Make Your Own Worksheets

You can find worksheets all over the internet, some free, some by paid subscription. There are also books of photocopiable worksheets from major ELT publishers. But after wading through the vast collection available you may sometimes feel that only a worksheet that you have made yourself will fully address the language point you have in mind. It was never easier to get creative and make your own worksheets, whether through a computer program like MS Word or an online Worksheet Generator. Whichever method you choose, the principles remain the same.

The formatting and presentation of a worksheet is important. Some worksheets are thrown together with little concern for their usability or the students who will have to do them. When designing your worksheet you can think first about the elements in Features of an Effective Worksheet and then consider the following specific points:

  • Target your worksheet carefully to your students (that is, age and level).
  • Ideally, keep your worksheet to a single page (one side of a single sheet).
  • Use a font that is easy to read. For example, use Arial or Verdana which are sans serif fonts particularly suited to computer use. Don't use some fancy cursive or handwriting font which is hard to read at the best of times, especially all after photocopying to the nth degree. If you want something a little more fun, try Comic Sans MS but make sure it prints out well (given that English teachers operate all over the world not all fonts are available everywhere). Whichever font(s) you decide on, don't use more than two different fonts on one worksheet.
  • Use a font size that is large enough and fit for the purpose. Anything under 12 point is probably too small. For young learners and beginners 14 point is better (remember when you learned your own language as a child?).
  • To ensure legibility, NEVER USE ALL CAPITALS.
  • Keep your worksheet clearly broken up into appropriate sections.
  • Use headings for your worksheet and its sections if any. Your headings should be larger than the body font.
  • Use bold OR italics OR underline sparingly (that is, only when necessary) and never all three.
  • Determine and be aware of the purpose of your worksheet. That is, are you trying to practise a just presented language point, reinforce something already learned, revise for an exam, assess previous learning, or achieve some other educational goal?
  • Be clear in your mind about the specific language point (or points for more advanced learners) that is the object of your worksheet.
  • Choose worksheet tasks that are best suited to the language point in mind (for example word scrambles for spelling, and sorting for word stress).
  • Use short and very clear wording (which will be limited mainly to the instructions).
  • Test your worksheet! That means:
    • do the worksheet yourself, as if you were a student. Are the instructions clear? Is there space to add your answers? Is the answersheet, if any, correct? Adjust your worksheet as necessary.
    • see how well it photocopies. Do the edges get cut off? Are images faithfully reproduced? Adjust as necessary.
  • Evaluate your worksheet! Your newly created worksheet is unlikely to be perfect the first time. Monitor student reaction and adjust as necessary.
  • If you keep your master worksheets as hard copies (rather than as computer files), be sure to preserve them well in plastic wallets. Use only the original for photocopying and put it safely back in its wallet when done. Nothing is more demoralising to your students than a degenerate photocopy of a photocopy.
  • When you create a worksheet, you may choose to create a corresponding answersheet. Even if you intend to cover the answers orally in class and not to print them out for each student, you may find a single printed answersheet useful for yourself. How you use an answersheet depends of course on practicalities like the complexity of the worksheet, the age and level of the students, and even your own experience as a teacher.

Other Sources of Worksheets