One of the catch-phrases in my TESOL training program was "lazy teacher." The idea lies not in the teacher's inactivity but in the delegation of responsibilities to students so that they become more competent. For example, they help with generating visual aids for class; they help write things on the board; they explain the homework to each other or fill in someone who is late.
Besides, it's the students who need the chance to talk, not the teachers. When the teacher leaves the room while they are talking in pairs, s/he not only gets the chance to take a break and assess how the class is going, but the students can feel more at ease conversing without someone hanging over their shoulder.
The other "lazy teacher" time happens during lesson planning. At first I was against this idea because I find that lesson planning fulfills a need for creative expression that I don't always have time for outside of teaching. I love making visual aids.
It is certainly worth it to make some nice visual aids (or generate some on the computer), and keep them in good shape for the future.
But let's face it, there are times when the simplest materials do just as well (like store-bought flashcards). And besides, your students may not appreciate all your hard work.
Another dilemma is that my classroom has to be portable, for the most part. I travel around daily to different orphanages, offices, and homes. In general I have to keep all classroom supplies with me (pencils, paper, scissors, tape, markers...), including the study materials! A few students have textbooks, but they are the exception.
I've thought about investing in textbooks for the other students a few times. I believe that if the textbooks are good quality and I use them frequently, they are a good investment. However, I cannot carry textbooks around with me, and they get lost frequently at the orphanage, so relying on a textbook is not an option at the moment. It's just as well since at my training we learned NOT to rely on textbooks for lesson planning.
So for the sake of time, I do take shortcuts, and on occasion (gasp) use ready-made lessons.
The Internet is full of resources for teaching ESL. Many of them are free, and others allow membership for a minimal fee.
I don't spend much time browsing, and rely mainly on recommendations or the first few search results. But here are a few sites I've found that are free and useful...
1) For children and beginners, "Handwriting for Kids" offers a variety of printable tracing sheets on different themes. You can choose cursive or manuscript. A bonus is that you can generate your own worksheets. Just select "make your own 8-lines text worksheet," type your words and phrases into the prompter, and a worksheet pops up with your words entered into lined paper that you can print out.
2) For conversation practice, "Breaking News English" will give you stories from the news, along with a wealth of printable activities for each story, including pre-reading/listening, during, and expansion activities. There are worksheets for doing vocabulary, gap-fill activities, discussion questions, groupwork, etc. You can choose from two different skill levels.
There are also podcasts, although I haven't tried to download any. I normally just read it aloud myself if I choose to make it a listening activity.
*Note: The stories are "based on" the news. These are real current events and should generate lots of discussion. However, as far as language development, authentic sources, of course, are superior.
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