Even though there is plenty of material available for ESL teachers, it seems that handouts never fit your classroom 100%. You often find yourself making changes, asking students to complete only one part of a handout, and wishing someone would write a book tailored to your class’ needs.

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The truth is that each class is different and their needs dictate the kind of handouts and practice that is best for them. Furthermore, even though one handout works for your current class, it might already be outdated or not good enough a month later or for your next group of students.

The best way to solve these issues is to create your own handouts using a word processing program like Microsoft Word or Pages.


First of all, you need to choose the type of handout you would like to create. You can make your own handouts to teach or practice any type of material.

Also, you need to bear in mind the age of your students and the goal for the activity. These factors will determine whether you add decorations to your handouts, if you provide space for them to complete the handout, or if you would like them to just use the handout for an oral task in class; in which case you can just create it in card stock and collect it at the end of the lesson.

Nowadays, if you have the means in your classroom, very often you can create virtual handouts that can be posted on a wiki or your class’ website. This will save you time and resources, as well as reducing paper waste in your class.

If the handout you are creating contains a theory you would like your students to study or review, later on, make sure to offset this clearly and highlight the important information there.

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Different content requires different kinds of layouts for handouts.

  • Reading comprehension handouts should have the text and the questions on two separate sheets so that students do not need to keep flipping the sheets in order to refer to the text while they are working. For shorter texts, legal-size paper can be used and the questions can be typed before or after the text depending on the reading comprehension strategies you would like your students to practice. Another point to bear in mind when creating reading comprehension handouts is that it is easier on the eyes when the spacing between lines and paragraphs is clear. A visually organized text can be comprehended more easily. Using line numbers next to the lines or paragraphs in the text will help your students locate necessary information and will also help you when taking up answers in class to check the results of a practice exercise.
  • Writing handouts for beginner, lower intermediate and even intermediate level students could provide the students with a clearly scaffolded writing process in which students are guided to brainstorm first, organize their ideas after, then plan their writing, and finally produce their drafts and clean copies.
  • Speaking practice handouts should be precise and short and can also contain clear step-by-step scaffolded instructions. A good handout can save you a lot of time if students are working in groups. Also, sentence starters can be provided in a highlighted manner so students can use their handout as a prompt card as well.
  • Grammar practice handouts can include the structure and function theory of the grammar point students are working on so that they do not need to go back to their notes to look for this information.
  • Listening practice handouts that require the students to listen for details should be organized according to the order in which the information is presented in the audio so that students can focus on the comprehension of the auditory material rather than focusing on locating the questions.



It is important to remember copyright rules and plagiarism rules when creating your handouts. If authentic material from the internet, magazines, or newspapers (among other possible sources) is used, these sources must be identified and acknowledged either on the handout itself or on an extra handout where all the sources are listed.

Finally, it is very important to edit your handouts very carefully to avoid typos and unclear instructions; these can distract your students or even hinder their understanding of what they must do or how.

Get creative and enjoy creating your perfectly tailored handouts; your students will appreciate it.

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