MaW SIG Online Event: From Pen to Press – your questions answered

On Saturday 18th February at 4pm, MaW SIG hosted an online panel discussion event using Adobe’s webinar platform. We had four panellists join us and share their views on a range of questions that had been submitted in advance via MaW SIG’s social media. The panellists were Vanessa Reis-Esteves (young learners author), Sarah Milligan (commissioning editor for Onestopenglish), Julie Pratten (founder of Heart ELT Publishing) and Lyn Strutt (freelance ELT content editor, copyeditor and proof reader). 

While the event was unfolding, in addition to being behind the scenes on the webinar platform, I was also giving my fingers a brisk workout i.e. attempting to take notes on what was said. Here is a write-up of what I managed to catch, which is far from everything as I am just human! There is a recording that IATEFL members can watch too though, available here (scroll down until you see it – recordings are not organised chronologically).

Question 1 : Are there any agreed upon principles about materials writing?

There’s a lot of advice out there now that there wasn’t a few years ago on how to write and how to achieve writing goals. There are principles but it depends on who you are writing for, not everybody has exactly the same rules. E.g. for publisher in Portugal rules less strict and more adapted to the context of writing. But definitely procedures spending on age group. E.g. young learners, you’d be allowed to do certain things that you wouldn’t do if you were writing for older learners.

This links to the question of whether things have changed in last 20 years. What works in materials classroom is what works in the classroom. Is it going to be clear? Is it going to make sense? Is it going to achieve its aim?

Useful links suggested (by Lyn):

Question 2: What design principles do you use when planning layout, colours, fonts and image and text incorporation?

For young learners everything needs to be visual and guide the learners.

In the past, we might have used colour for prettiness or attention grabbing but nowadays these are looked at from the point of view of students with special learning needs/requirements and whether they will be able to access them. Will learning be easier not only in terms of context but also the layout? Every image has a purpose, which is to help students master and take control of learning in a particular task.

Materials are much more visual/magazine-like, lots of powerful images used, not always directly connected to task but as lead ins to topics etc. In commercially published materials, design is not material writers’ job. The in-house designers at the publishers will work with a design agency who will plan the design for the book, influenced by the market and other books by the publisher on the market and in a series, all influenced by market the book is being sold into. A major course book series, the author will be involved in the discussion and allowed to have input but not control. Author and editor may fine-tune it later one but the overall structure, key colours etc will be designed earlier than that (by the design team). If you are into self-publishing, look at successful books and books you think work in the classroom and use those as a guide, as they have been done by people who know what they are doing.

This link may be of interest: EMC Design blog

Question 3: How important is the inclusion of cultural content in instructional materials design?

Becoming more and more important, lots of courses cropping up for teachers. A change or shift in publishing creates a need for training teachers and writers. Teachers need to be more competent themselves in terms of recognising differences in their students or within a particular context depending on where they work. It’s a tricky one because if you have a coursebook meant for a general market, which is appealing to publishers, it is not that easy to create the intercultural part of it as so many different things to bear in mind. Writers need to skill up on it as teachers expect it more and more.

In the past, would be asked to include anglo-american culture in the books but now in 21st century learning, ministries are feeling the need o prepare their students to work with other cultures. So they want you to bring in some kind of intercultural awareness into the materials but not necessarily including anglo-american, but for example getting kids to understand that one culture isn’t better than another but just different and to value differences rather than judging and stereotyping. A lot of training is needed because people don’t know exactly what is needed. But it is an exciting time as this element grows.

There is a move away from anglo-centrism and towards something more global, which can only be a good thing.

Question 4: With so much free content online, both for students and teachers, what can paid content offer?

Onestopenglish – a subscription website. Paid for content vs free content online offers professionalism and is content that maybe is trusted slightly more because it has to go through editorial rigour. Free content is fantastic in many ways but when you put content through a publishing cycle then it doesn’t just have one pair of eyes on it but rather several – writing, design, editorial process – so it can offer higher quality in terms of the way its presented and the way that it reaches the teacher.

