IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day – MaW SIG – Part 3

Duly refreshed, it’s time for the afternoon sessions…

How to write ELT activities for authentic film and video – Kieran and Anna

Kieran and Anna also produced: “How to write film and video activities” – from the Teacher2writer training modules. (Yep, another module! Seems to be a trend today, for presenters to plug their Teacher2Writer module! 😀 )

 In today’s talk, they intend to consider:

  1. Role of video and film (more and more important)
  2. Sourcing video and film
  3. Exploiting video and film

Changing from video as an add-on (think glorified listening activities) to something more integral. Capturing and editing moving images has become much more accessible. This can be exploited in language learning. Kieran thinks there will be an increasing demands for writers of this type of activity.

 You need to think about:

  • Syllabus fit – a strict publisher’s brief fit or just integrating it into what you are teaching?
  • Music/soundtrack needs not to be overwhelming, so that voices can be heard. Language level is affected by this and other things such as accents, number of speakers etc. Keep a checklist of these handy.
  • Length – 2-5minute clips are optimal for attention/engagement. The shorter the clip, the more repeat viewings you can have, with different activities. This helps with comprehension too.
  • Relevance – of topic and content vs students’ context, background etc.
  • Task potential – visual is important. Less effective if activities are relying too heavily on the non-visual i.e. the audio.

 Established approach to writing for video

  • Pre-viewing tasks
  • While-viewing tasks
  • Post-viewing tasks

Publishers will break it down like this and include things like vocabulary lists for you to use too.

 Pre-viewing activities:

For language-based goals – matching, summary completion (pre-teaching vocabulary), stills from the video and a summary (for more challenging material)

For communicative goals – prediction, discussion. Take a still from the film or video, accompany it with some questions. Connecting this task with the viewing is of course to check their predictions.

 While viewing activities:

  •  Don’t overload: Activities and instructions should be concise.
  • We can use reading/listening type questions but shouldn’t rely too heavily on these.
  • Need to be activities that don’t demand too much attention so that ss can still focus on the film.

For more information: www.visualmanifesto.com

 My thoughts: 

Maybe lunch affected my brain adversely – clearly my notes from this talk don’t do it justice! The presenters ran out of time for getting beyond ‘While viewing’ but the slides are going to be available later, so keep an eye on MaW SIG channels for further information on this!

Does a corpus have the answer? Corpus tools for ELT writers by Julie Moore

I was looking forward to this talk! I really enjoyed Julie’s talk at last year’s IATEFL and I love corpora! 

 Focus:

  • What is a corpus, what are corpus tools?
  • How to use them to help you write materials – with examples
  • What a corpus isn-t very good for
  • Ways of accessing corpora
  • A few other nifty vocab tools

Corpus, corpora – a collection of texts, used to investigate language and how it works. We use corpus tools do this, software which allows this investigation.

When you look at a corpus, you get something called a concordance. That is, examples of language taken from the stored texts, with the searched word appearing down the middle, aka a key word in context (KWIC) search. You can then click on a sentence to get a little more context.

We can ask a corpus many things…

Questions!

Questions!

With a corpus we can:

  • search for authentic examples.

This can lead you to identify a nice context for a given language point. E.g. a film competition guideline set for “must”.

It is quite rare to find something ready for use straight away: you are more likely to adapt and abridge entries so that all language is level-appropriate.

You can also use it as a template to create your own example. It helps you to create something more natural-sounding.

  • do collocation searches

E.g. keep your temper, do frequency searches. Look at the example lines. Then you see it does exist but not on it’s own but rather for e.g. keep your temper under control/in check etc.

  • search for phrases and chunks

Sketch Engine: search “bush” to find more possibilities than “beat around the bush” So start with a wide search. Then search for the frequency of the collocate e.g. around/about. Then you can search for English type. Smaller difference between around and about for British English.

 What isn’t a corpus good at?

Corpus are good at vocabulary –oriented queries. If you don’t have a specific lexical item to search for, it is more difficult and requires a lot more time. E.g. present continuous for future plans. Even if you come up with a search of present continuous examples, you would have to manually identify the future plans ones.

They are also not so good for longer examples or complete texts: this is because of copyright and permissions rules. You can’t borrow enough sentences to illustrate ‘on the other hand’ for example.

 Important points to consider:

  • spoken vs written
  • genre mix
  • AmE vs BrE
  • Expert vs student

Otherwise put, it is important to know your corpus and what it contains.

