Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My EFL Arsenal

Having taught a small variety of EFL classes, I've assembled a short list of things that go a long way towards making my job easier. Feel free to add any more (or any thoughts) in the comments.

  • Good alphabet flashcards. Preferably, ones that are cute, durable, use short words, and that address the multiple sounds of letters in English (short and long vowels, hard and soft consonants, etc). Ones with separate diphthongs and digraph cards would be ideal, but I'm not sure such a set exists? Until then, this PDF set of printable alphabet flashcards is pretty good.

  • Good vocabulary flashcards. What constitutes good in this case? Not culturally-specific, unambiguous pictures, addressing variances within English (American versus British English, so listing both "truck" and "lorry"), and containing important, basic words: people, places, animals, important verbs, classroom words, colors, and so forth. If you're teaching business English, or academic English, you obviously have more specific needs.

  • A die (or two dice).

  • A soft ball, or stuffed animal, or something else you can safely throw indoors. Get a large plush dice and combine this one with the above point, plus you get the bonus of a dice that rolls quietly. My wooden one is kind of loud, which can drive me up the wall.

  • A watch with a secondhand, or a stopwatch.

  • Extra pencils.

  • A small notebook.

  • Small little somethings that little hands can easily manipulate (I use a set of wooden Jenga blocks in one of my classrooms).

What else has made your teaching life easier?

This also is brilliant, though perhaps too bulky to tote around with you while globe trotting. Certainly, you could MacGyver one up yourself (or alter it for preferred vowel pronunciations), or convince your school to order one: The Color Vowel Chart.


  1. Really good ideas. A bit meta, but it's staggering just how unprepared many hagwon and public schools are when it comes to teaching materials. I mean, the most basic of things might not be there -- a working photo-copier, staplers, scissors, stuff like that. I taught at a pretty good hagwon and I could never assume that something every school in America would have would be available.

    Very frustrating. Kind of insane, really.

    1. My thought was like, "things you need in the classroom," but it goes without saying that a well-stocked teacher's room makes a huge difference.

      My hagwon now I need almost nothing in the way of handouts, thank God. My last hagwon had a copier that was constantly on the fritz, which always threw a wrench in everyone's plans because we relied a lot on handouts and worksheets. So many lesson plans had to be scrapped because there was no way you were going to get enough copies in time.

      Anything smaller than that and I'm willing to eat the cost myself—staples, stapler, white-out, scissors, whatever. But a copier? No way.