IATEFL 2018: English teaching in the post-truth era – James Taylor

My first session for Wednesday is James’s talk about English teaching in the post-truth era, conveniently located in the same room as my own talk which was in the first slot of the day. 

This isn’t about teaching students to think, or teaching them politics or make them think like us. It’s is, however, useful, to provide them with tools to enable them to interact with this media in a way that they can make informed decisions.

In 2016 a survey showed that 44% of American adults get their news from Facebook. So adults are mainly sharing these stories around without questioning them. They are just as much in need of these tools as young people. People make assumptions, put 2 and 2 together and make 10. (Or, daisies + mutations = Fukashima) In a study using the mutated daisies image was so powerful that the source was ignored. 40% students argued that the post provided strong evidence because it was taken near the power plant.

Distinguishing what is true from what is not true is an important skill. Exposing fake news, being aware that there is fake news, is key. In the future, we may see videos created of people saying things that they have never said – technologically becoming possible. So the issue that we find with images and text will be seen with videos too.

Key skills for identifying fake news

  • ability to discriminate between a trusted and an unreliable source. Need to be able to step back and make judgements, questioning the reliability.
  • need to be able to recognise when verification is necessary (not enough time to do it All The Time)
  • internet literacy (URLS, links, About section, date of publication) If there are no links, it’s a red flag, why isn’t it linking to another source of information. If there is no information about who is behind the site, historical background, author background/qualification to talk about the subject. Something true 10 years ago may not still be true now.
  • recognising bias – essential for reacting critically rather than taking something at face value
  • Finding a source – finding original source material to find out what was actually said (e.g. in reporting of scientific studies)
  • Cross-checking against other sources
  • Using fact-checkers (lots of good ones online e.g. Snopes)
  • Identifying satire e.g. The Onion, fake, meant to be fake, meant to be funny, not meant to be read as truth. Need to be able to identify jokes!
  • Preventing confirmation bias – i.e. ignoring all the things that go against what you believe. We tend to look for reassurance/to have our opinions backed up. But that creates the echo chamber and you lose access to the truth.

[This is exactly the kind of thing we try to teach our students to help them find good sources for their academic writing! We call it source evaluation. Though not the last three in this list.]

There are lots of resources to help with this. I suggest you look through James’s blog post for these

As English teachers how do we see ourselves? Are we grammar and vocab delivery systems or can we do more than that? We don’t have a subject (e.g. history), we can talk about anything we like. So we can work on these kind of skills in the classroom while teaching language.


IATEFL 2018: Social Intelligence for Teachers – Margit Szezty

What is Social Intelligence (SI)?

It is the ability to get on with others, to interact with others, successfully. Based on a deep connection, with yourself (aware of own feelings and emotions) and narrowing the gap between how you think you come across to others an how you relly come across to others. Also based on a connection with others, being aware of how they are feeling, being able to connect with them and tune in to them. In some ways it’s about switching off the autopilot. It is also about impulse control – the gap between impulse and reaction. E.g. in a social situation when you want to respond to something that someone has said, that is your impulse, what you actually say is your reaction. There needs to be a pause between the two.

Surface and deep level features

3 surface-level features (visible – have to do with behaviour and speech):

  • starting a conversation with someone (in itself not so easy sometimes)
  • directing the conversation (many conversations are ritualistic at the beginning, in order to move beyond the superficial you need to direct it rather than letting it happen to you)
  • speaking with clarity and turn-taking (don’t monologue)

Deeper level features

  • Mindsight (able to read other peoples’ emotions – perhaps by facial expression, tone of voice, pace; not just  hearing their words)
  • The ability to hold ideas loosely (being able to cope with ambiguity in conversations and not being disturbed by it. You say something with precision but then you let go of it)
  • Awareness of other people around you, aware that you are sharing time and space with others.

SI has an individual and a group dimension. It’s a property of the individual but it is also the emerging property of a group. You can activate it, then if the group is acting intelligently, they are harmonised and together and a group mind is activated. Margit asked us to estimate how many people were in the room and how many countries are represented, to make us more aware of the rest of the people in the room. In order to estimate the number of countries, you have to have a closer look. In a classroom, asking who is absent can have the same effect (makes them look more carefully at the group as a whole).

<Word association game in groups.> To have a discussion in a group, you need to move into group mode first. That was the purpose of the game.