Question 5: Is there a market for self-publishing?

Still a bit of stigma attached to it, in terms of association with vanity publishing. But there is a possibility that it goes through stages of editing. Where you haven’t got multiple pairs of eyes scrutinising it, there might be big issues with it. Perhaps publishers could take on materials that have been self-published and do something with them? It’s getting big but people need to get together, collaborate, so that quality will improve. The role of an editor is still important in self-publishing, as self-publishers use editors. In self-publishing, you may have great ideas but you need an editor to work on it (not just about typos and silly mistakes but other professional eyes on the material) – the more input you get on your materials, the better they will be. It’s got to be good, useable and make teachers’ lives easier if it’s going to sell.

Question 6: Although in academia the NS x NNS seems to be history, what are the real chances of NNS writing ELT material for international markets?

The chances are 100%, the same as for NS author/writer. Sarah was surprised and saddened that the question was being asked. If a writer is turned away due to being an NNS then that’s discrimination. It’s the same as the argument for teaching. Hopefully it won’t even be an issue in the next few years. Publishers should be choosing their writers according to whether they are writing good material, excellent material. Onestopenglish does employ NNS writers.

There is a lot of discussion about the position of the NNS teacher at the moment.

Julie’s concern as a publisher is that the ideas are good, the content is good and there is a need for the material. She has several NNS authors on her books at the moment. In the NNS community there is a feeling that they are being ignored. But if you look at what’s available e.g. in an online ELT bookstore, it is not all British/American names. And it should continue to grow.

Rachael has worked with plenty of NNS publishers and editor as well. Hopefully it’s a non-issue now.

Vanessa thinks an NNS will know their context better in terms of difficulties those students might have, so they should be seen as an asset. It’s more about the contribution you are bringing to the material rather than the language/country on your passport.

Question 7: What is THE qualification you need to get into writing?

Be a teacher at heart, understand how kids (or whatever age group) learn. Need to be able to see how students learn. While she would agree each teacher is an author, not necessarily able to write a book. Need to be able to be a bit more objective to assess whether something would work with most teachers/students or just with you. You need a very big teacher heart and a lot of resilience and taking on board other people’s ideas and not just sticking to your own.

You need to love teaching to be able to teach and write. Start from a creative spark. If you had 5 new, fresh authors who hadn’t written but had taught for a while, they could bring a fantastic approach to a certain teaching point. We need space for creativity. Julie wants to run courses that will generate that buzz, that spark and then put all the scaffolding into that material. There is no one formula to getting to a good piece of material. We always need innovation, that’s what publishers are looking for.

If you collaborate as teachers, someone with ideas could work with someone who is better at writing. Sarah is always looking for writers who can think outside the box in terms of activities that would be enjoyable to do in class and have a little spark but also you want someone who can write a lesson plan/worksheet that has a strong learning outcome to it. A collaboration of those two types of writer/teacher would be really powerful.

Question 8: I know plenty of people who’ve sent publishers book proposals but not heard anything book while some established names have been involved in book after book. Is this because the book proposals were not good enough or because editors prefer writers they know? (AKA how do you get into writing materials)

For Sarah, it’s becoming rarer for publishers to accept proposals because when you are thinking about a publishing plan, you are basing that on research that you’ve done looking at various markets and pinpointing what’s important and what needs there are. So it’s harder and harder for writers to submit proposals because publishers have specific things in mind that they are trying to do. Publishers do accept new authors but if you find a writer you love working with (meets deadlines, produces quality material), why would you let that writer go if you are an editor? However, those writers become more and more popular and then they don’t accept your work anymore as too busy and then you take on a new writer. If you want to submit something, you can submit a proposal, but a CV with experience and expertise is more useful as publishers can see if that matches up with what they are trying to do.

