Teaching with limited resources: challenges and potential benefits

Teaching with limited resources: challenges and potential benefits

Diary submitted by Rhiona B. Madrid


Teaching with limited resources can be both challenging and beneficial. Teachers will define this term differently, but it could mean having to do classes without the use of TV’s, overhead-projectors, textbooks and even print-outs, which limits what you can do with your students. This diary will reflect on both the challenges and potential benefits of teaching with limited resources.

Firstly, it may be a scary thought to imagine having to teach classes without the teaching materials you are used to. It may also be worrying that students may not find the classes as fun or interesting, and you may be limited to certain activities. It’s important to prepare classes in advance to ensure you have enough resources for the class. A disadvantage of teaching with limited resources is that teachers can be tempted to surrender to ‘plain talk’. Too much teacher talking time prevents interaction, causes boredom and the longer you spend talking to students the less time they have to process the information and understand it.

Teaching with limited resources may also make you improve as a teacher, as long as you’re prepared. You will be forced to find new ways of providing fun and engaging lessons, and find new ways to use what is available to you which will allow you to learn many new teaching methods. It’s important that you use your imagination and provide an effective learning environment where classes contain a range of activities covering all four language skills. For example, if you don’t have enough textbooks you could group students together, ensuring roles are divided equally so the activity is not dominated by the more confident, louder students. One group could be reading the text, another group acting out the scenes and another group writing new vocabulary on the board. This also helps encourage team-work. To help students learn vocabulary and if you do not have access to technology, you can use pictures from magazines or learn how to draw to illustrate the vocabulary.

In my experience with teaching with limited resources I tend to concentrate mainly on speaking, as this is a language skill that requires little to no resources. For example, activities that include role-play, conversations, debates and simple games that do not require certain materials or objects, as you can communicate a lot and ensure students are having fun. An idea for a simple and fun game is “two truths and a lie”. One student writes three sentences about him/herself, and one has to be a lie. He/she then reads them out to the other students and they have to guess which one is the lie.

Although teaching with limited resources can raise certain challenges for EFL teachers, overall it will allow you to come out of your comfort zone and help you to grow as a teacher as you will be forced to use your own creativity and resourcefulness and find new and exciting ways of teaching your students English.

  • Marsland, B. (1998). Lessons from Nothing. Activities for language teaching with limited time and resources. Cambridge University Press.
  • Cambridge

Renaud et. Al. (2007). Student-Centred Teaching in Large Classes with Limited Resources. United States