Do *you* use a global coursebook? If so, please read on…

When it comes to global coursebooks, everyone has an opinion regarding their qualities and flaws, and everyone has their own special ways of using them when required to do so…

Heather Buchanan (Leeds Metropolitan University) and Julie Norton (University of Leicester) are doing some research on this topic and are interested in finding out about your views and uses. They will share the results of this research as part of a presentation at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate next month.

Participation in this project is completely voluntary and anonymous. If you would like to help, by sharing your views on global coursebooks and your uses of them, please visit the following link:

Global coursebook questionnaire

When you click on this link, you will be taken to a page which provides you with more information about the project and will then be given a choice of continuing on to answer the questions or opting out of participation. 

Finally, please do share this post/the questionnaire link with any other English Language teachers who you think may be willing to complete it: Heather and Julie would be most appreciative! 🙂

IATEFL Materials Writing SIG

I’m sure you’ve heard of them already, (I believe they are) the newest addition to the list of SIGS associated with IATEFL, but if not, this is their Facebook page and you can find them on Twitter too, using the @MaWSIG handle. While they are still a very young SIG group, with a birth/launch date of last year’s IATEFL making them just under a year old, they have been very active in that time: a webinar, a conference and a newsletter (in the pipelines, due out in March) have all emerged in their first year of existence, and Nick Robinson has spoken about the group at other events such as the BESIG online conference in June last year. A summary of his talk can be found here. In that talk, Nick says this of the Facebook page:

MaW SIG also has an active Facebook page, through which you can access people who have been doing materials writing for a long time. There is a lot of knowledge out there, which can be shared and this page aims to provide a platform for this.

Of course it’s very easy to say such things, but in the case of MaW SIG and the Facebook page, I’ve just had a very positive first-hand experience of how this works. That is what has inspired me to write this post: I want to write about MaW SIG and my experience, so that other (possibly would-be) materials writers see another aspect of what it has to offer:

I wrote some materials last year while studying at Leeds Met. Since then, I have spent a lot of time trying to improve them based on what I subsequently learned in the course of my dissertation, which was materials-based, and uploading them onto my blog. I shared this link  to my materials on the MaW SIG Facebook page and soon after, Rachael Roberts (whose blog you’ve no doubt visited on many an occasion) , who is very involved with the SIG, contacted me, saying she had made notes on the pdf’s of my materials and asking how she could send them to me. So it was that I got some really useful feedback on what I’d produced. I hope to meet her and other MaW SIG people at IATEFL this year.

For new materials writers like me, this kind of support/guidance is invaluable, and very hard to come across. Of course the SIG is run entirely by volunteers (thank you, all!), so these are people who have jobs and other commitments as well as the SIG, but somehow make time to make it the success that it has been so far, and, I am sure, will continue to  be.

Unfortunately I’m not able to make either the IATEFL pre-conference event on the Tuesday or be part of the SIG day on the Wednesday, due to work commitments, but if you are able to attend and do have an interest in materials development, I would strongly urge you to take the opportunity. Bringing materials writers together and enabling knowledge and know-how to be shared is something which will no doubt bring something very positive to the world of ELT materials writing and publishing, and I look forward to seeing how it unfolds and getting involved!

Thank you, MaW SIG, and here’s to another successful year! (During which I certainly hope I will be able to attend many of the webinars and workshops that you organise…) 🙂

100th post: Looking backwards, looking forwards…

This post sees the neat coincidence of several things:

  • my 100th post on this blog (this one!)
  • my 100th follower of this blog (a few days ago)
  • my 40,000th view (earlier today)
  • the end of the year (very shortly)
  • the first ELT Blog Carnival of 2014 (for which submissions are open, with a topic of “New Year’s Resolutions)

It’s been quite a year! 🙂 In this post, in keeping with the Blog Carnival abstract, I am going to reflect on what I’ve achieved this year, as well as my projects, plans and goals for next year.

Looking back…

At the beginning of this year, I was in Leeds. I had completed the input sessions for the Delta portion of my course at the end of the previous year, but had all the external assessment (Module 2 LSA 4, Module 3 extended assignment, Module 1 exam) all looming over me. So I still very much count the Delta as part of this year – after all, I only received the qualification in August! (I was on holiday in Italy, up a mountain riding a horse, when the news of my distinctions arrived in the form of happy emails from two of my tutors…)

It’s interesting (to me) to think that at the beginning of this year, I was feeling quite demotivated and felt I hadn’t achieved anything despite working so very hard in the first semester of my course. I’d learnt a lot but nothing was finished (other than the Delta mock exam that provided the M.A. grade for that module, which I thought I’d done badly in – though it transpired that I hadn’t!). Goes to show, perhaps, that achievement shouldn’t necessarily only be associated with completed things…

Since that rather inauspicious beginning to the year, which followed a Christmas “holiday”, which I spent redrafting my Delta module 3 and preparing the M.A. module presentation based on it, loads of exciting things have happened:

  • my M.A. modules!