Why do teachers need social intelligence? Three circles – in the middle classroom. Lots of relationships. It’s important for teachers to know what is going on in the classroom and be able to pick up signs of anxiety, excitement etc and work with it. The second circle is society. Students and teachers move in and out of the classroom into society, where collaboration with others is often required. E.g. workplace, family etc. Learning to work together and collaborate is important. The third circle stands for the living planet. The very carefully balanced ecosystem around that we are part of. One of the most important things are social intelligence is about connection, with self, with others, with the planet (which humans seem to have lost). If we go on endangering it, we are endangering ourselves. It is not our individual activities, it is the cumulative effect, the total sum, which have unintended and ‘invisible’ consequences as we live in a comfortable, convenient micro-world. We need to move into the third level to be more aware of our effect. Social intelligence is intrapersonal, interpersonal and ecological.

Tools for raising awareness of SI

  • 3 positions and NLP – not physical positions but perceptual positions. Our three main positions are 1) the Me position (as a teacher, this is my lesson plan, this is what I want to do/achieve) 2) the You position, the empathy position (looking around and picking up on others’ feelings. It can be a bit overwhelming.) 3) The helicopter view (The ability to stand back and see the situation – yourself and your students – from the outside. Useful when things get overwhelming)
  • 6 thinking hats – Edward deBono identified six different ways of thinking, each given a different coloured hat. Red is impulsive, gut reaction thinking, White stands for information, collecting facts and figures. Yellow is positive thinking. Green is creativity. Blue is the overview hat (like the helicopter view, the awareness hat)
  • Stories – Margit told us a story abut a deep dark forest with two protagonists. 2 men are lost. One is blind, the other is lame. They have been wondering around for ages trying to find their way out. They meet and start talking. The man with the vision has a thought – sees a powerful, young man, and suggests that he get on his shoulders as he has good eyesight but cannot walk, and together they could find their way out of the forest. This is what happens, and out they go.

Enemies of Social Intelligence

What makes it difficult to be socially intelligent?

  • Fear (of failure)
  • Being programmed
  • Upbringing
  • Cultural influence

Individualism and collectivism can both affect social intelligence/not favour it. One of the biggest obstacles is authority. Being able to think critically is important.

IATEFL 2018 Queering your pedagogy: teachers’ queries out of the closet – Giovanni Licata

Giovanni is head of TT at IH Rome Manzoni.

Task 1: We had to a look at a picture of his hand and discuss what we could tell about him from the photo. (He plays a guitar, is left-handed, is married, likes rings… maybe… we will see…) Task 2: Complete the statement “I have nothing against LGBT people but..” The reason for this slide is that sometimes we talk about queering pedagogy but are teachers really ready for this? The question is “Can I come out?” The answer appears to be “You can! But don’t be ostentatious!” He had a conversation with someone who had nothing against… but doesn’t see why we always have to talk about our partner etc etc. Yet she was doing the same thing… Enter…


“Heteronormativity consists of those structures, institutions, relations and actions that promote heterosexuality as natural, self-evident, desirable, privileged and necessary” Cameron and Kulick, 2003. E.g. There are lots of interviews asking straight actors what it’s like to play gay characters but not vice versa i.e. gay actors playing straight roles.

Two main things involved in teaching and LGBTQA+ teaching materials.

  1. Inclusive materials
  2. Teacher attitude

1999 – Thornbury stated that LGBT people are still in the coursebook closet. In 2013 not much had changed. Ten famous coursebooks: no reference to any sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Some books use the problem approach – lists gay families under issues alongside gun control, prostitution, child abuse…can we see the issue with this? There is also the “mentioning approach” e.g. mentioning uses of the word ‘partner’ and the “Inquiry approach” – let’s adopt a multisexual approach and problematise ALL sexualities.

Unpacking heteronormativity

We looked at a coursebook spread about “Getting married” from Headway. Giovanni had to teach this lesson last minute a couple of years ago. He started with “What’s missing? Talk to your partner” – Older people, same sex people etc.

Giovanni isn’t suggesting we ignore the approaches discussed so far, but wants to add “The GPS Approach” – help teachers get started.

He did a study on teachers’ attitudes towards LGBTQ themes in their classes. The findings were as follows:

Respondents welcomed both an inclusion and inquiry approach as long as they receive training and operate in safe environments.