For example, the British Academic Written Corpus (student writing, native and non native) so you aren’t going to search it to find out about general spoken English…

Don’t follow blindly:

You need to question the results if they are surprising e.g. with keep and temper.

You only get what you search for. Just because you find something doesn-t mean you have answered your question. Sometimes answers aren-t clear cut. Remember your audience and aims.

 How to access a corpus

  • Major publishers have their own corpus. E.g. Oxford. Ask if you can use it.
  • Free corpora: COCA SkELL (great data, limited search tools), BAWE/BASE
  • Subscription corpora: Sketch Engine, Collins Corpus (coming soon…)

A few other nifty tools      

  •  Textcheckers – input a text and compare it to a particular wordlist e.g. AWL, English Vocab Profile, Oxford 3000

E.g. VocabKitchen

Depends how good you think the lists are as to how much you rely on the tool.

  •  Usage trends

E.g. Cobuild online, Ngram – show a line graph of usage trends.

  •  Dictionaries

 Thesaurus facility, advanced searches – Macmillan Online is good for this.

More useful stuff!

More useful stuff!

Don’t worry – Julie is planning to write a blog post explaining a bit about these tools and what they do. Watch out for it on her blog.

My thoughts:

Another great session with lots to take away! And my note-taking brain appears to have woken up again too… 🙂 Corpora are great, as long as you are using them for what they are great at and not falling into the traps highlighted by Julie. 

IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day – MaW SIG – Part 2

Following the first break, we were treated to two more fantastic talks:

A technological toolkit for Writers – Nick 

Nick starts with a whistle-stop tour of technological history, also sharing the story of a very large internet-related phone bill with us. Apparently his parents weren’t so impressed…

The three key areas of focus are:

  • Useful hardware
  • Timesaving software
  • Avoiding internet-related distraction

 Useful hardware 

Computer – PC or Mac or… what suits you

Operating system – OSX, Windows, Linux or… what suits you

Word-processing software – Word, Open Office.. what suits you

Browser – Don’t use IE…try something else…please…

Screen-size – as big as you can; multiple monitors (less switching between applications e.g. What you’re writing and your source….avoid work and email or what you’re not writing and your distractor!) And use desktop arrangement/Fences – you  can draw a box on your desktop, give it a label and put your files in it.

 Keyboard and mouse – touching them all the time, make sure they are comfortable. Mechanical keyboard – clickety clackety; these days mainly used for gamers.

Timesaving software

60 seconds...starting now! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

Time, precious time! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org, licensed for commercial re-use with modification

 Basic criteria:

  •  Must solve a problem: if I’m only doing it once a month, probably don’t need a fix…
  • Simplicity!
  • Integration – should talk to all devices, if relevant
  • Cost – should be reasonable

Nick’s ELT courses include:

  • Vocabulary presentations
  • Texts
  • Practice exercises

(grossly oversimplified)

 So how can technology help?

1. Images – these sometimes generate a long url (that you need to paste into the document). Fix: Use browser extensions (these extend functionality of your browser): URL shortener. One touch to shrink the URL. As a rule of thumb: If you do anything with your browser that requires 2 or more clicks, someone has designed something that will enable you to do it in one…

  • Taking a partial screenshot (easy on a mac! yay!)
  • Online dictionaries: CALD space word – searches Cambridge dictionaries online. Go to search field in the dictionary, go to add as search engine, change the keyword to something quick to remember, and bingo!  (I really have to set these up!)

2. Texts – Archiving for future reference. We have moved on from filing cabinets and from endless folders of unsearchable pdfs to…

 Evernote!! 

http://www.evernote.com – it’s brilliant. (At some point I should write a guide to using it…)

Screenshot of Evernote-s homepage: They clearly got this dude off Shutterstock or similar! ;-)

Screenshot of Evernote-s homepage: They clearly got this dude off Shutterstock or similar! 😉

 3. Practice exercises (grammar or vocab)

Use macros: automate a set of actions that you can repeat ad infinitum.

  • Teacher’s Pet: a massive collection of macros that you install and it creates a custom tool bar, which does all the boring jobs for you. Fabulous!

Distractions – Tough love techniques

  • Stayfocused: A toolbar extension limits time per day on certain sites – you define which sites distract you and how much time you can spend on them today. When you look at the website, it starts counting down.
  • Strict Workflow: – Page blocked until a break timer starts. Back to work!
  • Rescue time: A weekly report on how you use your time…

Your mileage may vary… you may get more out of this than others do.