Vanessa thinks it’s worth a try to do lots and lots of talks. Make sure you have something to say and that what you have to say is of interest. So, go to IATEFL, join a SIG, be an active member of it, do little things and learn with others, collaborate a million times, and if you do it enough, then somebody will be there and notice you. It’s about being in the right place, putting yourself in the right place. An editor won’t miraculously appear and send you a proposal. You need to network. You can meet fantastic people by working on things. IATEFL is a great place to start networking, local organisations and conferences too. Sometimes people get into writing by having a great blog and that blog being noticed. If you have an audience, people will notice you sooner or later.

Lyn wanted to emphasise that she knows several authors who got spotted at PCEs and talks at IATEFL and have plenty of work because of that. A blog is a very good way of proving you can write. The idea is that you give away some of your ideas to prove that you have ideas and then people may buy your further ideas. If you have lesson plans and tips, and can show that you are able to produce material, that’s what’s going to make publishers look at you and think you can do something bigger. Proving that you are reliable is important.

Julie wants to add that IATEFL etc is expensive, even if done on a budget, if you don’t live nearby. What about all the other people who can’t do that? She thinks publishers could do more to help new blood into books. But there is a problem, for example if writers don’t deliver beyond the sample material. Julie offered a writer the chance to do a guest activity in a book. This is something that publishers could try to give young people a chance to get in the book and something that Heart ELT does. It was first come, first served, and they ended up with a split of well-known names and unknown names and the unknowns sent in good, well-structured material.

Sarah thinks that the big publishers could definitely do with giving people a few more chances and go to more local conferences. You will find that publishers and commissioning editors going to local conferences to find people who can’t afford to go IATEFL in the UK. But also, there are competitions. Any sort of writing competition is useful to enter. Editors do look at people who have self-published and done workshops and if they are good, they will want to ask them to do something.

At this point, we ran out of time! A huge thank you to all the panellists (and if you read this and think I have misquoted you, please let me know!) and to everybody who attended the event. 

 

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Today at 4pm! From Pen to Press: your materials development questions answered

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For the last few weeks, MaW SIG have been collecting materials development-related questions from members and non-members alike. This afternoon, from 4pm – 5pm GMT, our panel of speakers – Vanessa, Sarah, Julie and Lyn – will be giving their time and sharing their varied expertise with us, answering as many of those questions as time allows.

If you would like to join us, this is the link: MaW SIG Webinar Room

Don’t miss out! 🙂

Onestopenglish.com “Author of the Month”

Well, I hadn’t really thought of myself as an “ELT Author” until my editors at Onestopenglish asked me to complete a questionnaire. I feel like it’s still something I’m aspiring towards! Still, working with Onestopenglish has been a lucky start for me.

Rather than any kind of competition, the idea of the Author of the month page is to enable the users of the website to learn a bit more about the authors who write for it:

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I also hadn’t thought of myself as one of an “amazing team of expert authors” (I mean, while I can believe the others are experts, I wouldn’t put myself in the ‘expert’ bracket!), but there we are! I’m honoured to be included on the list as a result of the on-going (but nearly complete) work that I’m doing on Compass with my editors at Onestopenglish as a result of that Macmillan-sponsored ELTon I won a couple of years ago.

I had to answer the following questions:

  • Tell us a little about yourself
  • How would you describe yourself in five words?
  • How did you start your writing career?
  • Where’s the most interesting place you’ve taught?
  • What’s your proudest teaching moment?
  • What’s your most embarrassing teaching moment?
  • What’s your favourite joke?
  • What are your tips for becoming an ELT author?

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To find out my answers to the rest of the questions, you’ll have to visit the page (which you can access by clicking on the photo of it above)!