They were brilliant. What a wonderful, wonderful course. I learnt ever such a lot (for evidence of this look here) and had such a lot of fun in the process, thanks to lovely tutors and lovely course mates. The best thing is, I’ve been using my learning from the modules ever since: For example, from Multimedia and Independent Learning came my interest in learner autonomy and resultant projects that are currently in progress at work, and thanks to the Materials Development module, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making several sets of materials, some of which you can find here.

  • my British Council Blog of the Month award

My 30 things… post, which came about as a direct result of all the learning in my time at Leeds Met, managed to win the June 2013 edition of this award – a great honour for little ol’ me and something that has brought with it opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. For example, the British Council webinar I will be doing in February next year: my first ever webinar. I’m not at all scared….ahem. On the theme of blogging, my little blog has blossomed this year. I started blogging in May 2011 and between then and May this year, posted very little and was visited very little. Then I suddenly found I had things to say and share, resulting in a lot of content being added to this blog over the last 7 months. I also went from 4,000 odd views to now just over 40,000. Quite a big jump! But it’s not the numbers or quantity of content that is important, it’s the profound effect that having this reflective space has had on my professional life. It’s a wonderful thing, being able to share teaching-y things with teachers all over the world. And, of course, reading others’ blogs has remained a great source of inspiration to me.

  • my first conference presentations

I presented for the first time at the 16th Warwick International Postgraduate Conference in Applied Linguistics, which was on the 26th June 2013 at the University of Warwick. My presentation was based on the research project I did for the Research module of my M.A. and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a gentle way in, being as all the other participants were also students and I had already presented my research as part of the assessment for the M.A. module. This first time was swiftly followed by the second time, less than a month later:  This was at the MATSDA/University of Liverpool 2 day conference, themed “Enjoying to learn: the best way to acquire a language?” on the 13th and 14th July 2013 at the University of Liverpool. If you haven’t been to a MATSDA conference before, I highly recommend it. It was a lot of fun and a very supportive atmosphere for a novice presenter. For details of my presentations, please see this link.

  • my dissertation

Bubbling away in the background, behind all the excitement of the presentations and blog award, was my dissertation. My constant companion for about 4 months, the D-beast definitely represents a large chunk of the time, energy, focus and dedication that has gone into this year. It was worth it in the end, as not only did I find it a very satisfying experience (though towards the end I was worried I would never finish in time!), but I also came out of it with a respectable 82%. This sealed my overall distinction for my M.A. in ELT, of which I am very proud: it represents a LOT of very hard, yet enjoyable, work. But not only hard work on my part: my tutor who supervised me for the dissertation gave up a lot of her time in order to meet with me and look at/feed back on what I’d produced at various points, as well as giving me lots of support and encouragement throughout the whole process: Thank you, HB!

  • my new job in Palermo

I am fortunate enough for teaching at IH Palermo to have become my first post-Delta job. It’s a great school to work in, with a very supportive and friendly atmosphere, as well as a lot of opportunity for continued development. Since I have been here, I have attended workshops on teaching young learners, teaching using Headway, teaching teens, dealing with parents and, last but not least, pronunciation. I have also been observed while teaching, and received a high quality of helpful, constructive feedback subsequently, as well as had the opportunity to observe my peers. And then, of course, I have embarked on the IHCYLT (IH Young Learner Cert) course – which deserves its own bullet point!


This, I am still very embroiled in. In fact, I’m about half way through and hanging on by a very slender thread. Turns out starting a new job, working full-time, learning a new language AND doing a training course is quite the balancing act. Fortunately, the afore-mentioned supportive nature of the workplace and my DoS and YL coordinator have helped me keep going thus far. How it turns out remains to be seen – I suppose I shall either make it, just, or crash and burn spectacularly! I think it may possibly be course over-load for one year but at least it’s nearly Christmas and hopefully after a break I will have what it takes to push through what’s still to come. I’ve discovered that I’m not a huge fan of distance/online learning as vs. face-to-face study and am heartily glad/relieved that I did not attempt the Delta via distance learning, as I don’t think I would have made it through or done anywhere near as well as I did. Thankfully, as the YL course is blended, the observation (both being observed/the feedback and observing others) element has balanced out the online component. (NB: the online tutors are fantastic, so my lack of love for the online element is no fault of theirs…)

  • Italian

I’m also learning Italian, being as prior to moving to Palermo I had never learnt nor spoken any Italian in my life before. (Oh except learning the numbers, the word for England and good afternoon/please/thank you when I came on holiday here with my aunt’s family, aged 16 or so) I study every day before work and read extensively every evening and over the weekend. I also listen extensively. I think I’ve learnt a lot of language since I’ve been here (still just under three months though it seems like forever longer!) and it’s been fascinating being a language learner again. I did a few lessons at the school but stopped for a variety of reasons (including lack of time, the YL course starting, and just not getting on that well with the lessons). Learning independently has been a lot more successful and I’ve learnt a lot from how I learn – if that makes sense (it does to me…)!