 Tiny.cc/mawsig_techtools – link to a google doc for adding info to

Nick’s email: mail@nicholastims.info

 My thoughts:

What an incredibly useful half an hour! It flew by, was full of humour and we got to learn lots of great techie shortcuts to doing stuff that materials writers do. What more could you want?

 Session 4: Writing ELT audio and video scripts. From basic principles to creating drama

 With the improvement in technology, going out into the street and recording is becoming more possible. You discover all sorts of interesting bits of language that you don’t discover if you script it all yourself cold.

 Need to consider:

  • Is there too much target language shoe-horned in?
  • Is the context clear? (Stated in rubric? A picture? Sound effects?)
  • Is there enough turn-taking? Breaking it down makes it easier for students to handle the language load, particularly at lower levels.
  • Is there a suitable number of speakers? More than 3 or 4 is too many. E.g. 4 people in a meeting is quite hard for the student to know who is speaking each time. Variety of names, genders and accents can help with this. (Must be stated in the script for the actors to be aware of…)
  • What about the lack of authenticity? How can we introduce more feelings of authentic speech into the writing and make it less stilted?

We had a go at considering:

image1

Our turn!

 

Features of authentic speech:

  • (Diverse) Pronunciation and accent
  • False starts and repetition
  • Error
  • Fillers and filled pauses
  • Contract and full forms
  • Idiom, slang, jargon, idiolect

Which of these should we be putting into our scripts? Depends on who is using the materials. Maybe not errors! The grammar of spoken English… Are they errors? Or are they just spoken English? And what will the editor remove? Ums and errs and I think are more likely to be kept? False starts often removed. It is important to start thinking about how to add some of these things in…

 Adding drama

You need a central character who wants something. Then you add some kind of conflict situation that makes things more difficult for them! “Try it 3 times” – the main character tries and fails twice and then third time lucky, within the script. 5 or 6 times, becomes more like Fawlty Towers…

Video producers say that ELT writers coming from an audio background tend to state the bloody obvious. Show don-t tell. Slightly in conflict with language teaching but… we need to come up with ways to make it more visual yet control the language.

John’s website, where these slides will appear…

My thoughts:

Well, by the end of talk no. 4, it’s easy to see why people say MaW SIG’s PCE is the one to come to! So far, the diversity in the topics has made me think just how diverse Materials Writing is, there are so many different elements that meet in this discipline. It’s really rather fascinating! Also, I’m really enjoying the opportunity of doing all the little tasks that the various presenters have conjured up, working alongside people who know their stuff – a great learning experience! 

Phew! After an action-packed morning, it’s time for lunch! 

IATEFL 2015: Pre-conference Event Day – MaW SIG – Part 1

The Materials Writer’s Essential Toolkit

Here I am at the IATEFL 2015 PCE Day, and I have to admit, MaW SIG has its work cut out for it today, as there is a portion of me that is rather sorry to be giving up my precious Easter holiday to be attending a conference! Fortunately, as the venue came in to sight, my enthusiasm and excitement finally made themselves known. Having registered and collected the usual conference bumpf, I have even read the programme now and everything! Bring on the Materials Writer’s Essential Toolkit! As it’s a long day of many talks, I am breaking it into several blog posts to make it more digestible… 

 Sessions 1 and 2 – 10.10 – 11.30

 Writing Multiple Choice Activities – what Sue Kay has learnt…

Who knew that there could be so much to say about Multiple Choice Activities? Perhaps it-s because…“there’s an awful lot that can go wrong!”

Sue kicked off by talking about advantages and disadvantages of this question type:

 Advantages

  • Can be marked by a computer;
  • Can deal with large volumes of students being tested (hence chosen format for TOEFL and TOEIC).
  • From a teaching point of view, can offer some support to lower level students who can recognise but not produce much

Disadvantages

  • Assess recognition not use of language;
  • Depending on no. of options, 33 or 25 % chance of guessing;
  • Easy to cheat…
  • Writing good ones is HARD!

Challenges

Are the items difficult enough? Are they plausible? The art of adding distraction to text or script (aka how to confuse the students and tempt them away from the right answer!)

At this point, we looked at the anatomy of multiple choice.

Firstly, they are not MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) but MCIs (Multiple Choice Items) as not all are “questions”. E.g. a stem can be an unfinished sentence to complete.

Distractors – wrong answers that tempt ss away

Stem – the question or sentence beginning

Key – the correct answer

 Important to remember:

Options should be plausible, not too obviously right or wrong, consistent in style and length, not repeat or contradict each other, be clear and easy to process…

Task 1 

We looked at these multiple choice items:

 

Multiple Choice Quiz

Multiple Choice Quiz

And had to identify a) which one was a good example? b) what was wrong with all the rest of them!

