Using reference resources for lesson preparation

Module Two | Selection and use of recources

Reference resources: What are they?


Read question 1-7 and match the teachers’ descriptions with the reference resources listed in the box from A-H. You will find there is an extra one.

Reference Resources

A.   A teachers’ magazine on the internet

B.   A picture dictionary

C.   A monolingual dictionary

D.   A bilingual dictionary

E.   A book about interference from different first languages

F.    A book to help teachers use one kind of resource

G.   A language awareness book for teachers

H.   A learner’s grammar book


Teacher’s descriptions

  1. Sometimes, I need to check what exactly a word means in my own language.
  2. My younger students remember new words more easily if they can see what things look like.
  3. I need my students to read English definitions of English words
  4. It is important to have a book that helps us to keep our own language level up if we are always teaching beginners.
  5. It is written in language which I can use in the class and has additional exercises for students too. It has a lot of information about rules and usage.
  6. This book gives me ideas on how to use the new computers in my school.
  7. There are many articles by teachers, lesson plans and worksheets that we can print out and use in class. It also has many useful links.


Sources of information about language and about teaching that can be referred to for assistance in lesson preparation are all called reference resources. They can include reference materials, like dictionaries, grammar books, books and articles about methodology in the magazines of teachers, the teacher’s book that accompanies a course book which has the answers and teaching ideas and even certain websites which can be found on the internet. Sometimes, reference resources can include people and are consulted by knowing where and how we can find the information we need.

Make a list of as many reasons as possible that you can think of for making use of reference resources.


Reasons for using reference resources when planning a lesson

Using reference resources for lesson preparation 2

Checking the form and the use of grammatical structures

In certain grammar books that are written for teachers’ use, there are very detailed explanations whereas in others, which are made for students’ various levels, use simple language needed to give important information about grammatical structures. Grammar books for students can usually aid us in seeing the information that our students need on grammatical structures and we can discover appropriate methods of describing or explaining grammar to them. Grammar books that are organized in alphabetical order or have a detailed index or a table of contents, are the easiest to use for our reference. Some books contain practice exercises which can be helpful for teachers and the students as well.

Checking the pronunciation, spelling and use of lexical items

Teachers would find that advanced learners’ dictionaries are the most useful dictionaries to have since they have example sentences and also information about how to use words and the form of the words as well. Mostly, these are found on CD-ROM or otherwise online on the publishers’ websites. Some dictionaries which are Bilingual have also electronic dictionaries which are useful for students when they need to find a word that they do not know in English. Bilingual dictionaries are dictionaries that have explanations of the word meanings in the learner’s own language. However, these dictionaries do not give very detailed information on how to use a particular word. Therefore, it is better that students check the words they want to know in a monolingual dictionary. These are dictionaries that have explanations of word meanings in the language which the learners are learning. Like learner grammar books, learner dictionaries are very useful for teachers to find the most appropriate ways of defining words and giving example of how to use them.

Developing one’s own understanding of the language

There are several books that teachers can use to increase language awareness (i.e. what we understanding about how language works) as well as awareness of how to teach the particular language. These books usually contain tasks that can be done by the individual alone or with a partner. They also usually have detailed explanations, comments and answers.

Anticipating the students’ difficulties

To help us anticipate certain language problems that our students may have, we can find reference materials about students’ errors useful. Usually, most of the difficulties with grammar or vocabulary are because of interference from L1. Some books or articles which have information about particular differences between the student’s L1 and English can aid the teacher to understand the problems.

Looking for new approaches to teaching lessons and new classroom activities

If a teacher wants to find new approaches or activities or if she wants to give her students something that is different to what is given in their course book, there is a great number of supplementary materials. These are additional materials that can be used along with the course book. They usually focus on grammar, vocabulary and certain skills. There is also a great of teachers’ resource books which contain good ideas and materials for various lesson types. Some of these books may give the teacher a wide range of activities for the students with extra grammar or communicative practice (e.g. while others concentrate on a certain type of a classroom activity). Usually these books contain clear indexes and give valuable information on timing, preparation, level and so on. There are also many websites available nowadays with free content for teachers on different teaching topics.

Finding out how to use the material given in the course book

Suggestions on how to use the course book material are usually given in the teachers’ books. If some lesson ideas in the book do not match with a particular teaching situation, it recommended to still have a look at them and keep them in mind since it would be useful to adapt them.

Getting advice about certain lesson or teaching materials

Colleagues may be able to give valuable advice from their experience if they have taught at a similar level or used the same materials. There would be times when a colleague’s method may not suit our own. However, it may give us ideas or help us to think on how we go about with our planning.


Nerd baby says ...​

Certain grammar books and dictionaries have clear and concise explanations or examples. Therefore, if we want to check a language item, it would be a good idea to look at multiple reference resources.

As some words stop being used over time and new words are created, language changes. Grammatical usage changes too with this. A good method of keeping oneself update is to use grammar books and dictionaries that have been published recently.

Normally, dictionaries that we find on CDs have several additional features like practice activities, collocation searches and audio recordings of the pronunciation which makes it easier.

A lot can be learned from the experiences of other teachers. There are many regular articles by teachers explaining successful lessons that they have taught in teachers’ magazines.

Sometimes, it is easier to check a website for information than to find books or articles. There are numerous websites which offer free resources and ideas for teachers. Some also have simple programs for making resources for the classroom like cross-words and gap-fill exercises. Visiting one of the websites that has lists of links to useful teaching resources on the internet is a very good way to find materials.

Test Your Knowledge

Have a look at 1-10 below and try to find resources. Next, decide what type of resources they are and write the letter (A-D) in front of them.

  1. A-Z of English Grammar and Usage by Geoffrey Leech, Pearson Education Ltd 2001
  2. Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary, Cambridge University Press 2001
  3. Discussions That Work by Penny Ur, Cambridge University Press 1981
  4. Planning from Lesson to Lesson by Tessa Woodward and Seth Lindstromberg, Pearson Education Ltd 1995
  6. Working with Words by Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman, Cambridge University Press 1986
  8. Motivating High-Level Learners by David Cranmer, Pearson Education Ltd 1996
  9. Five-Minute Activities by Penny Ur and Andrew Wright, Cambridge University Press 1992

A. Materials for learners of very young ages
B. Resources for teachers and students who make their own materials
C. Ideas for lesson planning
D. Language reference resources

Answer these questions.

  1. When you were studying English, what reference resources did you use? Do you still find them useful?
  2. When preparing lessons, what are the reference resources you use? How do you find them useful?
  3. If you were in a situation where you had to go and teaching in a place that did not have many resources at all, which three reference books would you consider most useful and take with you?

Please comment below your answers and/or any questions regarding the lesson. 

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