My Top 10 Resources for Teaching IELTS

Following my recently begun and ongoing foray into teaching IELTS, I thought I would revisit my Top 10’s in ELT series and offer up a list of the resources that I have found most helpful in my IELTS journey so far. The focus of this Top 10* post will be Academic IELTS, as I haven’t taught General IELTS thus far. Of course, the listening and speaking components are the same, so some aspects will be transferable.  Click on any picture to be taken to a description of the source (books) or the source itself (websites).

*The more astute amongst you will notice that this Top 10 list is only 9 – strong… it’s deliberate! No. 10 is up for discussion: please do comment on this post and tell me the resource you think should fill this space… (And for further IELTS-related links, see my Useful IELTS Websites post!)

Books

1. Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced

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Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Written by Pauline Cullen and published by Cambridge University Press, this is a book I initially came across while working on the pre-sessional at Sheffield University last summer. I have since used it with my IELTS students here in Palermo, and found it to be a great resource. It cleverly combines a focus on and practice of each of the four IELTS components with useful, relevant vocabulary input and practice. It is also packed with ‘Test Tips’ which are act as a useful reminder of what to emphasise to students.

2. Complete IELTS (Bands 5 – 6.5)

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Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Also published by Cambridge University Press (unfortunately I am not on commission…), Complete IELTS was written by Guy Brook-Hart and Vanessa Jakeman. There are similar books available for other bands, but this is the one I have been using. What do I like about this student book? It’s user-friendly, it integrates the grammar and vocabulary with focus on the different elements of the exam. It also has a really useful Writing Reference at the back of the book, which breaks down all the different task types that students might meet in Writing Part 1, with clear information, tips and models to help them face these different task types, and highlights the different question types that students might meet in Part 2, again with information, tips and sample answers to guide them.

3. Ready for IELTS

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Ready for IELTS is published by Macmillan and written by Sam McCarter. This has been another valuable resource for me, for the following reasons: It contains four ‘Ready for…’ sections, one for each exam component, which offer a guided discovery approach to IELTS reading, writing, speaking and listening, and is also full of useful tips (‘What to expect in the exam‘, ‘How to go about it‘ ‘Don’t forget‘ boxes can be found throughout). It contains plenty of test practice opportunities but rather than being empty practice, the book makes a real effort to help students improve, rather than hoping sheer repetition will get them there. Finally, and perhaps a little shallow, I also like how colourful and visually appealing it is!

4. IELTS Resource Pack 

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

This fantastic pack of activities and games, written by Jan Marks, is very useful for livening up IELTS prep classes while at the same time ensuring that important information is thoroughly hammered home. Like the earlier-mentioned Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced, I first met this book during the summer, as it was one of our resource books for the entrance exam preparation component of the pre-sessional, and found it very useful. Depending on the length of your sessions, these activities can be used independently or to supplement a given lesson that you are doing.

Websites:

5. TEFL Reflections

Screenshot of TEFL Reflections

Screenshot of TEFL Reflections

For useful, practical information that will help you to help yourself ( 🙂 ) your students get to grips with IELTS writing, part 1 AND part 2, the best thing you can do is look at these posts written by Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert Wiilliam:

IELTS Writing Part 1

IELTS Writing Part 2

They have also taken on the IELTS Speaking exam, for example:

IELTS Speaking

Marek and Robert are both IELTS examiners and have taken the time to share some of their IELTS expertise with the rest of us. I, for one, am grateful! 🙂

6. British Council Learn English IELTS

Screenshot of the British Council Learn IELTS page

Screenshot of the British Council Learn IELTS page

Like the rest of the British Council Learn English site, this is an invaluable source of material for students and teachers alike. Practice materials and advice that you can point your students towards or have a perusal of, yourself!

7. British Council Take IELTS Teacher Resources

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Screenshot of the British Council IELTS teaching resources page

More quality materials from the British Council, this time aimed at teachers of IELTS, very helpful for guidance in making IELTS come alive in the classroom.

8. One stop English IELTS page

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Screenshot taken from One Stop English IELTS page

This page is part of the collection of resources for teachers gathered under the name ‘One stop English’. Amongst all the resources for different types of English (e.g. Business English, English for Children etc.) there is a section dedicated to exam preparation within which can be found the IELTS page. The material is divided up into categories, one for each exam component, one for strategies, one for exam orientation and a nifty little selection of activities requiring ‘Minimal Resources’.

