Confessions of an English teacher: Always take the answers with you…

Wait. Just for a second. Please don’t award me the ‘stating-the-bleeding-obvious’ prize just yet. I have on many occasions, like I’m sure almost every teacher ever, gone into classes without answers for all my activities. And whilst it’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way time and time again, I still make this most basic of errors.

Often it’s an an issue with time. I try to avoid simply photocopying the answers straight from teacher’s book. Why? Sure, it’s easier and quicker, but as a language student myself, seeing the20150730_162553 teacher reading from a printed answer sheet is like a advert for ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘did my prep on the bus’. Writing the answers in pretty red pen directly onto your teacher’s copy of the worksheet of course looks infinitely better, but takes longer and that can be an issue when faced with limited prep time (and when you forget or neglect to copy the answer sheet as a backup).

Another pitfall that I often tumble into is the belief that the activity is an easy one and I will be able to figure out the answers as and when. True enough for that present simple gap fill, but often a problem for higher level reading or listening – particularly when 14 expectant faces are staring at you. Matching activities like dominoes are a particularly insidious hazard.

So with all this in mind, I’ll be adding ‘don’t forget the answers’ for the umpteen time to my mental observation feedback sheet. Hopefully this time it’ll stick.

A few get-out ideas for the stubborn (or lazy) few:

  • Do the activity at the same time as your students and hope there’s nothing tricky or ambiguous
  • Ask your students to correct the answers and nod sagely as they read them out
  • Play down the lack of answers (doesn’t often work)
  • Make the lack of answers a joke (usually only works when you know, get on well with the class and are competent most of the time)

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