Going Materials “Lite”

The main goal when teaching English is presenting students with valuable, level-appropriate input.  Students need to hear messages they want to hear and are interested in hearing.

In our teaching, too often the focus isn’t on “open” input but rather on intensity – worksheets, grammar points, matching this to that, find someone who etc …. I’m not saying these don’t have a place but rather I call for more “materials lite” in our teaching. An understanding that listening is the driver of student language learning and especially listening to content that has high value to the students.

Materials lite is an approach. It is task-based. Students are given simple task. But the real goal isn’t the task completion itself but the quality and large amounts of aural language students encounter.  This is my approach to materials design and here is one such example – Top 10 Guinness World Records.

  1.  Talk about world records. Elicit some that students might know.
  2. Provide them with a material lite worksheet. The task. Like this one  Top 10 Guinness World Records
  3.  Students in pairs or groups guess what the actual record is. Set a time limit.
  4. Watch the video to check the answers ( this is where the input takes place)
  5. Pause the video before each record. Ask for student guesses. Then listen to see who was closest.
  6. Ask students about world records they’d like to set. Personalize it.
  7. Extension – get students to research world records.  See many activities for members here. 

What is key is the introduction into our lessons of large amounts and quality input. Messages, information students WANT to understand.

I hope more teachers will try this approach. ELT Buzz Teaching Resources is full of material embracing this approach and for the most part – why I created the lesson library.

Many will say “this isn’t teaching!” but I argue it is and less is often more when it comes to the language classroom where it isn’t about subject knowledge but time practicing, time involved with meaning and language.

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