ESL for Kids: 5 Tips on Writing Worksheets or Homework Papers
This article was authored by Kenneth Dickson
who is currently an EzineArticles.com Expert
Author. As a children’s ESL teacher, I’ve long enjoyed making worksheets for students of all levels, using
the main course book New Parade as a jumping off point. Over the years, though, I have refined some principles that
still hold true to making a work sheet for students, especially younger learners.
1. Use Bigger Clearer Fonts
Sounds obvious when you think about it, but younger learners and those learning Roman script for the first time
can be easily confused by the curly g’s in New Times Roman, as well as the odd looking ‘a’ in New Times Roman. So
for most of my worksheets, I do use Comic Sans MS as my standard. And the default point size is usually dependent
students’ ages and ability. So for the youngest learners, I use 16 or even 18 points, and never less than 14 even
2. Lots of Space
Given the problems younger learners have with smaller fonts and sizes, I also balance the exercises by leaving
as much space on each page as reasonably possible. Crowding can be confusing for the younger age groups, but also
poor layout will make it less enjoyable and more frustrating for them.
3. Focus, Focus, Focus
It’s hard to produce good worksheets consistently, but one of the biggest problems is when you are at the
computer, you often get carried away with the worksheets and produce 2 or even 3 pages where one would do. It’s
best just to focus on one key point for the worksheet for the youngest learners, whether it is vocabulary or
sentence practice. Also, worksheets need to avoid complexity in the set questions if they are to be successful. You
can avoid complexity by restricting vocabulary and task type, while keeping exercises challenging enough to avoid
repetition and boredom.
4. Learners in Asia
Never assume that learners are comfortable using Roman script! In fact, for many millions of learners Roman
script is a whole new system of writing: for Russians, Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, … Many skills
that are taught in the first language classroom in Europe, Americas and elsewhere really do transfer to ESL quite
simply, so students there need less practise in spelling skills, for example. But in Asia, teachers need to teach
the forms of writing, the phonics, and the spelling skills. These can’t be assumed, and when doing worksheets for
younger learners, you need to remember this: make space for those learning letters for the first time (esp. those
with poor pencil control), and provide guidelines showing where the letters need to be written.
5. Teach the worksheets before they go home!
For many learners, completing homework tasks in addition to school work can be an extra burden. But nothing
makes that worse that unnecessary frustration caused by inability to complete the worksheet. Young learners tend to
deal poorly with frustration, are less able to use external resources, and can easily become dependent learners if
parents help with homework.
So I’ve been going over worksheets before students go home at least orally to make sure that students know how
to answer the questions in class. Additionally, if the worksheet is more repetitive in nature, then I usually let
students write the first couple of answers so that I can see if they have problems.
This post has a downloadable: Learner’s A ~ Z Writing Worksheet.
Visit http://www.tesolteachers.com/resources/ to get the
worksheet. Kenneth Dickson is a successful teacher with many years of experience in ESL for both kids and adults in
Taiwan. For TESOL advice and help, check out his column at http://www.tesolteachers.com/newsletter and subscribe today.