Making worksheets for English lessons is one of those things that some teachers love and some hate. Most language schools provide textbooks and a structured syllabus for teachers to follow, but even with top quality resources, you’ll still find yourself occasionally needing something extra. Perhaps you need to teach a cover class or plan an extracurricular activity. Whether you’ll be making your own materials regularly or just now and then, here are some top tips you can follow to make sure that what you produce is informative, fun, and (most importantly) usable.

Types of Teaching Materials

First, let’s take a look at what kinds of materials you might be making for your language lessons. One of the most widely used materials are flashcards – these are laminated pages or professionally printed cards with a picture or a word on them. These can be used for a variety of classroom games and are great for younger learners. Mini-flashcards are easy to make and can also be used in many ways.

Many modern classrooms are equipped with IWB’s (Interactive Whiteboards) where you can use media such as video and music. Interactive games are a great learning tool but not easy to produce yourself. However, PowerPoint can be used for much more than simple presentations – if you’re good with technology, it isn’t difficult to make interactive games which can add a fun element to your classes. There are plenty of Youtube videos which teach you how to add hyperlinks in PowerPoint to turn presentations into games. (Check out this one for a hide and reveal game.)

Finally, a great classroom tool that most teachers use on a daily basis is worksheets. This resource is easy to make, cheap to produce and can be easily reused. Making your own worksheets for any lesson is easy once you know what you’re doing and can really enhance your classes.

Types of Worksheets

Different types of worksheets work well with different learners, and remember that you need to choose worksheet types carefully depending on the age of your learners – a worksheet with lots of writing and not many pictures won’t be suitable for younger learners who are still learning basic literacy. Here are some popular types of worksheet you can use in an English language classroom.

  • Gap Fill. This type of worksheet is great for listening dictations or reading practice. Give the students a piece of text (appropriate to their ability) with some of the words or phrases blanked out. For younger learners, having the missing words in a ‘key’ at the top of the page will make the activity more manageable.
  • Matching. A type of worksheet that is great with younger learners. Students need to match items together (usually a picture and a word) by drawing a line between them. This is a good task to check that students can recognise the spelling of key vocabulary.
  • Word Puzzles. Crosswords and word-searches are sometimes overused in language classrooms – they have limited linguistic advantages to them so keep these in reserve for end-of-class fillers or special occasions.
  • Categorising. Students sort vocabulary into correct lexical sets. For example, if you have three boxes labelled ‘Fruit’, ‘Dairy’ and ‘Meat’, the students read their word list (cheese, banana, pork) and write them in the boxes. A great consolidation activity.
  • Jumbles / Scrambles. Take the words which you have been studying and scramble the letters, which students need to spell correctly. For example, gaonorak = kangaroo. This can also be done with sentences. For example, meet/you/to/nice = nice to meet you.

A quick resource for a number of word puzzles, scrambles, and other worksheets is Puzzlemaker at Discovery Education.

Top Tips for Creating Your Own Resources

Now that you’ve got plenty of ideas about what kind of materials you can prepare for your language classes, let’s take a look at some of the most vital things to bear in mind when you’re creating them. After all, a brilliant idea can completely flop if it isn’t well put together; it would be a shame to hand-make a great worksheet which just doesn’t work for that class.

  1. Overloading. Whether you’re making a PowerPoint presentation or a worksheet, remember to keep it simple. Flashy animations and awesome photos may look good on the computer screen, but ultimately they can make the page look too crowded and distract the students from the actual content.
  2. White Space. Similar to not overcrowding your page is the all important rule of white space. A worksheet stuffed full of text is daunting and unappealing – having your text well spaced with plenty of white around the edges makes it much easier to read.
  3. Grading. When creating your materials, your number one consideration should always be the student. What is their level, and does the material you’ve created match it? You could make the best worksheet in the world and it would be completely useless if it was too difficult for your student’s ability.
  4. Purpose. Before you start creating any type of material, ask yourself this – what is the purpose of this activity? What will the student be able to do by the end of this activity that they couldn’t do before? Having a clear goal for your language lessons is a must, and the same applies to the materials you use to teach.


You’re almost certain to make your own teaching materials at some point in your career, and while it’s one of those things that you get better at with time, it can’t hurt to start out on the right foot. Browse some quality language textbooks for layout and style ideas, and get tips from your peers about what works for them. Online worksheet sharing platforms are also a great place to get ideas. Most importantly, if you make something which doesn’t work well in class, try to think about why it went wrong and bear that in mind next time round – practice makes perfect, and the skill is a vital one for any serious language teacher.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins has taught English in China, Japan, and the UK to students from all over the world. Coming from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, she likes small, quiet places where she can squirrel away and get lost in a book. As well as teaching, she is also a professional writer and part-time knitting enthusiast. Visit her website at www.celiajenkins.com.

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