Thank you, Macmillan/Onestopenglish folk! 🙂

A few useful things I have learnt about using Microsoft Word for materials writing and academic writing

You know when you learn something and you wish you had known it sooner? Microsoft Word has made me feel that way on more than one occasion. Here are a couple of things I wish I had known well before I actually wound up learning them:

1. ‘Split screen’ function

In first place by a long way, I give you the ‘Split screen‘ function. ‘Split screen‘ really is nothing short of magical. I (like to) forget how much time I have spent scrolling up and down between various parts of a document to add things in, to make changes to things before I discovered it was possible with the mere click or two of a button to split the document and half so that I could keep one bit still and move the other bit!

How?

In Word for Apple, you click on “Window” in the tool bar and select “Split” – simple as that! In the version for Windows, you will find “Split” nestled in the “View” tab.

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Mac

When you click it, the magic happens:

 

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You can drag the bar up and down to make one or the other portions bigger, as you need to.

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Windows sufferers

When?

I’ve found it useful (read: a Godsend!) in the following situations:

  • Materials writing: when editing a document containing both teachers notes and a student hand-out. It is much easier to make sure that teachers’ notes and student hand-outs correspond correctly if you can see both at once. You also save a lot of time by not scrolling up and down the document between the two!
  • Materials writing: when editing a document containing both student activities/tasks and answer keys. You can add the answers as you go, again with no scrolling required, and actually SEE the tasks as you write the answers rather than try to memorise/go back and check/repeat.
  • Academic writing: adding references as you go is much easier if you can have the reference section right there to add to as you use new references in the main body of the document. Again, no tedious scrolling required! (This becomes increasingly beneficial, the longer your document grows!)

Right-click shortcuts

How

When you right-click anywhere on your document, a list of options appear:

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Hopefully you won’t need the Cut/Copy/Paste options as you will be using ctrl/cmd + X/C/V respectively, but if you prefer using the mouse, then there they are to use – just do your right-click over the portion of text you have just highlighted to move around (rather than moving your mouse All The Way to Edit!)

The Font/Paragraph/Bullets and Numbering options I think are a bit redundant given they are right there in the Home tab above the document (in both Apple and Windows versions).

The hyperlink option, however, is quite useful for inserting links quickly. (Alternatively you have to go to Insert and then scroll down to the bottom of a long list to “hyperlink”)

I like the synonyms option – if you highlight a word in your text, and right-click then select synonyms, Word will, funnily enough, show you some synonyms of that word. Could be useful for those times when you are lacking in inspiration…

There is also a dictionary option and a translator option that you can use if you can’t be bothered to open a web browser and go to a web-based tool!

When

When you want to do things more quickly!

Keyboard shortcuts 

How

So, remember I explained at great length how to find the “Split” option? Well, rather than go clicking around to do it, you could also use a keyboard shortcut. The default one on the Mac version is cmd+alt+s

How do you know what all the keyboard shortcuts are? (Other than cut/copy/paste which everyone knows!) Well, in the Apple version, quite a few of them are helpfully listed alongside their function within the menu bar drop-down menus:

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If you take against one of the shortcuts assigned, or you want to add a shortcut for something else, you can change it by going to Tools -> Customise Keyboard:

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All the potential commands are listed by category, and where there is a shortcut you will be told what it is in the Current keys. In the above example, for Insert Symbol there isn’t a shortcut so I am assigning one by making the shortcut while the cursor is in the Press new keyboard shortcut box. Once I click Assign, it will move into the Current keys box. Now when I press Command+Option+Shift+S, I will be able to insert a symbol! Don’t worry, if the shortcut you choose is already assigned to something else, you will be told next to where it says “Currently assigned to”. As you can see, my new shortcut is as yet unused. (I had to try a couple of options before I found this one!)

Shortcut keys are your friend – learn the shortcuts for the things you do most often, and if there isn’t a shortcut key, add one! (This link tells you how to do it for Windows versions)

When

The sooner the better! Make Word work for you, rather than the other way round.

What’s your favourite Word time-saving trick?

