TEFL teaching materials

teaching professional people english

Using Articles with Evernote

office supplies, highlighterMention that you teach conversation classes, and people automatically think of press articles.  And it is true that some of the best lessons have been conducted using a trusty newspaper clipping which learners have given their reaction to, and debated at great length.  Press copy does have its problems though.  Complicated vocabulary and length are often among them.  Successive generations of grubby-looking photocopies also lack the finesse one would wish.  But who, frankly, is about to type their favourite article out on WP?  Blog articles are often a lot more user-friendly written as they are in bite-sized pieces … but they often lack the controversial bite a good conversation lesson needs.  So what to do??

Technology has come up with some fantastic innovations over the last ten years or so, and I’d like to share one trick which has saved me hours and hours of cutting out and photocopying, and has streamlined my filing soooooo much.  And last of all, has cut down on the number of copies I lug around for in-company training.

Remember Evernote?  Well, if you don’t know it, it is the answer to all your record-keeping worries.  Evernote is a free app which you can download onto any device, and it automatically stashes all your notes in the cloud as well as on your computer.  You can check it out here.

The really useful thing is Evernote’s webclipper add-on, which I obtained through my internet browser.  Try clicking here.  It installs itself, and you have a little green elephant on your toolbar.

What does it do??  Well, in a word, it enables you to pretty well harvest the net for any content you think you might want to keep.  You decide whether you want the whole page, or a simplified version of the article you happen to be reading.  It will give you a preview – especially useful as the way web pages are put together sometimes means that a simplified version doesn’t load.  Don’t ask me why.  You need a different kind of blog to tell you that.  Obviously, this is useful if you like to keep a stash of reading material for slow days, or moments without the internet to play on.  And you can limit yourself to just printing them off as required.  Evernote’s search function makes them terribly easy to find …

That is not the end of what it can do for you, though.  I mentioned the length of some articles being a problem … and the complicated vocabulary used.  The really great thing about having clipped your piece into Evernote is that you can now edit it at will.  Want to print cheaply?  Lose the pictures.  Want a shorter version?  Cut out whichever section seems the least interesting.  Poetic vocabulary can be simplified too .. and having spent years telling dispirited students that the first paragraph should be ignored if it seems incomprehensible, I can now lose it if I think it’s for the best.

Am I perhaps betraying the writer of the original piece?  Well, maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.  The original url is clearly displayed at the top of the document, and if it is being read on a computer or tablet one click will take the reader to the thing directly, and they can compare.  This is really good for encouraging folks to check out publications for themselves – but it will tell them if you only ever read the same newspaper or webzine, so think to vary your sources!

For telephone and other distance classes, there are more advantages still … open your note, and click on the arrow next to the ‘share’ button.  You can decide whether you want to e-mail the document directly to your learner(s), or copy the document’s url to the clipboard.  It can then be copied into your e-mail reminding them of their upcoming lesson, and they can access it online.  Fear not – they only have access to that one thing, but it is beautifully presented compared to many of my word-processed offerings.  I have found this to be so quick and easy that I find it hard to believe that we once survived by posting photocopies to people.

Evernote can also assist if you want to add a question sheet to your article.  If you open a new note, and I suggest you use the same title as the article for findability next time you want to use it, you can use Evernote as a document-creation application.  No, it’s not the greatest.  Truly it isn’t, but for a simple list of questions and some vocabulary pointers it will do very well.  The preview function is in the ‘file’ tab in the top left-hand corner of the screen; scroll down, and look for the print options.  This can also be shared as I described earlier.  Personally, I specify that this is to be printed by the student before the lesson.  Switching between two windows on the screen is NOT going to help.  In a perfect world, the article gets printed too, but you know that doesn’t happen every time.

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About Catherine Kennedy

Second year undergrad (super-mature) at Sheffield Uni doing single honours Religion, Theology, and the Bible. (Formerly TEFL teacher in France)

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