A teacher with a CPE certificate felt they didn’t have the words to talk to a gay flat mate about it in a respectful way.

The cons they came up with:


could be dealt with:

  • in CPD training, by having a seminar on it (rather than the 1000th one on teaching vocab)
  • getting schools actively involved
  • getting publishers involved (!)

A simple task

  1. The others: a simple task – learners to go through their coursebooks and have a look at what’s missing. Then they design a course book page to include these “others”.

Here is a list of “the others” that a young class in Giovanni’s school came up with:

They made some excellent materials including people from their list of others. And no juniors or teens were harmed in the making of this lesson…even when queer themes came up. :-p

Why is all this important?

Morgan (2004) “there is no neutral space in schooling, no ways to insulate oneself from the social consequences of one’s activities” (p176)



IATEFL 2018: Differentiation at the heart of the inclusive classroom – Emily Hodge

In this session, Emily is going to share some practical strategies for differentiation.

She started by telling a story about her son James who has been living in France for 7 years (with her), he learnt French at school and speaks so well that a lot of his teachers don’t realise he isn’t French. He is at secondary school. He takes an EFL class (!). In September, he had a rubbish day. The teacher said all the students were all A1 and by the year would all be A2 – he didn’t want to be singled out but he was annoyed that the teacher didn’t expect something correct for him. Emily started to think about what she would have done if she were that teacher and about other learner differences that she might have to deal with e.g. these:

Interesting but also overwhelming. How to address these differences that affect learning is a difficult area. Early in her research into this, Emily came across a quote. “Differentiation is simply attending to the learning needs of a student or group of students rather than the more typical pattern of teaching the class as though all individuals in it were basically alike” Carol Tomlinson.

We can differentiate in different ways

  • by content
  • by outcome
  • through support
  • with attitude

By content:

Imagine you have worked out through observing learners, some are quicker than others. You might want to group them and give them different length of texts to do but the same task. All three (for example) texts need to be interesting. All tasks need to be equally valid and interesting. You take away the texts before learners are regrouped and answer the questions. Avoid “busy” tasks, make it something relevant and related to what they have been doing, they should be extended. Be careful with your groupings. You need to be quite subtle about it. Group learners at the beginning according to what you want to do with them, using name cards.

By outcome:

E had been teaching secondary students who had been reading about predictions and were going to practice giving predictions using a fortune teller. Her instruction was, you have five minutes to write 8 sentences (to go inside the fortune teller). Not everybody managed to do that. Emily got the student who had only written two to copy them 4 times so she could still take part in the drill (using the FT). A better way to do the task would be to do an open task. “Write as many sentences as you can in five minutes” so that the strong ones will feel motivated to do more and the weaker ones still succeed.

Giving students choice is good – choose which questions you want to answer, choose how many… Enables self-differentiation according to abilities.

Through support:

Going back to Elsa (who only wrote 2 sentences) – maybe she didn’t have any ideas, maybe she was tired, maybe she saw Eloise who had written 8 already and gave up/felt demotivated. To support her: generating ideas together before being set loose on a task is important. Conferencing – go round, feed in ideas and vocabulary. Provide scaffolding. Is it differentiation if you give everybody the support? Yes as students can choose how much of it to access.

Process language – really interesting because if you get teachers to try and activity before you do it in class, you will find a lot of stalling techniques, collaborative language etc. The students need this language to do the task so feed it in first.

However, none of these things will work if you go into the classroom with the wrong attitude. E.g. saying these things:

These imply a fixed idea about learners, a static state, which isn’t what we should be going for. Instead:

Differentiation is about having an open, enquiring attitude to learners, making subtle but important changes to our teaching and reflecting on what we do. If we make an effort to think about individual learner differences, then it gives everyone including the teacher a possibility to learn.

In planning, as much time should be spent thinking through as making things. It’s necessary time spent.


IATEFL 2018: “I don’t want to be a manager – now what?” – Lizzie Pinard

“I don’t want to be a manager – now what?” 

I thought I was probably not the only one ever to have uttered these words and this has, in fact, been confirmed on the several occasions that colleagues have asked me what my topic for IATEFL this year was going to be. There are some teachers, myself included, who don’t want to run a language school, who don’t want to run things, to be in charge. We are happy teaching – be that students or other teachers, in the case of teacher trainers. This doesn’t, however, mean we want to stand still. How can teachers progress their careers if they don’t want to be managers? My talk for this year offers one answer to that question. (NB: sadly the answer doesn’t involve lots of money in most cases!)