  1. C stands out as correct as much longer than A or B (should be short/roughly equally in length; avoid using linkers)
  2. Option C is obviously a distractor, very silly (all options must be plausible or you give ‘one for free’ : suppress the urge to inject humour into MCIs!)
  3. End the stem at a logical point e.g. after the verb AND preposition. E.g. concerned about plus the options rather multiple structures
  4. Correct! (Options same length, consistent style, no linkers or complex structures, all plausible)
  5. Option D stands out as the only one not starting with ‘Michael’ (consistency)
  6. The information on the page is enough to guess the correct answer, without reference to the text. B is obviously the right one. (Too obvious right answers, too obviously wrong distractors, shouldn’t be answerable through common sense)
  7. Options A and D have the same meaning = a double key (mustn’t cancel one another out by saying the opposite either…)
  8. Too easy to answer without listening to the interview. (A and B easy to reject, D too obviously wrong. World knowledge shouldn’t come into play…)

The process as a whole

 You need to write the text and the activity at the same time. Sue used to write the text first but this isn-t a good idea… you end up shoe-horning distractors in. The text becomes unnatural and lacking in coherence.

  • Plan the ideas you want to include in the text
  • Before you write it, draft some stems and keys
  • Brain storm different attitudes feelings emotions angles to include in the script so that you can test not only specific info but opinion and intention too.
  • Paraphrase the language in the text in your key – if you use the same language it’s too obviously the right answer
  • But you can use the same language in the distractors to tempt them away from the right answer. But generally speaking better to paraphrase across the board. Sometimes can be a good temptation though.
  • Use students’ common mistakes when adding distraction. Things that students always confuse.

Adding distraction

  • Time phrases can be used to set up distraction. E.g. saying what happened in the past and then testing what is happening now.

We used to….then… so now…

Distractor: (We used to) live on the edge of a city (outskirts) as something that is happening ‘now’

 At first I thought… but then I saw through…

If testing what is happening now, content following at first I thought acts as a distractor.

We were thinking of….but…

He wanted to….but…

So, what did the couple do at the weekend? (Task 2)

Wanted to, hoped to, intended to, planned on, thought about, was/were going to, tried to, would to have, was/were supposed to etc. are useful to seed into the text.

  • Unreal past

Past tenses in conditionals or after wish.

“I’d probably stay if the boss said he’d pay me more”

Distractor: Her manager has offered her a salary increase

 

If you’d done what it says on the label, it wouldn’t have shrunk”

Distractor: He followed the washing instructions

 

I wish we’d brought the compass with us

Distractor: They were well equipped for the walk.

 

  • Negatives

It-s not as if we’re desperate for a new car park

Distractor: She thinks the town needs better parking facilities

 Here are the guidelines on which the talk draws:

Remember!!

Remember!!

Useful resources:

How to write Reading and Listening Activities  by Caroline Krantz

How to write Exam practice materials  by Roy Norris

Teacher2Writer  website

 

Reflecting on what we looked at today, Sue says “These are techniques for adding challenge…”

Comments arising from the post-talk Q and A

  •  Making the options challenging but the language as easy to process as possible, so that the students are processing the text rather than the options.
  •  Try your questions out on colleagues first…
  •  With listening texts, more important to spread the items out vs. reading texts where students have control over processing time.
  • Digital – templates may have character limits; can be set up for exam type (i.e. can listen only twice) or to learn (can listen as many times as they want, with more challenging questions? Or if supporting lower level students then they have more time to get it right; higher levels may choose not to slow it down, listen again etc.)

End of session 1 – happy to report that enthusiasm/excitement/motivation are fully present and accounted for again! 🙂

 Session 2: Maximising the image in materials design – Ben Goldstein and Ceri Jones

The role of images in ELT

How has it changed over the last 15-20 years?

When they started, it was purely decorative or a visual aid. This has changed a lot in the last 5 -10 years. Opening pages of units in CBs, there is often a big image, more central to the writing and learning process. Careful: These big images still involve rather conservative use of image. More prominent but yet still traditional exploitation. E.g. decorative.

How can we subvert?

In our roles as writers, how can we make sure that the images are working for us, inc. the decorative ones? Focus on print. Digital is slightly different.

