“I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” — Julia Child
I have been going on about home-made worksheets for so long here and there that I suppose it is about time to share with you how I do it. Firstly, what do I mean when I say “home-made”? It is, obviously, a worksheet that you make for your students yourself, ie. not downloaded from a site or photocopied. The reason you might invest your time in writing it is because worksheets are great, topical and tailored to your students’ needs.
Home-made food is also typically intended for a small circle of people, maybe your family or friends. In this post, I will describe how I write materials for my students. I may share them with my colleagues, I may put them up on my blog where my audience isn’t large, but I don’t sell them. If you’re interested in publishing your worksheets on some popular teaching or newspaper sites, I recommend reading How to Write Worksheets by Karen Richardson.
In this post, I am going to describe the technical aspect of designing worksheets and share some tips I have developed over years. I would like to focus on the types of exercises in the future.
Let’s say you have been working on the topic of Winter Olympics with your students and as a follow-up you think it would be great to read about the Czech “Snow Queen” Ester Ledecká here.
1, Read the article and choose which parts of it you are going to include. Copy them into a Word Document. I use Word because I am more nimble with it. Copy the link to the article below the title. Clear all formatting to get simple text. Save one draft as: Documents: Class: Ester Ledecka_Teacher and another one as Documents: Class: Ester Ledecka_Student. This is what you get:
2, Decide whether you want to include a Lead-in. The charm of home-made worksheets is that the less instructional language and other clutter, the better. You as a teacher can always choose to ask different questions, change the time for the task, the order of tasks, and whether the task should be done individually, in pairs or as whole class, orally or in writing. The less you write, the more choices you have in the classroom later on.
So for my lead in here, I could write some typical questions: (1) Who is Ester Ledecká? (2) What sports does she do? (3) Why have we heard about her lately? But this restricts the potential answers. So instead, I might just write her name or put her photo on the whiteboard, wait until the students start talking and see what happens. Consequently, always with your class in mind, feel free to skip the lead in questions on your worksheet – or add it if you feel it right.
3, Exercise 1: The first exercise is usually a gist reading and typical questions would be, for example: Read the story quickly and choose the right title. This is what I’m going to go here. Again, you can unplug of this part and just give your students 30 seconds to tell you what the topic is. Go to the Ester Ledecka_Student document, delete the title and add the two choices, i.e. the real one and the invented one as in here:
4, Exercise 2: new vocabulary
As you are working with an authentic text, you may want to decide to pre-teach some blocking words before doing the exercises. There are many arguments against pre-teaching vocabulary, on the other hand, students are usually interested in new words and matching exercises provide a nice challenge.
Here I’ve chosen three words:
Vocabulary – match the words to their definitions
And I converted my words to a table 2×3:
Vocabulary – match the words to their definitions
I add definitions for each words and randomize the options using the A-Z button. Then add letters and numbers and change all to lower-case:
|a) sensational||1) someone who has knowledge about many different subjects|
|b) polymath||2) very exciting and surprising|
|c) undue||3) not necessary|
Don’ t forget to keep track of the correct answers in the Teacher version of the document.
5, Exercise 3: Now say you want a gap-fill exercise because your students are preparing for an examination and there is a similar task. In our sample worksheet here, we are going to choose six words.
The first thing to do is write your instructions. Then insert a 2×1 table. Next enlarge the right column and move your text to it. Using tables for formatting texts is much easier than fiddling with columns.
Gap-Fill – Fill in the gaps in the article with the following words. There is one more extra word. Don’t change the form of the words:
|Ester Ledecka confirmed her position as the snow queen of these Winter Olympics – in fact, arguably, any Winter Games – with a supreme victory in the snowboard parallel giant slalom on Saturday.
The win made the 22-year-old from the Czech Republic the first woman to ever achieve gold medals in different sports at a Winter Games, following her sensational victory in the women’s Super-G skiing last weekend.
“This is fantastic,” she admitted. “It was something very special and I think I will think about this moment until the end of my life. I enjoyed every run and I’m very happy to be here and stand on the highest place on the podium.”
Last year her snowboarding coach, Justin Reiter, insisted that Ledecka was “one of the greatest living athletes”. Yet few had thought it was possible to successfully double up. The sporting polymath – she is also a brilliant windsurfer – emphatically proved otherwise.
Ledecka had posted the fastest time in morning qualifying in the event, which sees snowboarders go head-to-head in a series of knockout races over a windy course. And after progressing through the rounds without undue trouble, she comfortably beat the German Selina Joerg by more than half a second in the final. Another German, Romana Theresia Hofmeister, took bronze.
It was impressive enough that she was the first person to compete in skiing and snowboarding at an Olympics. But to then take double gold was mind-blowing.
Choose your words and move them above the text with Ctrl X dot dot dot Ctrl V, one on each line. Add one fake word. Save to the Teacher file because this is the last time you are seeing the words ordered like this. Number the gaps in the left column. Your students are going to use this column to write their first answers. They will write the correct answers directly in the text when you check the exercise as a whole class.
So now you get this:
Next, randomize the options. Again, the quickest way is to use A-Z or Random.org.
achieve / athletes / confirmed / double / event / podium / surprised
6, Time for some reading for detail! You can either prepare some comprehension questions or some true/false questions or true/false/not mentioned. Now all of these are incredibly hard to write so I suggest that you take things easy and let your students write their own questions. I assure you, there is always a good time to review question formation. Let’s have a look:
Answer the following question. Then write two more comprehension questions and ask other students:
7, Discussion time. As a follow-up, you can provide some discussion questions. So let’s see what I can think of:
Have you seen videos of the races? What did you think? Who is your favourite Czech athlete? Do you think she has good chances to win the Summer Olympics? What’s your favourite winter sport?
8, Now you can include a vocabulary retrieval exercise:
9, And finally, I like to include an exit exercise, usually in the form of a self-assessment. Try this:
How did you like the article?
How would you evaluate your work today?
10, Lastly you need to format all nicely, choose the right font – I prefer serif to sans so I usually go for the Times New Roman. I suggest that you move the entire text with the gap-fill exercise to the second page as it makes the layout neater.
Here is the final version and it’s all yours to try in class!
This process is actually less time-comsuming than you might think and shouldn’t take longer than half-an-hour. On the plus side, you already have you lesson plan because is is outlined by the worksheet. Let me know if you enjoyed reading it, how you make your worksheets and please share any other tricks you have!