 9. IELTS.org and The Official IELTS Facebook Page

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Screen shot from IELTS.org

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Screenshot from the IELTS Official Facebook Page

A list of IELTS resources wouldn’t be complete without a tipping of the hat to IELTS.org, home of IELTS on the web, and the Facebook page associated with it. IELTS.org has sections dedicated to test-takers, organisations, researchers and teachers. The Official IELTS Facebook Page publishes regular quiz questions relating to the exam and language typically used in the exam, with the answers following 24hrs later. If your students use Facebook, it’s worth pointing them at the Facebook page, and certainly they can benefit from looking at the test-takers section of IELTS.org.

I hope you find this list useful. And now, I look forward to hearing your suggestions for no. 10! 

Edits:

IELTS! image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

IELTS! image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

My top 10(+!) EAP resources

Now that I am (temporarily) teaching EAP (English for Academic Purposes), I thought I would combine my Top 10’s in ELT idea with my useful EAP resources idea… Here is a list of great resources for EAP teachers and their students. As with all the Top 10 (+) lists, feel free to comment and suggest additional resources – new ideas always welcome!

Books

 EAP Essentials – by Olwyn Alexander, Sue Argent and Jenifer Spence.

EAP Essentials - essential in name, essential in nature...

EAP Essentials – essential in name, essential in nature… – screenshot from Amazon

This is a really useful book for anyone in EAP, whether new to it (as I am) or experienced (is my hunch) – it is a very interesting read, treating all aspects of EAP in great detail. It includes tasks throughout, which make you read actively, and a CD with lots of sample EAP materials on it. The materials are cross-referenced to in the text, and exemplify the authors’ perspectives on effective EAP teaching. The lucky teachers on the Sheffield Uni pre-sessional induction were given a free copy before Jenifer Spence proceeded to teach us how to teach EAP! I couldn’t benefit from this freebie, however, as I had already bought my own copy (last year), to try and learn a bit about EAP before applying for jobs…

English for Academic Purposes – by Edward de Chazal

Another comprehensive tome...

Another comprehensive tome… – screenshot from Amazon

This comprehensive take on EAP has the added benefit of being available in electronic form. (Generally a good thing if you are in the habit of moving from one part of the world to another on a regular basis!) It deals with the history of EAP, methodology, language, criticality, skills and more.

Online Resources

 The Oxford University Press ELT Blog

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OUP ELT EAP (!) – a screenshot of the search result page

On the OUP ELT blog, you can find a number of blog posts that are EAP-related. Click on the picture to be taken to the results of a search for these posts.

 Lexico Blog

Lexicoblog - a screenshot of the homepage

Lexicoblog – a screenshot of the homepage

I first came across Julie Moore rather recently – at IATEFL, where I attended her brilliant talk . Since then, I’ve also discovered this blog of hers, which is full of high quality posts. Can be relied upon for good food for thought if you are EAP-oriented, or if you just like reading interesting things! In her blog, you can also find some information about the e-book she made for Teacher to Writer, How to write EAP materials. Which is another great resource for the list:

How to write EAP Materials

Screenshot from Julie's post about this wonderful book that she produced.

Screenshot from Julie’s post about this wonderful book that she produced.

Writing materials is something we all do a bit of, even if it’s just for us to use with our own students. This little book is a great way to improve what you create and learn more about EAP in the process! Highly recommended.

EAP Infographics

Screenshot of EAP Infographics

Screenshot of EAP Infographics

EAP Infographics is a project in progress by Adam Simpson, and an ingenious way of presenting EAP language and functions visually. Adam also gives you a run down on the what and how of making and using infographics here . Whether you use Adam’s visuals or start making your own, your students may well find the visuals helpful as a means of making the language and functions clearer and more memorable. They may serve to clear up doubts that learners have regarding meaning and usage too.