Ben and Ceri showed us a sample search. We had to guess the search term…

Image search results

Image search results

What was the search term? “Beach”

Image banks: some publishers have them (affiliations) and prefer only to use those banks. Some give you more freedom to search outside them. Some receptive, some less so. There are also budgets to be aware of. Certain images need to be cheap. You may be able to squeeze in the odd expensive one.

Types: 

  • Stock images (clip art etc.)
  • Creative commons
  • Photo journalism
  • Design/boutique

Flip flops – stock image (thinkstock; used by BA in an advert. Used often for corporate materials)

Palm trees – design/boutique (lens modern) (aesthetically pleasing, airbrushed, but not full of ideas, so very decorative quality)

People on beach – photo journalism (Panos – image and text; often very generative. Can be too strong/controversial)

People on the beach – creative commons (unsplash – the social media front for a design company; like a teaser)

Sand shark – creative commons (ELT pics – by teachers for teachers, creative commons on Flickr; Blog – Take a photo and…)

image4-1

Sources for different image types

 These are different kinds of image banks. How do we search for images?

The bigger the bank, the more difficult it is to find what you are looking for i.e. using suitable search terms. Specificity of search is important…

 Some more good sources:

  • The whole picture – Guardian;
  • The wider image – Reuters
  • Getty works with Flickr.

Using Alamy

 Search term “beach”

Parameters – “square” [influenced by instagram, may be more creative]; (vs portrait or square-) “Creative” rather than “relevant” filter.

When writing artwork briefs, specify what parameters you don’t want as well e.g. “not Landscape”

Using Panos – the image can give an idea for a whole activity/topic. Another role of the image in the writing process – inspiration even if it doesn’t make it on to the page…

Image types revisited… this time with focus on fashion!

Are they new? trending? on the way out?

Here are some of the ones we considered:

  • Selfie
  • Selfie on stick
  • Mosaic
  • Drony (Dronie?) (Yes, really. Selfies with drones)
  • Infographic
  • Word cloud
  • Fish eye
  • Panodash (iphone trick, same person appearing in photograph multiple times);
  • Draw my life
  • Angry cat.
Keeping up to date is important - here's how...

Keeping up to date is important – here’s how…

 More useful sources and ideas:

  •  The Map of the Urban Linguistic Landscape Facebook Group
  •  Use your own images also!
  • You can use image banks to inform your artwork briefs.

Writing an artwork brief

 Be very specific. Explain how the image is supposed to work not just what it looks like. Be clear about what you don’t want. (E.g. NOT a lifestyle magazine type of shot)

An artwork brief

An artwork brief

Image roles

  • Scene-setting (for a topic or context)
  • Illustrative
  • Decorative
  • Driving force (opening spread, man and nature – positive, negative, conjures up different feelings)

Coming back to the process again, a good idea is to go to images first, see what is out there, let the images inspire. Start with a topic and brainstorm images, see what hits you. It can kick-start the creative process. It can rejuvenate you when you are on Unit 10 of level 4 of a course!

For more information see Ben’s website and Ceri’s website

My thoughts:

Much like with MCI’s, my general thought is, “who knew there was so much to know!” With both talks, within half an hour I went from knowing very little to at least knowing how little I know! Lots of useful content. From the practical aspects such as how to find the images, sources etc. to the process, where I am particularly struck by the idea of doing an image search around a topic and letting inspiration flow that way. It’s a new way of brainstorming that hadn’t occurred to me before. Not having written an artwork brief before, it was also interesting seeing some examples and then actually doing a task in which we worked in small groups to create a brief for a given image.

Has to be said, a great start to a great day. 🙂 Worth giving up being on holiday for… 😉

 

 

 

 

‘Richmond Skills Boost’: my materials!

Richmond Skills Boost‘ is a series of multi-level stand-alone reading and listening materials, which enable learners to work on their receptive skills independently of any course book they may be using. Teachers and students can both access this series of worksheets, via the Richmond ELT Site (requires institutional registration). Once you have registered, in the teacher’s area you will see ‘Skills Boost’, and this is where you will find all the worksheets.

Rather than having one person write all the worksheets, Richmond ELT used a range of different people, so you will see a lot of different ‘writer’s voices’ coming through. Reading worksheets 7, 8 and 9, aimed at A1 level, were written by yours truly! I’m very pleased with how the worksheets turned out, the designers have made them look really lovely. I found it very challenging writing materials for such a low level, but thanks to support from the Richmond team, I got there in the end:

Mine!

Mine!