Career progression in ELT generally goes something like: train as a teacher (often doing that well-known 4 week initial training course!), build up some skills and experience, perhaps do some further training (e.g. a diploma such as the Delta or Dip TESOL),  become a senior teacher or ADoS, build up some more skills and experience (this time also in management)  and eventually move into a managerial position.

My initial suggestion as an alternative to this linear progression is to diversify:

Try some new hats on. A teacher can become a student again, can do some writing, can do some research, can present. This is nothing new, of course. The question is how to systematise this. What to study? What to write? What to present? What to research? This is where, to my mind, the British Council Framework for CPD could come into it.

That’s all well and good, we have 12 practices covering a range of knowledge and skills but what do we do with this? Well, let’s recognise what it offers us first:

Focus, specificity, ideas. But how to harness these? Here is my suggested approach:


In order to use the framework, you need to be familiar with what it consists of. Download the framework from the British Council Teaching English website and have a flick through so that you can answer the following two questions –

  • What are the 12 professional practices?
  • What are the knowledge and skills within each?

Obviously you don’t need to know the framework by heart, that’s not such a useful skill, but it will help to be more familiar with what is in it as you move on to the following stages of the process.


At this stage, you are considering where you are at now, and you can do this in the following ways.

  • Manual  (Ask questions – do I do this? Can I think of concrete examples? How comfortable am I at doing this? Am I good at this? Do I need more work on this? Then once you have identified areas you might like to work on, prioritise them according to your needs/you current context/your goals etc. Where will improvement be the most beneficial to you and your learners?)
  • Digital (British Council TeachingEnglish website tool to help you do this analysis)

Remember –  you are human (you can’t change all the things all at once!)


This is where you –

  • Pick an area
  • Interrogate* it
  • Interrogate yourself and your practice*

(*in the nicest possible way!)

  • Find out what you want to know/change in your practice

In other words,

  • Ask yourself questions
  • Ask yourself more questions
  • Think about the answers
  • Think about how you could start to answer the unanswered questions


This is where you –

  • Pick your focus (a question, a theme, a niggle that stands out in your exploration stage)
  • Make a plan  (First…, Second…,)
  • Carry out your plan
  • Monitor the process (keep notes, make adjustments if needed, branch out if needed)


At this stage, you’re going to ask yourself questions like –

  • What have I learnt?
  • What changes did I make? Why?
  • What effect did they have?
  • Was it anticipated/desired?
  • How do I feel about the changes and results?
  • What next?

In my talk, I took attendees through a step-by-step example of the above process using the “Using inclusive practices” component of the framework. Please refer to my slides (at the end of this post) if you want to do that too. It will probably, hopefully, then make more sense.

I finished off with some ideas of potentially useful resources that teachers might turn to during the above process, before coming to this conclusion:

Click on the above slide to download a copy of my powerpoint.

How have you used the BC framework in your development? Please do share you ideas using the comments box for this post. 🙂

IATEFL 2018 Emotional Intelligence: what makes a manager? (Elena Kuznetsova)

An ironic choice perhaps, given tomorrow I will be giving a talk entitled “I don’t want to be a manager…now what?”, but on the other hand this term (which is all of a week old) I have just started being an ADoS which involves ‘managing’ a small group of teachers amongst other things (again, the irony of this, given tomorrow’s talk, is not lost on me!) and I am hoping I might pick up something useful here…

Elena runs a language school in central Russia, she does some teacher training and emotional intelligence training. She works with people (like most of us) and she helps ELT teachers/managers to develop a friendly learning environment to keep both students and teachers happy, as that is key to success in language learning. She has studied a lot about emotions – how to regulate own emotions and manage them in others – and it’s relevant for working with teachers. Emotions are something that humans have and we have to deal with them in order to do our job better.

The talk structure:

  • What is emotion?
  • What is EI?
  • 4 parts of EI
  • How to develop EI
  • Follow up – do you lead with EI?


Emotion comes from the latin for movement, something that moves. The reaction in humans to the environment outside or inside our bodies. Being a manager/coach/teacher, we do not always need to be “happy”. It’s not about being happy or fun all the time. There are no positive or negative emotions. It is a complex cocktail of emotions that drive us in work. We need all emotions to live. “Negative” emotions can be life-saving or help us achieve goals too.