Wordandphrase.info 

A screenshot of Wordandphrase.info/academic

A screenshot of Wordandphrase.info/academic

This is a fantastic tool. It is an interface for corpus analysis, which enables the user to generate definitions, synonyms, collocates and concordance lines. There is a special academic section of the site, pictured above, which is where you want to direct EAP students to, rather than the general part of the site. This tool is helpful in pushing learners to become more autonomous, as you can deal with vocabulary-related questions by directing them to explore a word or chunk using this tool, rather than relying on you. If they use a word or chunk wrongly in their writing, you can also direct them to look at it using this tool and try to correct their mistakes independently. Hopefully this approach also makes the correct version more memorable, as more processing would go into the process of correction. Learners may need some guidance initially, as concordance lines can be a bit daunting. The great thing about the concordance lines generated by this site is that they are colour coded by word type, which makes picking out patterns that much easier.

Google docs

Screenshot of my Google drive!

Screenshot of (my) Google drive!

Of course Google docs is not aimed at EAP teachers and learners. It is aimed at and accessible to everybody. If you haven’t got a gmail account, why not make a dummy account so that you as a teacher have access to this valuable tool? Many universities give staff gmail university email accounts, so you might get one that way too! Google docs is a collaborative tool. It allows multiple users to edit documents simultaneously. It also includes a chat function and a commenting function. The combination of multiple editing and chat function means that it is ideal for group projects and the commenting function makes feedback very easy. I’ve used it a lot in my EAP writing classes recently – in class, students work in pairs or groups to do activities (e.g. write an introduction, write a paraphrase etc.), compare their output with the rest of the class and I comment on their output too. The end result is a collection of e.g. paraphrases commented on by the teacher, which can then be a resource for students to come back to, if they are struggling with the element in question. I get them to submit their homework this way too, so that it, too, can be compared and become a class resource. Students can learn from their own and each other’s mistakes. And, of course, unlike the usual scraps of paper that students seem to produce when they have to write anything down, or the haphazard notebook full of anything and everything, documents in google docs are easy to come back to and look at beyond the time of production.

Academic Vocabulary 

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Screenshot of Academic Vocabulary

The University of Nottingham have made this brilliant website based on Avril Coxhead’s Academic Wordlist, which resulted from research she did into vocabulary used in an academic context. Nottingham Uni have developed a collection of tools that make the list even more helpful. For example, you can paste in a text and the site will highlight all the academic words. You can also gap those words out to create an activity for students to do. You could for example do this with a transcript from a lecture: get learners to listen and complete the gaps, thus focusing them on the academic vocabulary. Students could use this tool autonomously too, to help them build up a bank of academic words collected through looking at texts or simply by using the lists and sublists, as well as associated concordance activities.

Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for students in higher education

Screenshot of Using English for Academic Purposes: a guide for students in higher education

Screenshot of Using English for Academic Purposes: a guide for students in higher education

This comprehensive website could be of use to the teacher who is new to EAP and wants to learn more about it (ahem!) as much as for the students it is directed at. Why not divide up the site between your group of students, and get groups of them to explore each section of it. Give groups a little time to discuss what they found, then regroup the groups to present to each other about their section of the website. The next homework could be to try a different part of the website, based on needs, weaknesses and\or interests.

Useful EAP-related resources

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Screenshot of my ‘Useful EAP resources’ post

And finally, I am including this post, even though it’s number 11,  because in it are gathered a whole lot more links to EAP-related resources, that I started collecting over a year ago now, to help me find out more about EAP because I knew I wanted to work in a university this summer! 🙂 Happily for me, I made it! Currently working at Sheffield University and loving it. (Though it’s the reason why this blog has been so quiet! Turns out pre-sessionals are all-consuming for the most part! 😉 )

I hope you find these resources useful and please do comment with further resources to add to the list! I would love to know about them! 🙂

 

Autonomous learning (4) – Graded Readers

This is the fourth in a series of posts whose goal is to explore ways of helping learners develop their language skills autonomously. The first two posts are specific to listening. The first post, which focuses on perception of connected speech can be read here , the second post on dictations as an autonomous learning tool here and the third on “text mining” can be read here.  The first two posts focus on listening, the third on autonomous use of reading and listening texts, and, in keeping with my expansion of the series focus, this post is focusing on graded readers as means of autonomous learning – language development and skill development

What?

 Graded readers are books that are written in the target language, graded to suit learners of that language rather than being geared towards native speakers of that language. They exist for a range of levels, generally corresponding to those within the Common European Framework of Languages. Graded readers often (but don’t always) contain activities related to the text, either dispersed throughout the text or gathered at the end of the book.

