For the next post in my “Top 10” series, I’m focusing on an aspect of ELT that has seen a significant growth in popularity in the last few years. This surge in popularity has led to the development of dedicated websites, a new IATEFL SIG and a lot of interest in ensuring “best practice” both among established authors and teacher-writers, as well as everybody in between, whether their goal is to be published or simply create materials for use in their classroom. Yes, you’ve guessed it! (Oh alright, you saw the post-title!) The focus of this “Top 10” post is Materials Development.
In this top 10 list, you will find a mixture of freely available articles, not-so-freely available but surely worthwhile books, ground-breaking websites and dedicated associations. Click on the picture to be taken to the corresponding site. NB: I am not on commission for any of these resources, sadly… 😉
Without any further ado…
1. Materials Development for Language learning and Teaching by Brian Tomlinson
One of the great State-of-the-Art Article series, Materials Development for Language Learning and Teaching is by Brian Tomlinson, published by Cambridge University Press, in their Language Teaching Journal, and reviews all the literature related to the topic of developing learning materials. Interestingly, since it was published in 2012, a lot of growth has occurred in this field. Nevertheless, it provides a good starting point if you want to find out more about the development of the field and the associated literature. This article is currently freely available from Cambridge, by clicking on the above link, from which you can download it as a .pdf file. (Please let me know if this stops being the case!)
(Another good article, but which isn’t freely available so cannot be given its own entry in this list, is another in this State-of-the-art series, dealing with the prickly issue of authenticity in language learning. Authentic materials and authenticity in foreign language learning [the link will take you to the article abstract] is by Alex Gilmore, published by Cambridge University Press in their Language Teaching Journal.)
2. Materials Development in Language Teaching by Brian Tomlinson
Known affectionately among our cohort in the Materials Development module at Leeds Met as “the red and blue Tomlinson book”, this edited book is another Cambridge University Press gem. It is divided into 5 sections: A: Data collection and materials development; B: The process of materials writing; C: The process of materials evaluation; D: The electronic delivery of materials; E: Ideas for materials development. For an example chapter from this book, you can see Andrew Littlejohn’s chapter, “The analysis of language teaching materials: inside the trojan horse” which is available on his website as a downloadable .pdf file.
3. (a) Developing Materials for Language Teaching by Brian Tomlinson
(Don’t worry, not all the resources on this list will have Tomlinson’s name attached!) The purple book, or Developing materials for language teaching, is another edited volume, with a lot of practical as well as theoretical value. (I found it really useful when developing materials for my module assessment…) It has now, however, been updated and is no longer the purple book but a book with a cover whose colours are difficult to use as a brief name-tag! Unlike the red-and-blue CUP book, this one isn’t yet available in e-book format, but give it time…
…or if you insist on another that is available as an e-book (cos e-books are cheaper!):
3. (b) Applied Linguistics and Materials Development
The blue book is another edited volume, bringing together applied linguistics theory and materials development practice. It is divided into four sections: Part 1 – Learning and teaching languages; Part 2 – Aspects of language use; Part 3 – Language Skills; Part 4 – Curriculum development.
Ok, ok! Enough Tomlinson!! (Though he makes a reappearance as president of MATSDA – see below…)
4. Materials and methods in ELT by Jo McDonaugh and Christopher Shaw
This book, as you can see, is also available as e-book, though you don’t save so much on the paperback price – at least you wouldn’t have issues of storage, I suppose! It is broken down into three sections, each section having several sub-sections: Part 1 – Topics in the design of materials and methods; Part 2 – Teaching Language Skills; Part 3 – Aspects of Classroom Methods. For a complete break-down of all the different sections and a sneak preview of the content, why not visit Amazon and have a “look inside”! This is what the book sets out to do:
I think it succeeds pretty well: it is a very accessible book in terms of readability and contains lots of examples which are thoroughly discussed/analysed.
5. MaW SIG
MaW SIG, or the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group, to give it it’s full name, came into being as a SIG only just over a year ago. Though young, it has achieved a huge amount in this time. It has produced the first issue of its newsletter, a pre-conference event, a stand-alone one-day event and a month of webinars known as “MaW SIG May”. An active SIG with a grand number of achievements already featuring in its young life, together with ambitions and plans for the future, this would be an association that is well worth joining, if you have an interest in materials development. As you can see from the screenshot, they aim to support materials writers of any level of experience/expertise, with any materials writing goals. I have had first-hand experience of this support so can attest that these aren’t just empty words.
6. ELT Teacher-2-Writer
This website is a very interesting resource for would-be and established materials writers. It gives you the opportunity to join a database of materials writers that publishers look at when looking for new writers to work on their projects, and access to resources such as a writers toolkit of a style-sheet, a template and a permissions sheet (free) and their “How to…” training modules series (available as e-books, at a modest price), which deal with different aspects of materials writing and publishing, so that you can learn how to write materials more effectively, for a range of purposes. (I’ve got my eye on the EAP module, written by Julie Moore currently – looking forward to learning from it!) The brains behind the outfit have spoken at IATEFL twice now, as well as giving webinars. For more information about ELT Teacher-2-Writer and what they offer, why not read ELT Teacher-2-Writer: training teachers to be writers – my summary of their IATEFL presentationfrom Harrogate this year.
Rachael Roberts’s blog is a haven for anybody with an interest in writing materials, because, as the tagline says, it is FULL of tips and ideas. And all are simply expressed so that it is possible for any teacher to have a look and find something to take away and play with. Rachael is a professional materials writer, who has also presented at numerous conferences and delivered webinars. In her “spare time”, she also volunteers on the MaW SIG committee (see above) and is part of Free and Fair ELT (see below). Ever wondered about how to write activities using concordances? Activities for helping learners deal with connected speech when they listen? Find out about this and more on this gem of a site.
8. Free and Fair ELT
This Facebook page is the new kid on the block. And you know what happens when the new kid arrives? People talk. Well, Free and Fair ELT is no exception. Launched on the 2nd June, this page already has nearly 1500 “likes”! Their goal is to keep materials creation and sharing fair, to ensure copyright is respected. Obviously at 4 days old, it is early days, so who knows where this new kid is headed, but one thing’s for sure: it has taken the ELT materials writing world by storm thus far… Watch this space! Or, otherwise put, “like” the page and see what happens next!
MATSDA is the Materials Development Association. Headed by Brian Tomlinson, whose name is all over the materials development literature, they run conferences (the next one is on the 28th and 29th of June this year! Don’t miss out!), produce a newsletter (Folio) and have a website. The conferences are a great opportunity to connect with others who have a keen interest in materials development, as well as great social occasions!
10. ELT Materials Writer
This blog site maintained by John Hughes is another little gem for all you materials writers out there, containing a wealth of tips and resources. Topics are wide-ranging, from rubrics to videos to digital skills and much more. Well worth checking out if you haven’t done so already!
As ever, if you have a burning desire to see a site included on this list that isn’t already there, please do comment and share the link for others to have a look at!
(One book I’d like to add, but won’t because it only exists in hardback at the prohibitive price of £52.50, is John Gray’s The Construction of English: culture, consumerism and promotion in the ELT Global course book published by Palgrave Macmillan. It’s a fascinating read, if you can get hold of it!)