Why our Students Could Benefit from Checklists

Welcome to my blog post - Weekly Wisdom from 20 Years in the TESL Trenches. Thank you to all my new subscribers this week. Please connect with me on social media and forward this blog post to other teachers.

Why our Students Could Benefit from Checklists

A recent book review of The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right  http://amzn.to/2jAfcC3 by Dr. Atul Gawande caused me to think about the use of checklists in teaching and learning and how they can benefit our students.

Most likely you have never given much thought to checklists however author and medical doctor Atul Gawande has.  In his book Gawande discusses a simple but powerful tool used to reduce medical errors – the checklist.

Maybe you are wondering what medical errors have to do with teaching or learning English.  There isn't a connection however I think that checklists can be useful for our students.

Let’s look at what Gawande has to say about checklists. He suggests that many people feel that using a checklist is "beneath them or an embarrassment" because it reveals that one cannot handle complex situations. When we think about the amount of information that we process daily (and this includes our students), oversights can affect the quality of work.  If we apply this example to essay writing, in my experience as an EAP instructor, students often forgot to include aspects of "the essay" which ended up affecting their writing (and grade). I did design a checklist specifically for persuasive essay writing to guide students.

If you would like to design checklists for your students, here are some pointers from Gawande:

1. Pause Point

Every checklist needs to have a clear trigger.This means that there is a reminder to pause.

2. Speedy

According to expert Dan Boorman, a checklist should take less than 60 seconds to complete (I would give our ESL/EFL students a bit longer). 

3. Short and Concise Items  

Each item needs to be short and concise (remember the checklist is not a how-to guide).

4. Field Tested and Revised  

Checklists should be continuously updated. Get feedback from your students on the effectiveness of your checklists and make the necessary changes.

5. Check-off 

For checklists to actually be useful, the user must physically check off each item.


After a quick search of my computer documents, I discovered some checklists that I have designed and used in some EAP courses that I taught: Checklist for Oral Presentation Preparation; Persuasive Essay Checklist and an Evaluation Websites Checklist.  If you would like any of these checklists, please email me at [email protected] and I would be happy to email them to you. I have also developed a checklist for new ESL teachers based on the Observation Reports used for practicum supervision. https://www.patricepalmer.ca/products/new-esl-efl-teacher-effectiveness-checklist. 
Gwande believes that “checklists not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance”.  Is this not what we want from our students? I would be interested in hearing if you use checklists now or if this post has inspired you to use them in your teaching.


Online Resources

Resource #1 - Writing Resources

Blogger Neil Jarrett listed 20 online resources to help teachers to writing https://edtech4beginners.com/2016/10/30/guest-post-top-websites-to-use-when-teaching-writing/

Resource #2 - Free 5 Day Email Course for New ESL/EFL Teachers

Are you a new teacher interested in PD? Click on the image below to sign up and get started on your free 5 day email course JUST for new teachers.

Happy teaching! Patrice

Request for Journal Submissions

Last year at IATEFL, I met Tirtha Karki, a Teacher Trainer from Nepal.  He is involved in many aspects of English language teaching in Nepal including the peer-reviewed ELT Journal of NELTA.  They are looking for articles for submission now.  Please support the PD of our counterparts in Nepal.

Submission guidelines of articles for the ELT Journal of NELTA Sunsari

1. As a peer reviewed professional journal, NELTA Journal requires contributors to follow the guidelines given below for their submissions to be considered for publication by the editorial board and therefore, contributors are encouraged to take quality considerations beyond the initial selection of their work.

2. Articles should be between 1000 and 2000 words (excluding references and appendices).

3. Articles should be related to an area of Applied Linguistics, ELT, SLA, Sociolinguists, Teacher Education, Training and Development. In addition, we also accept practical training session plans to teach any skills and aspects of language and reflections on any teacher training program, articles coming out of classroom teaching experience or professional collaboration in ELT and book reviews. Any article must be original, professionally relevant, and intellectually engaging.

4. The manuscript should be typed in Time New Romans, 12 font size, with double space, and printed or printable in A4 paper. Manuscript should be sent as an e-mail attachment in a MS Word file.

5. If the manuscript includes any special fonts, please send the fonts attached along with the manuscript.

6. The deadline for the submission is February 5, 2017. However, we encourage authors to submit the article as soon as possible. Reviewers will be able to give you more substantial feedback if you submit early, although early submission will not affect the selection process itself.

Publication Process

In order to improve the quality and professional rigor of the journal, submissions will be taken through a process of revision and improvement after their initial selection. The editorial board will make the initial selection completely anonymous and will continue to do so, as much as practicable, when the submission is sent back to the author for revision.

We will acknowledge the receipt of each manuscript. The manuscript will be peer reviewed by two anonymous reviewers. The acceptance or rejection of the manuscript, based on the feedback from the reviewers, will be notified to the author within four weeks of submission. Comments of the reviewers will be forwarded to the author for final submission of the article (if the work is accepted in subsequent assessments). Authors must submit a revised draft within one week of receiving the comment on the first draft. A second round of comments, if deemed necessary by the editorial board, may be offered to the author with three more days of extended time.

Manuscript must be submitted as an email attachment accompanied by a well-written cover letter to the editorial address: [email protected] or [email protected] Cover letter email will include author's full name, institutional affiliation, title of the paper, and any other pertinent information you might want to include. 


About Me

My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Curriculum Writer in Canada including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada.  I now work as a teacherpreneur  doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, and instructional coaching for new teachers. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.  Download lots of free teaching resources at http://www.patricepalmer.ca



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