IATEFL 2016 What makes an outstanding ELT coursebook? The publisher’s perspective (Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton)

The final talk I’m attending today is by Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton, who teach at Leeds Beckett University and University of Leicester respectively. They have been involved in materials development for about 20 years, from a theoretical academic perspective for a long time, and more recently worked on the Navigate series, which was a wonderful opportunity to see things from another more practical perspective. They did a talk last year about expertise in writing, where they asked writers and editors what constitutes expertise in course book writing but predominantly responses from writers. At the end, an editor said it was a shame that the sample was so skewed. This talk is to put that right!

Apparently the voices of editors are very rare in the literature.

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Heather and Julie are interested in redressing that so that expertise can be shared. Another reason to do this is because practitioners, teachers and researchers understand a bit more about how course books are produced. Understanding this helps to understand why materials are the way they are and understand the pressures that are faced in producing a multiple level series of course books in a short space of time. They’ve noticed in recent years at IATEFL that that seems to be a goal, for example with SIGs like MaW SIG and groups like ELT Teacher2Writer. They are all trying to help people understand how to write materials and get foot in the door. Heather and Julie hope to contribute to this process.

They have been collecting data since January this year, some of which before the MAWSIG day and have continued since and have x hours of interview data, which is a lot. They have learnt a lot from the process of interviewing people. They’ve interviewed 21 editors and publishers this year, some in focus groups and some in individual interviews. This happened over Skype. They’ve spoken to a variety of different kinds of publishers and editors both in-house and freelance, with various experience, and designers as well. So lots of different perspectives. It’s been interesting to understand more about the process of how course books are developed in this way. They have a lot of rich data even though it’s a small-scale study really. They thank all the respondents as it has been both useful and very enjoyable.

They are going to highlight some of the main themes and give their interpretations and comments on this. Then we are going to be asked for our opinions. As it is a workshop, there will be a few discussions as well. We are will look at the four research questions one by one, discuss them and hear about what Heather and and Julie found out.

Research Questions

  1. Coursebooks are now said to be more publisher-led than author-led. Why is this and what impact does it have on the end product?

  2. What makes an outstanding coursebook? Please give examples.

  3. What is the editor’s role in creating outstanding ELT coursebooks?

  4. If you planned to launch a new global coursebook series, what would you look for in an inital sample from a prospective writer? What skills do writers need to produce outstanding materials and how can these skills be developed?

Deliberately broad, in order to get people talking about it. The main question very broad – what makes an outstanding course book. They also tried to get at this idea of the course book being more publisher-led, in the development and instigation of ideas. They wanted to know why this was and how it affects the product at the end of the day. They were also interested in the editors role and in what publishers are looking for when writers send in a sample, what makes them take on a writer and what makes the reject? And finally what skills are needed, how can the skills be developed?

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These are some snippets from the data as an overview. We need to discuss them. Some are direct quotes and some are paraphrasing.

Following the discussion, we are asked for any comments we have on the quotes. The broadness of the questions allowed Heather and Julie to explore and then drill down into areas of interest.

Next we moved onto individual points.

Here are some of the things that people said in response to question 1:

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An audience member felt there was an element of truth in the digital uncertainty comment – there has been. For example the one laptop per child policy that got dropped.

Julie says a lot of people talked about the impact of technology but also about that course books are more market led than publisher led. A long time ago, teh author was more instrumental in the conceptualisation of the series than now and there are various reasons for that. Firstly, digital makes the projects huge, for example 450 people. Trying to manage that, including getting information about what is wanted by the market, what has to happen in house (Design, production, a range of editors, techie people, marketers etc). There is also huge time pressure to get all the levels out at the same time if possible, so if you have a six-level course that is a huge undertaking, maybe you have to split into two years. You also need to meet consumers’ needs in order for the book to sell. Some publishers draw on massive corpora that they have collected and use them to inform the materials. So it has to be publisher led as the publisher has the information. The impact should be positive in terms of people feeling their needs have been met. A problem might be that it lacks freshness as people asked what they want are unlikely to ask for too much change, they might want something very similar, leading to that “vanilla anodyne effect”. With some courses it might be possible to have the necessary local expertise in terms of authors, producing something for a clear target audience, which might be very positive. It might feel like the author’s role is downgraded as the publisher is trying to take on so many other views.