EI is the capacity for recognising and appropriately managing our feelings and those of others. 4 domains: recognising our feelings and those of others, managing of our feelings, and those of others. Being an effective manager is not only about task setting etc but also about rapport, trust, the feeling of team, organisational culture, and how the manager does that is all emotional intelligence competences. The same with teaching in the classroom, we need to build rapport with students, interpersonal relationships have a big effect.

4 basic components of EI

= self-awareness, other awareness, self management and managing emotions of others. The good news is, EI can be trained. The bad news is you can’t jump straight into the fourth component!

Self awareness – understanding the ability to be aware of our own emotions. Being able to recognise what we feel and hopefully to understand why. It’s a physical reaction, sometimes you can identify the reaction in your body e.g. anger = tension, loud voice, sweating, red face. If you are nervous, your stomach is tense. If you are scared, your heart will race. The problem with self-awareness is that the only way to train it is self-reflection. <We had to do a little activity and then say how we felt after – there were lots of different reactions> Then, write as many words as you can describing emotions and feelings. Mine: Excited, happy, sad, upset, disappointed, amused, bereft, jumpy, agitated, anxious, stressed, relaxed, chilled, angry, frustrated, worried, delighted. The point is that to self-reflect, we need some words to describe our feelings. The vocabulary. There are 3-4000 words that describe feelings. Why do we need it? Emotions are very different and in order to understand what we really feel and proceed with regulating the feeling, we need a fine-tuned tool to name it. If we only have “good” or “bad”, it won’t help a lot. So we need to develop emotional vocabulary and become able to name our emotions. Meditating, writing/journalling, reading. Set a reminder in your smartphone with a question: What are you feeling? Randomly and during the day, when you get the reminder, stop for a second and identify what and why.

Self-management – the problem is, the emotions we feel lead to (sometimes unpredictable) behaviour. Of course we don’t want to do that in the office (or with our family!) <We looked at some situations and had to write what we usually feel and do. Child spills milk on carpet – annoyed but oh well sh*t happens. Overwhelmed but your boss gives you more work – anxious and ‘how the fk should I do all this?’ Etc. Then we had to write down how we would like to react. So for the first, maybe I want to stay calm and not be annoyed. For the second, again I probably want to stay calm. How to get from 1 to 2?

  1. recognise that you are having an emotional reaction
  2. label the emotion
  3. determine what triggered the emotion
  4. choose what you want to feel and what you want to do
  5. actively shift/downshift your emotional state

Then we had to discuss ideas for no 5. Take a walk/step back, talk about it, write down how you feel. We also discussed tendency to avoid confrontation where possible.

Suggestions from Elena:

  • Shift your mental focus
  • Change your posture
  • Smile (looks silly but works!)
  • Give yourself a hug (or hug someone else!)
  • Dance
  • Breathe (count in 1-2, out 1-2-3-4)
  • Watch your language
  • Rituals (e.g. making a cup of tea) – gives you time and possibility to slow down.

If the level of emotion is very high, cognitive level dips and vice versa, so thinking/focusing on something lets your emotional level go down.

Awareness of others (aka empathy)

How can we get an idea of how other people feel? Ask them! Be a bit careful about this – in some places there is no culture of sharing emotions and they may be taken aback if you ask directly. So you could use indirect questions. Never use “If I were you…” because you aren’t and never will be that person.

Managing emotion of others

The algorithm is quite simple. We need to know our goal in the communication and have an understanding of what emotion is required to achieve that. When we regulate our feelings, people will start to mirror. If someone is shouting and you respond in shouting, then the situation will escalate. If you speak in a calm voice, then you can de-escalate it. There are lots of steps that lead from a calm emotional state to a highly charged emotional state and the same is true in reverse. Calm voice, rituals, hugs, smile etc.