So, I think that just about covers looking back…

Looking forward…

  • Christmas Holidays!!

Thank goodness. This time next week I will be on holiday. I intend to finish all the YL coursework I need to do *before* the holiday and have a complete rest (if you can call Christmas etc  a rest :-p) over the 2 weeks I’m off work. It will be the first real, proper holiday since August 2013. I am very, very, very in need of it!

  • British Council webinar

In February, I will be giving my very first webinar (as mentioned earlier in this post), on the topic of learner autonomy. I hope my audience will be gentle with me… 😉  I’ve been experimenting away with various tools and ideas for helping learners become more autonomous and am looking forward to sharing what I’ve learnt and to having peoples’ responses to what I say inform what I do with my projects in future, too.

  • A workshop at work

One of my goals for next year is to deliver a workshop at work. (Sometime *after* the YL course finishes, of course! 😉 ) I think it would be a very valuable experience.

  • Presenting at IATEFL

I’ve been accepted to present at IATEFL, which is very exciting. Still a few teething issues with regards to attending, but here’s hoping I’ll make it… 🙂 (Much as the thought of it also terrifies me…. 😉 )

  • Attending other conferences

There’s a MATSDA conference in June, when I shall be back in England (8-month contract), which I very much hope to attend. I love conferences: they are so inspirational.

  • Working at a university

One of my goals for next year is to work on a pre-sessional course at a University in the U.K. over the summer.

  • Continuing work on my projects

I am thoroughly enjoying working on my learner autonomy projects and helping my learners become more autonomous learners and this is something I want to continue working on next year. I want to read a lot more on learner autonomy theory and motivation theory (currently in the middle of a book on each subject).

  • Reading

As well as the afore-mentioned learner autonomy and motivation theory-related texts, I want to keep abreast of developments in the ELT world by continuing to read the journals and professional magazines that I have discovered through doing my Delta and M.A. I also want to reread and reprocess my notes from these courses, and keep the learning fresh as well as add to it.

  • Using my learning

I *really* want to experiment with what I’ve learnt through the Delta and M.A., experiment, reflect, evaluate, experiment some more, write about it… this is one of the reasons I am looking forward to the YL course finishing: at the moment I’m struggling for brain space. The YL course is ramming more and more learning into my poor little brain when all I really want to do is draw breath and work with what I’ve got. Nevertheless, when it does finish, I’ll work with that learning too, of course! 🙂

  • A PhD

Not next year! But sometime… to research something related to learner autonomy and motivation. (Of course that may change by the time I get round to doing one!)

  • Learning more Italian

I want to keep working on my Italian – I’m feeling enormously motivated – and for my speaking to catch up with my reading and listening….at least a little!!

  • A better work-life balance!!!!!

At the moment, my work-life balance is not awesome. (Thanks, YL course!) I’m very much looking forward to having my weekends back but, that aside, outside of frenetic times (of which there will be another in late January when a whole bunch of courses end) I want to try and spend less time at work and get more exercise during the week. If I keep going for toooo much longer at the current rate, I suspect I will burn out.

Plenty to be getting on with…!

Meanwhile, I’ve one more week left of term, which will see teaching practice observation no.3/4, parents consultations, a course ending (and attendant marking/reports/admin) and the usual load of YL tasks to be getting on with… no rest for the wicked!

2013 has been fairly phenomenal all in all: and I am eternally grateful to all who have helped to make it that way – my wonderful tutors, my course mates, my colleagues, my DoS, and, best of all, my lovely, lovely family and friends. Thank you all for your support, for putting up with me and not giving up on me. 🙂

Here’s wishing everybody a fantastic 2014 – live your dreams!

CPD: What does it mean to you?

CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is a well-used phrase. But what does it really mean? What does it involve? To me, it covers a whole multitude of things:


This is arguably the most obvious element. You identify a gap in your skill set or a need for general upgrade of your skills/knowledge and search for a course to suit your needs. Courses come in all shapes and sizes, varying in length, focus, outcome, commitment requirements, cost and so on.

The DELTA (Diploma for English Language Teaching to Adults) or its Trinity counter part, the Trinity Dip. TESOL, is a popular choice for qualified ESL teachers wanting to take the next step. These are internationally recognised professional qualifications with a practical focus. The DELTA is a modular qualification and modules can be taken separately or concurrently, distance or face-to-face, part-time or full-time, intensively or non-intensively. The trick is to make the right decision regarding which of these options will work for you. Being a level 7 qualification, the DELTA gives you a number of credits towards a Masters qualification, depending on the university and the course chosen.