There is a tension or balancing act to try to innovate within particular constraints.

 

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An audience member suggested it should be user-friendly, easy to use. Another suggested it should be open to adaptation. Two closely related points, as Heather says. The person who said the quote in the orange speech bubble was talking about imposing methodologies on people in different cultures, whereas some people discuss it as including teacher training within the materials. It depends how its done, how its introduced, is it imposed or not. It’s a very complex issue.

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Heather said the first point was no surprise. It’s important to meet all kinds of different needs e.g. SEN. Will the students be able to relate to the materials? Then, the second point, the teacher needs to be able to pick a course book up, walk into class and teach from it, knowing it would be reliable and they wouldn’t have to spend a long time planning. However, teachers may also want to do more with the materials, adapt them, use some bits but not others. The tricky thing is catering for both types of teachers. Of course we also need to know that the course book is accurate, answers all correct. Then there needs to be a sound theoretical basis, which can be a range of things from being based on corpora, to the methodology used etc. The architecture is about the flow and shape of lessons and units, how they are built. People talked about the personality of the course book, based on the type of methodology, the look and design, the author voice, the kind of texts you are using. Some people also talked about it being aspirational for teachers, they may feel they are becoming a more communicative teacher by following those materials, for example.

Some finer points:

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Moving on to the editor’s role:

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Heather and Julie were interested in what the editors bring to the course books and found that some of the points were contradictory as the editor plays a tricky role and has to handle complex situations. They thought it was a nice way to look at it, to think of the editor as a bridge between the people involved in the process.

We are reminded that there are different types of editor, e.g publishing and commissioning, development/content, copy editors for the nitty gritty and there is also the free-lance/in-house editor split.

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As well as coordinating, feeding back information. Also sticking up for the author to the publisher and vice versa, so the critical bridge role. They might do some research post publication and realise that certain things have been omitted and produce pdfs to go online to address that issue. A crucial role is giving feedback on drafts, which involves being quite diplomatic, it is a complex relationship between author and editor. The editor has to represent different teachers to the author as the author can’t have experience of teaching in evert different contexts but the editor can do research into different contexts and feed that back. Often they have been teachers themselves too. They have to be devil’s advocate/critical friend, which is quite a challenging/daunting role (imagine doing it for Michael Swan’s grammar!). Authors are going through all kinds of things in real life – so, knowing when to send a bunch of flowers is important too.

We ran out of time for the remaining question/rest of the slides but are invited to email Heather and Julie to get them.

However, the conclusion is:

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The editor is instrumental in controlling quality in course books and sometimes we forget what a useful process it is. We often talk about how difficult it is to receive feedback but the end product is going to be better for that. Heather and Julie are calling for more transparency and communication about the process.

They agree with Tomlinson on the following and would love to be involved in the process! This sort of research could be really important to feedback into future products.

 

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It was a really interesting talk and it’s a shame we didn’t get on to the final question!

IATEFL 2016 Materials Writing SIG Open Forum

Rachael Roberts starts by welcoming us to this open forum by explaining about MaW SIG. It is for everybody!

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She’ll tell us about what has happened this year and plans for the future, which will be followed by a financial report and a talk by the scholarship winner. This will be followed by the raffle and some nibbles.

The MaW SIG year

2015

Rachael tells us that MaW SIG are very keen to foster links with associates in various countries to set up more meet-ups. There were meet-ups in Oxford and Berlin. There was also an online meet up, the MaW Online Festival.

A sad thing happened in that Hans Mol passed away in November, he was in charge of publications and was a founding member of the SIG.

The committee!

The committee!