A variety of well-known publishers have published collections of graded readers, information about which can be found on their websites. Here are some links to the graded reader sections of some of the publishers that do graded readers:

 Choosing a Graded Reader

As the list of links above might suggest, there is no shortage of choice where graded readers are concerned. Of course each publisher produces one or more different types of graded reader. Graded readers can be:

  • a text, graded to a particular level.
  • a text and an audio disc recording of the text.
  • a text, an audio recording of the text and questions/activities that accompany the text.
  • an e-book, with above-mentioned features integrated.
  • probably other versions exist as well…!

I recently discovered that graded readers do not only exist in English for learners of English but in other languages for learners of those languages. Including Italian! The main focus for this post will be book-plus-audio graded readers, based on my recent experience of working my way through Villa dei Mughetti, published by Black Cat.

Screenshot from Blackcat-cideb website

Screenshot from Blackcat-cideb website

Having worked my way through a graded reader, I now feel a lot better placed to help my learners get the most out of theirs, where before I tended to leave them to it, within the remit of my reading project.

In terms of choosing a graded reader, availability will be the major factor. When I bought my graded reader, in Palermo, it was the only one they had in Italian! I would recommend choosing one that comes with an audio recording, if possible, as this is a very valuable additional resource. Fortunately for me, Black Cat readers generally seem to come with accompanying cd.

Getting Started

My top tips for getting started with a graded reader would be:

  • Locate the answer key for the accompanying activities (if you have a version with activities!): with some, that’s as easy as checking the back of the book and finding that they are there. With Villa dei Mughetti I had to go to the Black Cat website, register as a teacher and then I was able to download them. Not the easiest, and if students are expecting the usual back-of-the-book scenario, they may be a bit perplexed and therefore a bit of help might not go amiss!
  • Decide how to begin: Think about your goals in using the reader and the different approaches you could take (dependent on what kind of graded reader you have chosen). Decide which approach(es) you want to try.

Different Approaches

Here are some approaches a learner could use:

  1. Read through the text without looking at the questions.
  2. Read the text and answer the questions/do the activities as you go along.
  3. Listen to the complete audio cd without looking at the questions or text.
  4. Listen to/read a section first, then read it/listen to it, then answer questions as you go along.
  5. Listen to a section first, then answer questions, then read it to check.
  6. Listen and read simultaneously, the whole text, without looking at any questions.
  7. Listen and read simultaneously, answering the questions as you go

A learner might use the same approach throughout or vary the approach from chapter to chapter. As mentioned above, learners’ goals will/should influence the choice of approach. For example, my dominant approach was to listen to a chapter, do the activities, read to check, then mark the score-able activities using the answer key. I.e. (5) above. My goal was to work intensively on my listening.

Here is how I perceive the above activities could match to different goals:

  1. Extensive reading
  2. Intensive reading/language work
  3. Extensive listening
  4. Supported intensive listening/reading (depending which you are stronger at and which you are weaker at, the other supports it)/language work
  5. Intensive listening/language work
  6. Sound-spelling awareness/pronunciation
  7. Sound-spelling awareness/pronunciation, plus comprehension/language work.

It could be useful to discuss different approaches with learners, to raise awareness of how different approaches map to different learning goals. Encourage them to experiment with different approaches and report back to their peers, so that they are encouraged to reflect on their experience of trying the various approaches – they could initially all experiment with the same approach and then compare notes, even if they were all using different graded readers (provided the graded readers all had the same resources e.g. audio and activities), and then move on to deciding which they prefer, or they could all experiment with whichever approach they wanted to and report back on whatever they have done. They could also group themselves according to what approach they wanted to try.

This experimentation and discussion would fit in quite nicely with both my Experimentation with English and Reading Project approaches. As mentioned in those projects, it needn’t be very time-consuming in class.

Graded Reader Activities

In Villa dei Mughetti, there was a chunk of activities at the end of each chapter. Each chunk included a mixture of score-able and un-score-able activities.

There were:

  • Comprehension activities: T/F; Y/N; ordering events; matching utterances and characters etc.
  • Language focus activities: grammar explanation plus practice activity, vocabulary activities e.g. matching pictures and words, a crossword, matching words and definitions etc.
  • Productive skills-focused activities: each chunk of activities had both a writing activity and a speaking activity.

Comprehension activities

These are straightforward and can be done as a reading exercise or a listening exercise. If learners choose to listen and answer the questions, as I did, it would be useful to encourage them to use the text as a transcript to identify why they make any mistakes. Of course this would be easier for them to do if you have done with them in class before, in your listening lessons.