M.A.’s (Master of Arts) or M.Sc.’s (Master of Sciences) are generally considered to be more theoretically focused. Popular choices for teachers include Masters in English Language Teaching, Applied Linguistics and TESOL and pure Applied Linguistics. Some M.A.s manage to combine the more theoretical focus of an M.A. with practical application. One such is the Leeds Met M.A. in ELT, which focuses on what you can do with the theory rather than on just learning and writing about it: in the second semester, for example, you design materials, undertake research, develop multimedia tools and write a journal article. First semester content depends on whether or not you choose to do the integrated DELTA option.

Shorter courses

I think these tend to have a narrower focus and there are lots of options out there. International House, for example, has a range of courses, of various lengths, some blended and some purely online. (I shall be doing the Young Learner training, starting tomorrow!) I won’t go into depth on all the courses available out there, or it will treble the length of this post! 😉

Work-based CPD

This, most obviously, would include workshops (both attending and delivering), formal observation, peer observation and the opportunity to participate in short training courses. And, I have discovered, if you work somewhere that truly values CPD (actively, not just paying lip service), then these things become amazing opportunities.

I had my first formal observation earlier this week. Scary scary. BUT the DoS had emphasised that this was developmental rather than a test and an opportunity to experiment. So I experimented for the first time with some techniques I’d read about shortly prior to the observed lesson. It was so valuable to then be able to discuss the techniques, difficulties in applying them and ideas for continuing to apply them, during the feedback with my DoS. I now have a lot of detailed feedback notes to read and reflect on before I next teach. However, I have also already had two classes, directly following the feedback, and tried to put into practice the ideas discussed during the feedback, with some good results. So exciting!

There have been two workshops since I started here, too, both very thought-provoking and useful. It’s always good to be back in the learning seat. In due course, I hope also to deliver one, as I think this would be a very valuable experience. In addition to this, last weekend I did some Cambridge speaker examiner training for KET and PET exams, which was an interesting process.

Personal CPD

This is everything you do to learn that doesn’t come under a formal label! In this diverse category comes things like:

  • attending (and/or presenting at) conferences (face-to-face or online)
  • attending (or giving!) seminars (or webinars)
  • reading journals/professional magazines
  • reading relevant books
  • reading relevant blogs
  • using Twitter (e.g. participating in #Eltchat discussions, following up links)/Facebook (e.g. the British Council TeachingEnglish Facebook page.)
  • writing blog posts
  • writing journal/professional magazine articles/contributions
  • making learning materials
  • carrying out classroom-based research projects
  • reflecting on your teaching/development and making plans for what to try out next.
  • being a language learner again (!) (Being a learner in a language classroom again has shone a whole new light on learning, to consider as a teacher!)

For Me:

I found my Delta and M.A. immensely challenging and rewarding. But I think what comes next is equally important. The CPD doesn’t stop when you finish the course and get your certificate. The course provides you with new knowledge, techniques, methodologies etc. but true CPD is what you do with all of that afterwards. Do you put your certificate in a file and then continue as before? Or do you experiment with everything you’ve learnt and look for new things to try out and connect to your previous learning?

At the moment, I have a couple of projects on the go that are very much the result of having done the Multimedia and Independent Learning module of my M.A., that will culminate with my first webinar (in February next year) and recently I’ve also been exercising my materials development learning in making materials for the Global Issues month as well just for my own use with learners. And I’m finding all of this really satisfying, interesting and exciting. I think, too, that having a supportive DoS is key to effective CPD – there’s nothing like being actively encouraged to develop and helped to do so.

To me, CPD is the spaces between the words. It’s what and how you learn but also, all-importantly, what you do with what you learn, it’s being aware of opportunities and taking them when they arise. It’s what herbs and spices are to cooking – not strictly speaking necessary but it turns a bland dish (one day of experience repeated for twenty years) into something delicious and taste-bud tantalising!

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of CPD options out of this post, so please comment with any additional CPD ideas you have! Inspire me!! 🙂 What does CPD mean to you?

IATEFL 2013 interview about Learning Technologies

Earlier this year, I was privileged enough to attend the IATEFL conference in Liverpool, enjoying a dizzying array of brilliant talks and catching up with people from all over the world.

Fortunately, by the time of this conference, I’d done just over half a semester of my M.A. in ELT at Leeds Met, and, thanks to the Multimedia and Independent Learning module, I was able to find something to say when I became one of a number of people that Nik Peachey interviewed on the theme of Learning Technologies.