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

The SIG is looking for someone to do the Deputy publications coordinator. They are also looking for a Technology Coordinator and a Deputy Events Coordinator. If you are interested in these roles, you have till the 22nd April to apply.

In 2015, MaW SIG also brought out their first e-book, a collection of the blog posts on their website plus two bonus articles not on the blog. There is a new post out on the blog today, written by Kieran Donaghy, giving advice about setting up an ELT materials website.

In February this year, there was the annual face-to-face conference in London, at the Stables of Macmillan. This was organised largely by Kirsten. (Read more about it here!)

Looking ahead

Working in cooperation with BESIG, there will be a conference in Munich from 4-9 November 2016, which is a BESIG conference with a materials writing thread. Proposals don’t have to be only about business material writing, so anything that could be used by Business English writers would be great. So, for example, writing video scripts. Not specifically BE but still useful!

There is also the  website, which has the blog. On Social Media, Karen White does a fantastic job of keeping the Facebook Page, a closed Facebook group for members and LinkedIn as well as Twitter. There will be a suggestions page added to the website, as they are keen to hear from members about what they would like the SIG to be doing/not doing. So please do use this page.

This year they also did their first scholarship in collaboration with OUP, in materials writing. A challenging task was set: writing a piece of material that dealt with the theme of the environment in a fresh and interesting way. Moundir Al Amrani won the scholarship!

He tells us he is very excited happy to be here and to have won the scholarship. He had started to think he wasn’t cut out for this but the scholarship has given him fresh enthusiasm for materials writing. He is from Morocco, a teacher and materials writer. He has won the lesson share competition on Onestopenglish.com twice, back to back. After which, he won the scholarship.

He shows us where Morocco is, its flag and tells us a bit about what he does. EAP, ESP, BE and GE teaching, as well as content courses in the humanities and literature at University. He is also a novice teacher trainer and a materials writer. He writes worksheets, multi-skill lesson plans, vocabulary and grammar activities, course books, teacher notes and a book to meet the specific needs of his students.

Why does he do this? Because it is his passion. He wants to be productive and learn. There is a saying that goes if you love what you do, then you never have to work a day in your life. He loves what he does, his career. He wants to be a better teacher, write better teaching materials, give back to the teaching community and be part of ELT innovation and development. He finishes by thanking MaW SIG and OUP for the scholarship once again.

OUP representative Emma takes the opportunity to say that if you are interested in sending materials for the OUP blog, please do, she also looks after a newsletter about teaching adults that goes out to 28000 teachers globally and they are always looking for people to submit materials/articles/thoughts on any aspects of teaching adults.

Lewis Lansford tells us about the running of his pub in York. There’s always the point where you have to talk about the budget and it’s the low point of the meeting. Now he is going to be that guy, presenting the budget. This is his bid to sugarcoat the process, discharge the obligation and not make us feel “oh no”.

Budget comes from the Latin “Bulga” (pouch or knapsack). It entered English with the French meaning (bag), but by the end of the 16th century included contents as well as bag. 1733 was the first finance connection.

2014-2015 accounts. It took him a while to work out where the money was but in Sept 2014, there was £5,502 profit, earnt not spent. Events and subs produced £8,387, then expenses £5,592. Anyway, the surplus at the end of the year was £2,911. September opening reserve was £8,413, and the closing reserve is £8,731. (Not really sure what it all means!! But it’s there!) And thank you to Macmillan for sponsoring the conference in February as that helped the budget!

 

On that note it was time for the raffle, eating and talking!

 

IATEFL 2016 Here’s one I made earlier – designing effective classroom materials (Katherine Bilsborough and Sue Lyon-Jones)

Well, the room filled up super-quickly for this one!

Sue is a co-founder of esolcourses.com which is an online platform with thousands of resources for teachers and students; Kath is a materials writer who started because she couldn’t afford to buy lots of different books to use with her students.