  • recognise and understand your emotion
  • that of a partner
  • define the goal reflecting both of your interests
  • choose what emotional state will help reach the goal
  • bring yourself to this state
  • help partner to feel appropriate emotion

The best way is to avoid things getting emotionally charged. Build trust, listen. If someone is upset, firstly:

  • Let them talk
  • Say verbally what you think s/he feels
  • Stay calm, do not rise your voice, control your gestures
  • identify what you can agree with and say “yes” (there is always something you can!)
  • Agree with facts but do not get into details
  • Accept the importance of the problem
  • Show empathy
  • Show empathy again

Elena also showed us a tool called Do you lead with emotional awareness? Which is from http://www.hbr.org Caveat: be skeptical of these tests, it’s not like testing IQ or language knowledge, it’s more about testing your behaviour in different situations, which is influenced by cultural background, upbringing etc. It’s just to have fun with. This test shows your position and majority position and gives you some recommendations of things to look at.

ekuz@interlingua.edu.ru @1expertedu

IATEFL 2018 Materials Writing PCE Panel Discussion

The last session of the day was the panel discussion. I managed to get down a few questions and answers but at some point my brain and fingers both gave up the ghost!!

How important is it to get input from learners? What input is important? How do you get that information? How do you use it?

At a basic level, what topics are they interested in learning about: using images and their own language to elicit it. From that, decide which topics to cover. (Julie)

At a micro level, if you in any given lesson or activity, especially if new, you can get them to rate it in terms of interest, challenge, fun, to get a sense of where they found challenge/interest. So they might find something hard but would want to do it again while if you didn’t get the feedback, you might avoid it in future, thinking it is too hard. If you do it regularly, it becomes easier for the teacher and the students to do that. Cultivates a more open relationship. (Laura)

What considerations should we take into account when deciding what lexis to include in a global coursebook?

No easy answer. Increasement, bigness, unpossible, step your feet rather than toes – you wouldn’t teach things but you could point out that learners might hear these things in lingua franca settings and that if you are not sure of how to negate a word, you could use the strategy of pick one of the negative prefixes and the meaning will stay clear. You could draw learners attention to the fact that phrasal verbs are more likely to be less transparent than latinate words. (Marek)

There is a lot of description of communication strategies in ELF settings, e.g. paraphrasing. For paraphrasing, you need synonyms. So you could encourage learning of synonyms to enable this. More linguistic resources useful. (Laura)

How can writers volunteer to help with writing projects to help with SEN or refugees etc?

The initial research if you target a donor is does that donor have budget for education in a particular country? The first thing is a mapping process of who is doing what where. There are certain times of the year when there is a lot more money – end of the financial year. Projectising it is the way forward – coming up with a proposal and doing the homework. If you have connections. E.g. the British Council representative in a particular country. You could also look at publishers who might be interested e.g. Macmillan. There is a massive market for materials for the NGO workers i.e. the people who work with the refugees. (Psyche) BC representative from Palestine says it is an area of interest. E.g. for beneficiaries (lower level) and for people managing the process (higher level)

How should ELF inform materials writing?

There’s a lot of interesting research out there, but it is not prescriptive. Materials writers are the interface between research and the classroom. There is no simple answer. Just being in a room like this together and having the discussion is important. It’s about making sure that what we put down on the page is informed and sensible. (Laura)

Thank you to MaW SIG for a very thought-provoking day! And to the caterers for making me a vegan salad – it’s the first time I have been catered for at a PCE since going vegan! 🙂 



IATEFL 2018 Materials Writing PCE Session 5

Designing materials that address learner and teacher spiky profiles

– Julie Day

Differentiation – it’s time consuming and does it work anyway? We all pretty much agree that it is important and effective. “Plus-one learning” is owed to every student, ensuring that whatever their starting point, they advance (John Hattie).

As writers, we should be helping teachers do this. In the classroom, we have students with spiky classrooms i.e. stronger in some skills than others, more or less literate in first language, more or less opportunities to use English outside the classroom. Teachers may also have spiky profiles, in terms of experience, qualifications, language level. Writers need to support both learners and teachers in this respect. So all learners learn the most they can.

Differentiation can be by:

Outcome: learners can produce somehting different e.g. sentence vs paragraph

Process: how they do it can be different e.g. some put sentences in order, others circle the correct word to show they understood

Content: learners do different activities depending on their abilities, interests or needs.

E.g. For a controlled reading practice: “easy”: T works with group to read words and identify initial letter; “middle”: match words to images; “top”: write missing words in spaces in a sentence.

If you expect differentiation, provide support to teachers to help them do it. E.g. “English My Way”

Activity: we looked at some tasks and discussed issues around difficulty and whether it creates more work for the teachers.