I was very kindly given permission to upload the clip of me being interviewed onto my blog and now I am finally getting round to doing this. (The clip arrived in my inbox shortly prior to my dissertation deadline – ’nuff said!)

The two questions that Nik asked me are:

  • Some people say that technology can replace language teachers. What do you think?


  • Do you think technology use in the classroom is driven by technology rather than by pedagogy?

(If I appear a bit confused about where to put my eyes, it was a case of the camera not being behind Nik and me finding it very difficult to look at the camera rather than Nik, unaccustomed as I am to being interviewed! Oops… 😉 )

Don’t worry, the clip is only 2.21 minutes long! 🙂

MATSDA 2013 (through my eyes)

This is a whistle-stop tour of talks I attended at MATSDA (Materials Development Association)’s 2-day annual conference, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. (For those who have never been to a MATSDA conference, I highly recommend it: The atmosphere is lovely – everyone is really friendly, enthusiastic and there to share ideas. Talks are generally quite informal and interactive – the audience is encouraged to participate and everyone gets involved. It’s a good recipe and yesterday the proof of the pudding was definitely in the eating: a good time was had by all.)
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Brian started us off, of course, talking about games – except there was a lot more doing than talking! Brian argued for a game driven approach, but not as the only approach: as an important component of (to the *complete* astonishment of the audience, of course! 😉 ) a text-driven approach. He also took the stance that enjoyment is necessary for language acquisition, but insufficient in itself: Just because learners enjoy something, doesn’t guarantee acquisition. There are other criteria to fulfil.

He then had us try out a few games:

  1. 3-word stories:  In pairs, we each wrote down 3 (consecutive) words to start a story. A said their three words to B, starting the story. B had to respond immediately by continuing A’s story with another 3 words. If either person was unable to continue without pausing, it ended. B then started the next story with their 3 words. (Brian explained that this could be followed by a written phase and a performance phase, using interest as the main criteria)
  2. The second game he had us doing was a game with stones and a wooden board (which exists in many different versions in many different countries) – he had us doing it with circles drawn on paper and tiny balls of screwed up paper. It was complicated but requesting clarification of the rules was all part of it.
  3. Mrs King strikes back: Brian described setting it up by telling the learners they are going to watch a dvd called Mrs King strikes back and eliciting predictions of what it is about. He then proceeds to happen to have forgotten to bring it in. Thus we had to act scene 1 of the film while he narrated it (people are not forced to join in at this stage, watching is fine), playing every role. We then read a text, the ‘true story on which the dvd was based’, and were put into teams, with two minutes to read the text and identify differences between the version just narrated/mimed and the text. An elicitation game followed.
  4. Newspaper hockey: We were put into teams and each team had to produce two hockey sticks and two balls made out of newspaper (except this bit had bee done for us!). In our demo, we had 4 per team. We were numbered off 1-4. We lined up facing each other and at either end was a chair/goal. Your team’s hockey stick is on the opposite chair/goal from the one you are aiming at. Firstly, simply numbers were shouted out. If it was your number, you had to try and score a goal. Then came the more complicated version, in order to know which number is being called, we had to work out the answer to a mathematical problem e.g. the number of people in two tennis doubles matches minus the number of people in a bridge game. (4) Everyone got thoroughly into the spirit of the game and we were all well warmed up for the talks to follow.

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Next up was Hitomi. This was another engaging session, in which, amongst other things, she talked us through a task-based sequence for teenagers based around the topic of magic tricks: Hitomi actually demonstrated a magic trick and then elicited ideas of how it could have happened (she tore a tissue up and then made it whole again – was very cool!). We concluded that angels had kissed it. 😉  She explained that learners could then be taken through a process of searching for similar magic tricks/explanations on youtube, learning how to perform and presenting a performance of whichever trick they have chosen and described optional but recommend follow ups, such as recording performances and/or creating a booklet. The importance of initial focus on content during peer review was emphasised.

(I found it particularly interesting when she contrasted her sequence with Rod Ellis’s (2010) shopping task, pointing out that tasks are used for both research and pedagogical purposes but that tasks with a pedagogical focus emphasise broader educational development, while research tasks are geared towards study of language input, intake and acquisition. So a perfectly good research task may not be the most engaging or effective task pedagogically. However, don’t discount such tasks: do think about how to make them more interesting/engaging/relevant etc.)

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Fortunately, I then went to this talk! 😉 I had a great audience, so the discussion generated was very interesting – everyone had their own views and ideas to contribute, which was great. More information to be found here. (Unfortunately as the recording is only of a rehearsal, you don’t get the interactive flavour of proceedings – which is arguably the best part! – only the general content…)

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Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 20.35.05This was a fascinating talk. Marie talked to us about combining Tomlinson’s text-based approach with a discourse analysis approach, using corpora based research to inform language focus. She made the very good point that in course books, transactional and interactional talk are most often separated, whereas in real life, transactional talk includes, and needs, interactional talk. She showed us types of language associated with interactional talk – such as language for expressing stance, hedging and politeness, referring to shared knowledge and showing solidarity. Marie also demonstrated her ideas by showing us materials she’d made for her learners using a video clip from The Apprentice.