These are my first published, paid materials and the whole process was a very interesting experience. Not least because the revisions coincided with my first pre-sessional at Sheffield University, a summer in which I also presented at the TOBELTA online conference and wrote a book chapter for an edited book due out this year, as well as teaching myself Italian: if you want something doing, ask a busy person!

I’d definitely like to do more materials writing in the future, so if you are interested in working with me on a project, please let me know! (Also happy to do proof-reading and piloting, if wanted…)

Thank you, Richmond ELT, for having me as part of this project! 🙂

MATSDA 2014 – What about the other 165 hours a week?

Today I was lucky enough to do a 45 minute presentation at the MATSDA conference in Liverpool. This was held at Liverpool University and the usual lovely crowd of people attended. Thank you to all who attended my talk – one of four that took place at 12.0o.

My presentation focused on ways of helping learners increase their exposure to English, and their use of it, outside of class time. I feel this is essential for learning and acquisition to take place, as the limited quantity of time available in class is insufficient, and beset with course-book related issues.

I discussed obstacles to acquisition and then looked at the various projects I’ve been working on with learners,  for the last 8 or 9 months: my reading project, my experimentation with English project, my use of collaborative tools project (which is linked with the aforementioned experimentation project), my efforts to help my learners become language researchers. I also briefly discussed the materials I made for my dissertation project, whose goal was also to help learners make use of the language in the out-of-class environment.

For further information about these projects and to access all the references made during the talk and that I’ve used during the course of all the projects, please visit my learner autonomy page and look in the section entitled Learner autonomy-related projects. For information about my dissertation materials, scroll down further on the same page and see the third link in the Presentations section.

Finally, here are the slides I used during the presentation.

Thank you to MATSDA, and especially Brian and Hitome, for allowing me to speak and making me feel very welcome.

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap... Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap… Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

My top ten materials development resources

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…

ARTICLES

 

1. Materials Development for Language learning and Teaching by Brian Tomlinson

Screenshot of the article header, taken from the Cambridge University Press link.

Screenshot of the article header, taken from the Cambridge University Press link.

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.)

BOOKS

 

2. Materials Development in Language Teaching by  Brian Tomlinson

The red-and-blue book!

Screenshot from Amazon: the red-and-blue book!

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

The purple book! Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon: the purple book! 

(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…

Screenshot from Amazon: the updated purple book!

Screenshot from Amazon: the updated purple book!

…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

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 07.46.46

Screenshot from Amazon – the blue book!

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

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

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:

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

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.

ONLINE RESOURCES/ASSOCIATIONS

 

5. MaW SIG

Screenshot of the MaW SIG Facebook page

Screenshot of the MaW SIG Facebook page

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

Screenshot: ELT Teacher2Writer website

Screenshot: ELT Teacher2Writer website

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.

7. ELT-Resourceful

 

Screenshot: ELT-Resourceful site

Screenshot: ELT-Resourceful blog site

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

Screenshot: Free and Fair ELT

Screenshot: 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!

9. MATSDA

Screenshot: MATSDA's website

Screenshot: MATSDA’s website

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

Screenshot: ELT Materials Writer

Screenshot: 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!) 

At the British Council ELTons, 2014!

At the risk of sounding unbearably smug and like I’m blowing my own trumpet at full volume etc. (which, let’s face it, would be most un-British!), I’m going to allow myself one more post about the ELTons 2014 and my very unexpected win. Why? After all, yesterdays news, today’s fish and chip papers and all that…

Well, I’ve been given permission to upload my “winner’s interview” (recorded after the awards ceremony, when I was still completely stunned!) onto my blog – and being as realistically I’m never going to win an ELTon again, and, even if blue moons were to happen, will definitely never win the Macmillan New Talent in Writing award again (for obvious reasons…) So I’ve decided to go ahead and have my interview on my blog – it’s the first time I’ve ever been interviewed, and probably the last, so why not!

Here it is:

As I said in the interview, you can’t get hold of the materials yet – they are still just my dissertation project, so there is only one printed copy (first edition!) gathering dust in my tutor’s basement somewhere and a .pdf or two on my hard drive – but here is some information about them if you are interested!

And here are a smattering of the wonderful tweets I received following my win:

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And, yes, yes I did “favourite” them all! 🙂 I also attempted to respond:

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Thank you, again, to all who sent me such lovely messages. I couldn’t put them all on here, or this post would be endless! But it was very enjoyable to receive them all, they were much appreciated. 🙂

I will be very interested to see how it all unfolds – when I will hear from Macmillan, what they will say… I haven’t heard anything from them yet, however, which I’m actually quite surprised about: I suppose I had expected some kind of acknowledgement from them, that I have won their award this year! But then, these are not circles in which I’m accustomed to moving, so I can’t say I have anything solid on which to base my expectations! The good news is that the B.C. ELTons team are taking care of the prize money aspect and arrangements regarding this are under way. Yay!