Initially as a teacher, you need to gather information about the learners through observation, to know what they need and what they can do, then plan and use materials accordingly. Materials writers can help by giving suggestions about how to differentiate at different points in their materials.

Activity: we looked at different ways of differentiating and discussed issues around them.

I don’t seem to have written much done for this talk, but there was a lot of pair work activity and heated discussion around it during the feedback stages, so I must have been too busy participating, spectating and digesting! 



IATEFL 2018 Materials Writing SIG Session 4

Writing for language education in emergencies and development

– Psyche Kennett.

Psyche started by sharing some staggering statistics and issues to consider:

It’s a big and difficult world out there. 66 million forcibly displaced people. 10 million are stateless, they have no third country to go to, no freedom of movement, no access to education or health care. 20 displaced people per minute. Of the 65 million displaced, 1/3 are refugees in camps/settlements and half of that 1/3 are under 18. Imagine you are a Syrian 17 year old, you are about to do your school leaving exam, and you are displaced, now you are in Turkey and you have to take it in Turkish. Imagine you are a Burundi teacher displaced in Rwanda. Rwanda has the most open education context for refugees but that would require switching to KinRwanda and English as the medium of instruction.

The rest of the talk addressed the issues which are raised by the issues touched on above.

How do we stop a generation of youth becoming the lost generation?

Language for resilience – harnessing the power of literay in additional languages so that forcibly displaced people can anticipate, withstand, recover and transform from shocks and crises.

By strengthening:

  • home language early education and adult literacy for social identity: being illiterate in L1 makes it very hard to learn another language. If you lose the identity of your home language and over-adopt the language of the place you move to, and then are rejected by that place (bad schooling etc), you have a huge problem. These people have alientation through loss of identity, no home identity and not accepted into the new society. This can lead to radicalisation.
  • strengthening second/other languages for access to education and employment
  • using participatory methodology for core skills and good governance. This is at the core of everything, that’s where the social inclusion/critical thinking skills will come from. ELT uses learner-centred techniques far better than many other subjects, this needs to be drawn on.
  • language programmes for providing safe spaces and addressing trauma – whether the physical space where the refugee is learning or the topics that are discussed e.g. avoiding talking about home and family.
  • institutional capacity for formal and informal language teacher education – are there enough teachers? do they have inclusive participatory methodology to help refugee kids?

Education in emergencies is usually catch-up education, condensing years of education into catch-up courses. This doesn’t work for language, you can’t teach it any faster than you already teach it. Education in development is national curriculum reform, writing textbooks for grade 5-9 etc It’s not an emergency situation, it’s a developing country situation. Working in camps in emergency situations gives you more flexibility than improving education in a school system, where you have to work with other stakeholders. In an informal situation in the camps, you have a wide open space. The problem is, parents want their kids to have the formal thing. Although there is a psychological attachment to the conventional idea (e.g. school leaving cert in a new language), what the kids need is other sorts of language and core skills.

The LFR materials development strategy does the following:

Tries to give refugees a sense of normality, if you give refugees a normal off the peg course book, that’s like saying “you are normal, you can do this”: uses an expediency approach. Also uses ‘methodology first’ materials for a process-based approach. E.g. Scaramaga camp in Athens, there are Afghans, Syrians and Yasidi Christians.  Syrians are on top, going on to a third country, Afghans are at the bottom as not going anywhere and there’s also a  third group who exclude themselves due to religious differences, so inclusive methodology is needed to help people from different backgrounds to participate together. Uses mother tongue materials in the classroom, and a community language approach, where the teacher works with the group to reformulate what is being said. Language identity is part of the content of the materials for a pluralinguistic approach. Core skills, peace education and citizenship materials for a rights-based approach.