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This talk was brilliant – full of simple, useful ideas of how to turn dull as ditchwater IELTS tasks into something interesting and engaging. For example, for the boring, pointless writing about a process task,  Lewis played us a recorded spoof example of the process of making tea from planting it to pouring out the tea, as though it were something two friends would discuss. It was hilarious! It also contained all the necessary language, which learners could extract. He also showed us a spoof model answer to a writing task, in completely the wrong register/genre and suggested getting learners to identify all the inappropriate elements. The true model answer could then be used for cognitively engaging noticing activities.

This was the kind of talk that you left absolutely raring to try out all the ideas! 🙂 The perfect end to day 1.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 20.36.48Day 2 started later than planned (long story!), nevertheless the talks I was able to attend were great. This was the first and it was a lot of fun. The main focus was on improvisation. Volunteers from the audience were required to demo all the activities, of course.

  • There was the bus queue one – we had to stand in a line, one end was the front of the queue, the other was the back. Then there was a really interesting one for exploring the role of status in communication. The demo group consisted of six people and they had to role play different statuses, depending on the playing card they were given. Aces were high. The audience had to guess what their status was by the way they behaved. Obviously in reality, it is less clear cut; indeed, when putting the group in order of status, the audience had different opinions – and this is where the potential for lots of interesting discussion comes in, with potential of course for intercultural comparisons to be made.
  • In the second version, group members each had a playing card again, but this time they couldn’t see it. They could only see the cards of the rest of the group (everyone stuck their cards to their forehead). So here, they had to guess what status they had by how they were treated by the rest of the group.
  • The final one was about blocking and accepting: Blocking – when you stop communication by using disagreement (verbal or nonverbal) or non-sequiturs, for example, to shut it down. Accepting – basically the opposite: you agree (positive verbal or nonverbal language), use back-channels, question tags etc. Two audience members had to role play a shop assistant and customer in a shoe-shop. The first time, they had to accept everything, but not buy/sell any shoes. The second time, one had to accept everything and one blocked everything. For the last one, they both had to block everything.

(I think it might be interesting to combine some of these activities with elements of the corpora talk earlier and ideas from the “Is affective always effective?” talk that followed – so, get some friends to role play these tasks and record  it. This could then be used after the activities as a point of comparison and for some awareness-raising/noticing activities for whatever elements of language use stand out when the transcript is analysed. Not in a “this is the right way to do it” way but in an exploring the differences and possibly making intercultural comparisons kind of way. Obviously not authentic language per se, but whoever is role playing and recording themselves would, I imagine, be using the types of language and structures that they would use in these situations.)

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Jane argued that engagement, affect and motivation are crucial and interlinked. Enjoyment is hard to separate out but not the central aim. She showed us some interesting materials, in which a recording became a point of comparison between spoken and written anecdote telling. Jane had us discussing the materials and thinking about how we’d work with them and lots of great ideas emerged.

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Claudia kept us on the edge our seats by walking us through a sequence which involved used of a video. After doing some readiness activities with us, she played us a dramatic excerpt of a boy cycling very quickly away from something and falling off his bicycle in the process, all to very horror film music. We then had to predict what had happened to lead up to that event. She demonstrated the power of narrative when events are not told in simple linear order. She also showed us excerpts of course material dealing with narrative, published ten years apart, so that we could see how little has changed in that time. Even the cathedral bells, which went through a phase of ringing and ringing incessantly for a spell, couldn’t distract us from this session!

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Alan Maley brought proceedings to an end, with an all too short creative writing workshop, taking us through a range of activities which could be used with learners, encouraging creativity and language play. There was theory too, to back it up, discussed briefly but not dwelt upon as we were running late but had to vacate the building at a particular time nevertheless. One of the activities we did was producing a 50 word saga based on the fable of the Fox and the Crow. Here is what I produced:

The fox, he was hungry; the crow, she had food.

This put the fox into a very bad mood.

But he was cunning, he flattered the dame,

And when she responded, down the treat came.

Ladies, be careful for foxes may lurk

Don’t be fooled by a two-faced jerk.

There were some shorter activities too, for example the two line poem:

Hello ________.

Goodbye ________.

I came up with

Hello dissertation, goodbye sanity. 😉

It was brilliant hearing other peoples’ creations and the session was a lovely way to finish a really great conference. There will be several MATSDA conferences next year, in Dublin, Brazil, Germany and I forget the other two places. Anyway, keep an eye out and if one comes to a place near you, then I would definitely suggest going.