Interesting times, especially having read this post by Nicola Prentis. All I can say is, watch this space! Meanwhile, there is no shortage of “things to do” on my never-ending list! 🙂

British Council ELTons 2014: the speech I *didn’t* make

As everybody who follows this blog (and one or two others who don’t) know, I was nominated/shortlisted for an ELTon this year. I was delighted when I made the long-list back in November – would have been quite satisfied just to have got that far – then thoroughly wowed when I made the short-list in March.

Tonight, thanks to my lovely Dos and my school director, I was able to attend the awards ceremony, along with my M.A. ELT tutor/”product team”, Heather. Prior to the ceremony, all nominees had been emailed to request that we prepare a speech for just in case we should win the award. Well, suffice to say speech-writing didn’t happen, end-of-term report writing (and a million other things) did – but that’s ok, it wasn’t like I was going to actually win or anything… Except, I did. Miraculously enough, I am now an ELTon winner in the category of Macmillan award for new talent in writing. (Thank you, Macmillan and thank you British Council!)

Apparently I won!

Apparently I won!

I was so stunned when they announced me as the winner, that I had to be shown the way to get onto the stage. And then, of course, I was presented with the award (which I can vouch is very solid glass, going by the weight – wouldn’t like to drop it on my toes by mistake…) and asked to say a few words. Rabbit in the headlights comes to mind, but nevertheless I duly made a speech of sorts. Which could be summed up in the following sentence: “I was super lucky because I went to IATEFL a couple of years ago, found a flyer in my conference pack and as a result wound up at Leeds Met, where my materials were born” I clean forgot that one is supposed to thank every man and his dog on such occasions – and it’s not like I’m without people to thank. Fortunately, I have a blog, so now I’m going to write the speech I should have said! (Though I think what I said was a good start…)

“I’m standing here (now a figurative here!) tonight because of a flyer. Two years ago, I went to the IATEFL conference in Glasgow and I found a flyer in my bag. It was the flyer for Leeds Metropolitan Uni, where I would go on to do my M.A. in ELT. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly – it was a risk. But sometimes, taking risks pays huge dividends. I didn’t know Leeds Met. I didn’t know that I would find the best tutors (thank you all!) and course-mates (thank you too!) I could ever have hoped to have there. I stepped into the unknown – and got super-lucky. I’m mostly here tonight because I’m lucky…

My biggest thanks has to go to Heather Buchanan, course leader of the M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met, from whom I learnt so much during the materials development module, and who gave me so many hours of her time and so much support throughout the course and especially while I was creating these dissertation materials (and trying to decide how to answer the awkward questions she asked me about them on a regular basis!). Also, for not letting me bin them halfway through the summer when I had decided they were rubbish and I’d be better off starting again! Thank you for everything, Heather. 🙂

Secondly, I must thank Sandy Millin, who I met thanks to Twitter and #ELTchat and who has been a massive source of inspiration to me ever since. If it weren’t for her, my materials would be twice as long as they currently are, as the instructions would all be epically long, rambling nightmares. One weekend, Sandy eventually managed to just about beat the habit of using ten words where three would do out of me, as well showing me a wonderful world of computer shortcuts that made my life (well, using Indesign and MS Word) a lot easier, during a rather trying several months! Thank you so much, Sandy! 🙂

Thirdly, a big thank you is also due to Jane Templeton, one of my course mates at Leeds Met. She had the unenviable task of putting up with my regular whinging about the D-beast. (On the plus side, she got to moan about her assignments to me too, though!) Seriously, though, things are made so much easier by the support of others who know what you’re going through, so you can cuss together over a glass of wine! Thank you, Jane! 🙂

Finally, though they only came into my life after the big project was complete, I want to thank my current employers and colleagues. I work in a fantastic school, with really supportive people around me and that is invaluable. Currently, it is the busiest time of the year at IH Palermo, but my DoS let me attend the ceremony tonight nevertheless and has been so very supportive of me in every way, while my colleagues have, between them, covered the classes I will be missing as a result. Thank you Jonny, Pat and Silvio, and everybody else at IH Palermo. I’m very glad to be going back for another contract after the summer!