Consensus orientation is an important skill. It means giving up you hold dearly and the other side giving up something they hold dearly so that they can move forward together. It should be taught on a daily basis. E.g. by doing a pyramid discussion. We did an example of this, starting by writing down three things that have struck you so far as important to think about in this context. (Then we did the pyramid discussion thing). If the list is a low stakes list, then consensus orientation is easier to build in, it’s easier to give things up. In a lot of contexts, women would give up ideas more easily as socially conditioned to do so. Through jigsaw reading, onion/mingling groups, pyramid groups, you are teaching, through the activity, a kind of socialisation, participatory skills. One of the root causes of conflicts is education – if you rote learn everything in education, you will follow orders and respect authority, not dissent, not change things. Critical thinking for refugee learners is important as it gives them the human right to analyse, to dissent, and also gives them a new skill they need to survive in a new world. For materials writers, if we use Bloom’s Taxonomy, we are teaching critical thinking – the sub-skills of critical thinking. It shouldn’t be a separate subject, but should be a fundamental core skill through having different tasks in the material that we write. Recall – concept checking; Process – thinking task, cognitive task, work through what you’ve understood; Produce – freer task, having analysed and synthesised and evaluated something you can produce something new. If you analyse a lot of textbooks in developing countries e.g. Burundi, Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, they often don’t go further than the remember/recall. Synopsis is a high level task, as you have to eliminate things and prioritise things yourself, make those decisions.

No one is writing anything for these contexts. Education in emergencies, you are relying on a big donor. They are reluctant to do English. UNICEF/UNHR are beginning to see that language is a massive excluding factor, not only race/geography/special needs etc There is a lot of money out there but it’s hard to access it. You can’t have global refugee textbooks. Biggest need is A1-A2 in middle Eastern contexts and A0 in sub-saharan contexts. As well as the language, non violence communication, equity and equality, accountability, transparency etc need to be written in, overlaid into the materials, as well as functional survival literacy skills for survival in the new place. E.g. register for housing, go to the bank etc. The proposal has to go to the big donors. They are just cottoning onto the need. For a framework rather than material.

You need to integrate citizenship skills, survival skills and language skills. For Greece, Turkey, Syria, Germany, there is a space for something they could all use, that kind of book. The British Council need to bring the publisher and the donor together like a broker.

IATEFL 2018 Materials Writing PCE Session 3

Are you writing for all learners?

– Romulo Neves

The most unequal thing is to treat unequal people equally.

Romulo did an activity to demonstrate how students may feel in the classroom when they are finding something harder than others. (We had to say the alphabet and follow instructions, allocated by letter, to lift our left or right hand – harder than it might sound!) The goal for today is not to suggest that materials writers are doing the wrong thing but to show us some ideas to help certain types of learners so that we could take one or two forward when writing the next course book/set of materials.


difficulty with social interaction, limited or inappropriate interactions, robotic or repetitive speech. Also love repetition and structure, if they can’t predict what is going to happen, they feel anxious/nervous and start to daydream/escape. Lowering the bar is inappropriate as they may be as  bright as others.

Romulo did an activity in which he read a sentence and we had to write down certain words. The goal was to show us how easy it is to get lost and switch off. Then we looked at a page from a course book in two different versions – the more inclusion friendly version looked less “pretty” but had the capital letters at start of sentence in bold to draw attention and boxes to write the answer, as well as less content on the page/more white space. No Picture. The names of the characters in a dialogue are in a different font and colour to differentiate between the names and the speech. If you have a choice of words to fill in a blank, have a blank box to write the answer and the choice words after it. Every unit should follow the same pattern i.e. what you are going to do in each activity – a “map” of this is helpful.

Reduce instruction words and teacher talk by including cards at the back of the book for “Feeling great” “Have some doubts” “Need help” so they don’t have to interrupt to communicate. With speaking, give an example of what they are going to say so that they have something to guide them to know how to work together.


They do pay attention but they pay attention to many things at the same time so it is hard to focus. They have no idea of time management, they are always moving. Matching is easier than writing an answer, as no scope for misspelling. Two questions rather than three – same amount of time, do it better. Separate texts, e.g. if there are two postcards, don’t have them together on the page, and use less imagery. Mini-whiteboards are calming as they write rather than speak. Emphasise good behaviour not bad behaviour – give a sticker for good rather than chastising for bad.


Letters, numbers, right/left, rotation problems.

Visual dyslexia – need to listen to the information in order to understand completely as the letters rotate.

Auditory dyslexia – need to read the information as short term memory disorder.

Reading rulers are useful. OpenDyslexic in a new open source font created to increase readability for dyslexic students. Record as much as of the course book as you can in audio that students can access online. Use visual aids (e.g. arrows) to show where to get the information from and vocabulary tables with “I know this word”, “I recognise this word”, “I don’t know this word”. Provide templates and examples for them to follow.