Thank you to all the organisers for a wonderful weekend.

MATSDA Conference 2013 Presentation: Is enjoyment central to language learning? A snapshot of student materials developers’ perspectives.

Conference: The MATSDA/University of Liverpool 2 day conference, themed “Enjoying to learn: the best way to acquire a language?” 13th and 14th July 2013, University of Liverpool

Topic: Is enjoyment central to language learning? A snapshot of M.A. student materials developers’ perspectives


Is enjoyment central to language acquisition? We know a lot about what the “big names” in
ELT think about this, but what about new materials developers, those who are just starting
out and in whose hands – potentially –the future of ELT learning material lies? This study
focuses on a group of M.A. ELT students at Leeds Metropolitan University who have
completed a module in materials development as part of their course, producing a variety of
materials to submit for assessment. It asks these students what role “enjoying to learn” plays
in their materials and why. Additionally, it addresses them as language learners, enquiring
what role enjoyment played in their language learning and their views on this. A sample of
their materials, together with a discussion of their opinions, will provide a snapshot of the
lesser-known side of materials development and perhaps a glimpse of possible future
directions in this field.

Recording: Here. (Not of the actual presentation – due to technical fail – but of a rehearsal)

Write up: Here.

References used in presentation: 

Bolitho et al. (2003) Ten questions about Language Awareness in ELTJ vol. 57/3 Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dornyei (2013) Plenary at Warwick International PG Conference of Applied Linguistics

Dellar, H. (2013) Twenty things in twenty years, part 7: Input is more important than output. Blog post, address:

Gadd, N. (1998) Towards less humanistic English teaching. in ELTJ vol 52/3 Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Gilmore, A. (2007) Authentic materials and authenticity in foreign language learning. In Language Teaching vol. 40. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Lightbown P and Spada N  (2006) How languages are learned Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Richards, J. (2006) Materials development and research – making the connection in RELC vol. 37/1 SAGE publications

Schmidt, R. (1990) The role of consciousness in language learning in Applied Linguistics vol. 11/2 Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Scrivener, J.; Underhill, A.  The issues Blog post, link:

Swan, M. Language Teaching is Teaching Language. Hornby Lecture given at IATEFL Conference 1996.

Tomlinson (2010) Principles of effective materials development in Harwood N. (ed.) English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press.

Tomlinson (2012): Materials Development for Language Learning and Teaching in Language Teaching vol. 45/2 Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Phonological Representation in Course Materials: Whose English?

This post contains information related to the presentation I gave during the 16th Warwick International Post Graduate Conference in Applied Linguistics on 26th June 2013:

Presentation Abstract:

The role of English in the world today, as a Global and International language, has been the subject of much debate in the last decade, with the role of Standard British English (SBE) being called into question. Content analysis of language materials can offer an insight into how far the applied linguistic research and trends are reflected in what is being taught and learned in the classroom. The current study focuses on phonological representation, investigating the sociocultural spread of accents found in New Cutting Edge Intermediate, a popular global coursebook which claims to bring “the real world into the classroom”, comparing it with Gray’s (2010) findings on the similarly successful New Headway Intermediate, using the phonological component of Gray’s (2010) content analysis framework and finding that RP/modified RP still predominates. The study finishes by exploring possible reasons for this and recommending potential directions for further research.

Recording of my presentation: Please click here and it will open in a new tab. 

Sources referred to in my presentation:

Grey, J. (2010) The Construction of English: Culture, Consumerism and Promotion in the ELT Global Coursebook. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

Jenkins, J. (2000) Accent across boundaries: the Lingua Franca Core. Paper read at the 33rd Annual Meeting of BAAL, 7-9 September 2000, Cambridge.

Jenkins, J. (2006) The times they are (very slowly) a-changing. In ELTJ vol. 60/1. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Timmis, I. (2002) Native Speaker Norms and International English: A Classroom View. In ELTJ vol. 56/3. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 

Sources referred to in my research write up (data and write up are available on request):

Carter, R. and M. McCarthy. 1997. Exploring Spoken English. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

 Cunningham S and Moore P. (2005:a) New Cutting Edge Intermediate. Student Book. Pearson.

 Cunningham, S. and Moore, P. (2005:b) New Cutting Edge Intermediate. Teachers’ book. Pearson

 Gray, J. (2010) The Construction of English: Culture, Consumerism and Promotion in the ELT Global Coursebook. Palgrave Macmillan.

 Hadfield, J. (2012) Becoming Kiwi: A diary of accent change in ELT Journal Volume 66/3. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

 Holliday, A. (2005) The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language. Oxford University Press.  Oxford.