As English language teachers it can happen that you have to start teaching on a new course and there aren’t any particular materials for it. Depending on teaching experience, it can be a good or a bad thing. You may be thrown in at the deep end! This workshop will look at good practice for creating materials to equip us to deal with such situations.

  1. considering and discussing what akes a good learning activity
  2. looking at free materials that can be sourced from the web and adapted for use in class (Sue is a copyright expert if you have any questions!)
  3. sharing ideas for creating simple activities that are pedagogically sound
  4. look at some ways in which authentic materials can be exploited (fair and legal ways…)

What do we look for in ELT materials?

The audience came up with:

  • relevant to the course aims/class aims
  • thought-provoking
  • adaptable but with a basic core
  • does what it says on the tin
  • work in the given context

Sue and Kath added:

  • engaging and motivating: got to be interesting!
  • provide sufficient challenge: not too easy, not too difficult
  • age appropriate: we don’t want worksheets with teddybears for adults
  • have a target audience: can be very narrow – your learners – if wider, need to think about if they will work outside your classroom
  • have a clear purpose: you might have interesting video/text but need to be clear about what students are going to learn from it
  • underpinned by good pedagogy
  • foster language learning: you can find an interesting article but need to think about what opportunities there will be for learners to use what’s in it

In what three ways you might use a short reading text?

Texts can be a lot of things and you can get a lot of value out of very little:

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The audience came up with the following as examples:

  • dictogloss
  • running dictation

Then we moved on to a task looking at some short texts and discussing how to exploit them. Ideas were very varied due to the diversity of contexts represented in the room!

Text One

Are computers harming academic performance? (a short essay about a study on whether people learn better if they take notes by hand or on computer; came from Voice of America – most content is in the public domain so can be used freely BUT there is some syndicated content e.g. Reuters articles that you can’t use – in this case it will be tagged as such so easy to avoid)

Text Two

A Roald Dahl extract from the Learning English portion of Voice of America, already graded. NB If you want to check the level of a text, paste it into Vocab Kitchen it will tell you what level the words are through colour coding.

Text Three

A Mountain to Climb from Internationalist Easier English Wiki – contains News Articles written for English learners, also includes lesson plans. Creative commons licensed, you need to accredit the author, you shouldn’t use it make money on it and you have to be willing to share it under the same license i.e. not make money on it.

Text Four

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is from the Project Gutenberg site which contains lots of classic texts that are over 100 years old. You can take anything from there and use it. The language may be dated and above level but you can use Vocab kitchen to catch those and grade them.

Using Images

…to Introduce Topics

There  is a site called Pixabay with public domain images both clip art and photographs. You can use a tool called Picmonkey to make collages. You can do it or you can get learners to do it. You can also find images on ELTpics (where teachers can upload their photos and you can use pictures under creative commons license)

…as writing prompts

A postcard with image prompt and space for a message relating to the picture. Customisable.

…to practise grammar

A picture of a house in the snow: e.g. question forms. Kath started with 5 answers e.g. Bob and Charlie, Winter, Meeting friends etc. = present simple. The students had to produce the questions to go with the answers. With another group, 5 different answers e.g. last summer etc. = past simple.

Devising Listening Materials

  • ELLO – You have the audio, the transcript and in some cases some exercises or quizzes and an indication of what type of English is being used
  • Librivox – free domain audiobooks
  • LearnEnglish Teens – everything on it is very regulated and non-dodgy. Nothing will be upsetting!
  1. Find something your students might be interested in (not necessarily what you are interested in!)
  2. Look at the transcript and make sure it’s appropriate
  3. Listen all the way through
  4. Analyse the language in the transcript (functional language? repetition of grammatical structure? particular vocabulary? etc.)

Learner Generated Materials

When students write things, their work can become templates for future activities with their permission. You can use hot potatoes which is a free software for making such activities.

Finally, the audience suggested Eclipse Crossword, Unsplash and Real English. There was also a handout that I got a picture of, if not the real thing:

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