you!!
    Fleetwood Mac sex pants, new band name, I call it!
    Oooh, you know what, maybe just Fleetwood Mac.
    Andy Dwyer.

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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Amazing work, Ebi!

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    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP - don't post yet please

    Putting down my vote for Ebi getting an award for all of this wonderful stuff.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)

    Wow, I really wish I had this ten months ago.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Ebi's Guide: WIP (but feel free to comment on what's posted so far)

    Also adding my two cents in here regarding worksheet construction. All of Ebi's instructions are perfect, but I'd like to emphasize that you should make sure there's a good English to picture/etc ratio.

    A lot of English tends to scare the kids, but adding pictures/clipart helps make the worksheet more fun and approachable, even if it's only a worksheet on grammar.

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