 Jenkins, J.  (2002) The Phonology of English as an International Language. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

McKay, S (2002) Teaching English as an International Language. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Wei, L. (Ed) The Routledge Applied Linguistics Reader Routledge. Oxon.

Sharifian ed. Perspectives on English as an International Language.

Sobkowiak, W. (2008) Why not LFC? in Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, K. and Przedlacka, J. (Ed.) English Pronunciation Models: A Changing Scene. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. Bern.

Soars and Soars (2003). New Headway Intermediate: Second Edition. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Timmis, I (2002) Native Speaker Norms and International English: a classroom view. In ELT Journal. Vol. 56/3. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Timmis, I. (2003) Corpora, classroom and context: the place of spoken grammar in English language teaching. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

Yuen, K.M. (2011) The representation of foreign cultures in English textbooks in ELT Journal vol. 65/4. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 

Summary of BESIG Online Conference Session – Nick Robinson: “How (and why) to join a group of materials writers?”

This session was delivered by Nick Robinson, who is one of the coordinators of the Materials Writing SIG (MaW SIG) – at impressively high speed due to technical difficulties taking over the first half of the session!

The aim of the session was to give a short overview of MaW SIG, in terms of why it was set up and what the coordinators hope that members will be able to get out of it. Thus, rather than a “how to” session, it was more of a “why to” session.

So, why was MaW SIG created?

Well, until now, with the creation of MaW SIG, there hasn’t been a special interest group aimed especially at materials writing. (It is important to note the -ing there: materials writING, not writers. It is aimed at anyone who is interested in the process of materials writing. You don’t need to be published, or a big name, in order to be a member of this group. The only essential is interest in the process of materials writing.) However, nearly every English language teacher in the world writes all the time – you may not call yourself a materials writer, but every time you produce a worksheet or a quiz, you are writing materials. Some people do write to be published or to sell their materials, others write materials to share, and others write just for their students to use. The common thread, though, which runs through all of these reasons is the act of writing. MaW SIG wants to bring together a group of people around that thread.

The world of publishing is changing very fast, especially in the past ten years. This creates both a need and an opportunity for people to come together in order to share best practice and ideas and to give advice on how to adapt to this new environment. What MaW SIG provides is a single forum for people to come together and do this, a single forum for the sharing of materials writing knowledge, best practice and continued professional development.

Why should you join MaW SIG?

Publishing is still a who-you-know business, so the connections you make are hugely important. MaW SIG intends to run two conferences a year. In terms of what is forthcoming, the first event will hopefully be held in October, while the second will be a Pre-Conference Event at IATEFL. These events aim to offer you the opportunity to network with established writers, authors, publishers, editors and anyone else who is involved in all the different aspects of materials writing.

This SIG is all about professional development and training, so therefore the stand-alone conferences (like the one planned for October) will be very hands-on. This will help you learn to write better and best practice will be promoted; it is an opportunity to learn from experts in the field.

MaW SIG also has an active Facebook page, through which you can access people who have been doing materials writing for a long time. There is a lot of knowledge out there, which can be shared and this page aims to provide a platform for this.

Finally, if you are interested in getting work published, it is worth remembering that publishers don’t only look at the quality of your materials. They look at a range of other things, like how you interact with the wider ELT community, how interested you are in the field, how active you are in blog-writing and on Twitter, how active you are in attending conferences. Joining and being part of MaW SIG is another way of demonstrating commitment to the field as well as the willingness to learn and develop as much as you can.

How can you join MaW SIG?

You can join by adding MaW SIG to your IATEFL membership, alongside any current SIG membership. (You can also wait until your current SIG membership runs out and replace it with MaW SIG if you so desire!)

You can also join the Facebook page  for which you do not need to be a member. (But of course you’ll gain more from the SIG by joining it!)

You can follow the Twitter handle (@MaWSIG) (As above, you do not need to be a member to do this but the same applies in terms of benefits!)

And you are also welcome to email Nick or Byron to ask any questions you might have. (I didn’t catch the email address but I’m sure you can get it via the Facebook page or Twitter!)

MATSDA (Materials Development Association) Conference, 13-14 July, University of Liverpool

On the 13th and 14th of July, the University of Liverpool will be hosting MATSDA’s annual 2-day conference. Well worth attending to catch up with the latest developments in the world of ELT materials!

You can find an advert for the conference here, and a full programme of who will be presenting on what topics, including abstracts, here. Please do download them and share them with anyone who might be interested in going!

These are the plenary speakers:

  • Mark Almond
  • Thom Kiddle
  • Alan Maley
  •  Hitomi Masuhara
  • Brian Tomlinson
  • Jane Willis

I’m going to be presenting on the Sunday too! All very exciting.

So if you have any time to spare and are able to get to Liverpool for a weekend on the 13th/14th July…

You know you want to! 🙂