I’m also here because my Grandad left me some money when he died, and it was that money that I used to pay for my course at Leeds Met. He was an amazing man, who lived an amazing life and I wish he were able to see what a difference he’s made to my life. My M.A. ELT/Delta year was life-changing in so many ways. And this ELTon award is one of the wonderful outcomes of it.

I’m delighted to accept the award (yep, still delighted!) and (still pretty much as) stunned (as I was when I stumbled onto the stage this evening). Thank you everybody.”  Fortunately I hadn’t prepared a speech so the audience didn’t have to sit through this when I was unleashed on the microphone. 😉

It’s been a crazy journey getting to this point, and I look forward with interest to the next stage. Meanwhile, it was a brilliant experience being at the ELTons ceremony tonight, albeit rather surreal for a little nobody like me! 🙂 My warmest congratulations to all the other winners in all the other categories!

And now, 20hrs after I woke up in Palermo this morning, goodnight world! 🙂

MATSDA, here I come!

I’m delighted to have had my speaker proposal accepted for the MATSDA (Materials Development Association) 2 day conference on the last weekend  (28th/29th) in June, this year. The theme of the conference is Second Language Acquisition and Materials Development.

This is the abstract that I proposed:

What about the other 165 hours a week? Developing materials that scaffold and encourage out-of-class language acquisition, through their use as classroom tools.

Is this title a contradiction in terms? Perhaps not: the average language learner spends around 2-3 hours a week in the classroom, implying that for acquisition to take place, exposure to the target language shouldn’t be limited to classroom confines. Indeed, learner autonomy is somewhat of a buzzword in ELT – we recognise the inadequacy of classroom time with regards to acquisition, as well as the issue of syllabus structure often being at odds with learner ‘readiness’ to acquire, meaning that what learners do outside class time becomes of the utmost importance. However, there is often a gap between what we expect our learners to do outside the classroom and how we help them to do it. This talk looks at ways of helping learners harness the target language in their environment, real and/or virtual, effectively, and the role that learning materials, and their use in the classroom as well as beyond it, can play in scaffolding the process, in addition to stimulating and maintaining motivation, curiosity and the desire to acquire.

Last year, MATSDA was great fun – a friendly atmosphere full of banter and loads of interesting ideas to assimilate. I’m sure this year will be no different. I hope to see some of you there. For those who can’t make it, the usual write-up and references will follow – linked to on my Presentations page.

🙂

British Council ELTon/”Macmillan Education award for new talent in writing” shortlisted!

Not long before the British Council ELTon application deadline last year, I submitted some of my materials for “The Macmillan Education Award for new talent in writing” (previously called the Award for Innovative Writing), deciding I had nothing to lose by doing so.

To quote from the British Council website,

“The ELTons, sponsored by Cambridge English, are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in English language teaching (ELT). They reward educational resources that help English language learners and teachers to achieve their goals.”

The Macmillan award is in its sixth year of running, while the ELTons as a whole are in their twelfth year.

I was delighted when I learnt I’d been long-listed, but didn’t dream I’d get any further than that; but, somehow or another, I have! I have now been shortlisted for the award, which means I’ve made the top five out of all the applications submitted. What an honour!

D646 Eltons 2014 Nominated MacmillanInnovative rgb FINAL OL

Shortlisted!

The materials I submitted are not on my blog, but once the competition is over and I haven’t won (I can’t even begin to imagine that I will win, which is fine: I’m just jubilant to have got this far!), I’ll upload some samples. I made them while at Leeds Met : they, alongside a 5000 word rationale, were my dissertation project and represent hours upon hours upon hours of work. Not only the time spent on the project itself, but all the reading done and hours of classes attended for the Materials Development module, too. I won’t go into details about the content of the materials here and now, as my talk at IATEFL Harrogate in two weeks’ time, which will be written up here in due course, is based on them: I don’t want to steal my own thunder! 😉 But it was all those hours spent that nudged me to enter: having devoted all that time to working on something, the last thing you want to do is consign it to a dusty cupboard forever!

Anyway, for now, suffice to say, I feel extremely lucky to have got as far as the shortlist. And grateful that I had a dissertation supervisor who, having given me a solid foundation of knowledge from which to start (as my Materials Development tutor),  pushed me to do my absolute best with my dissertation materials, by asking hundreds of awkward questions (! 🙂 ) and giving unstinting time and support throughout the process. It was a very valuable experience for me.

Congratulations to all the other nominees – in my own and all the other categories! Let’s see what happens in May!