Language focus activities

Vocabulary: learners need to be selective in deciding what to do with the vocabulary that the activities encourage them to focus on. Is it vocabulary they want to actually learn? It won’t necessarily be – some of the vocabulary in Villa dei Mughetti was very random and I wouldn’t choose to focus on it sufficiently for it become part of my productive linguistic resources (e.g. names of flowers whose names I don’t even know in English – I’m happy for the flowers to be pretty, I’m happy enough to learn what the names are in Italian, but I’m really not fussed about *learning* all their Italian names.)

So, if the vocabulary isn’t useful, that’s fine, do the activities and move on. However, if is vocabulary that learners want to learn, then they  need to do something with it beyond the activities in the book. For example, input it into Quizlet and use the various study and game modes; try to use it in the writing activities etc.

Grammar: This (at least in Villa dei Mughetti) is generally based on language/examples from the text. If a learner is familiar with the grammar and gets all the questions in the practice activity right, great. Move on but don’t forget to look out for more examples, in context, in the ensuing text and in other texts that you encounter. However, if there are a few mistakes, it could be worth using a website or book with grammar explanations and activities, to try and clarify any misunderstanding. Once it’s under control, at least on a declarative level, it’s even more important to look out for further examples of it in context – in future chapters and other texts (written or spoken). In this way, the grammar activities become diagnostic, either confirming what you are familiar with or acting as a springboard to working on what you are less familiar with.

Productive skills focus activities

These activities, at least in Villa dei Mughetti, are the un-score-able ones. I’m of the opinion that self-study material doesn’t have to be score-able to be useful, so I am glad these activities feature in my current preferred graded reader series!

In order to get the most out of them, it is useful to have tools to use alongside them: i.e. a blog for the writing and a voice-recording tool (e.g. Audioboo, Audacity, a mobile phone, vocaroo etc, for the speaking. That way, you can collect your writing activities on your blog, and accumulate a series of voice recordings too. If using a website to record your voice, you can usually link to the recording in your blog, or if you make files on your computer, this can usually be uploaded. Evernote could be used in a similar way.

This enables progress to be charted. You could also encourage learners to share blog links with each other, and compare their production. Or, if you use Edmodo with them, they could post things on it instead of creating blogs etc. Of course a class blog could be used too. Once learners have reached the end of the graded reader, they could go back through their recorded written and spoken activities, to see if they can identify progress and identify/correct any errors.

Some of the activities might seem a bit lame (in my limited experience) but they may be able to be combined, with a bit of imagination. Thus, as you might have picked up on, I don’t think it’s necessary to complete the productive activities before moving on to the next chapter. As long as you are doing the activities regularly, then it just becomes a matter of how it best fits the time frame you have available. Writing a text takes longer than answering a few T/F questions, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the T/F questions until you have time to do a longer activity.

Other Activities

Graded Readers can yield activities beyond those contained in the book (if it’s the type of reader with activities):

  • Dictations: A great additional use for the accompanying audio disc. Dictations may not immediately come to mind as a potential activity but actually it works well, as the language is graded to the reader’s level and it tends to be read clearly. Of course it won’t be a dictation speed or with built in pauses, but as one has control of the recording, one can repeat a short passage (a minute at most) multiple times and see how many times it takes to get everything done. If the activity is repeated at regular intervals, comparisons regarding number of times necessary can enable progress to be tracked. Comparison with the transcript, as with standard dictations, can indicate weaknesses in decoding skills.
  • Writing/speaking: As mentioned, those in the book may not seem the most exciting, but the concept is sound. So, if a group of students are using the same graded reader, then get them to come up with alternative ideas for productive activities, that they actually want to do. You as the teacher could collect these and over time build up a collection of supplementary materials to share with future students. If your school has a library of graded readers, copies of those materials could live with the collection of readers.Students may be concerned about lack of feedback with the productive activities, so it may be useful to explain that a) it’s still a useful activity even without feedback, as it helps the development of fluency (of writing or of speaking) and b) it’s also useful to go back over the texts produced (written or spoken) and see if any mistakes can be identified, especially as time passes and language level (hopefully) consolidates.
  • Gapping the text: A bit more work is involved with this activity, but it should be worth it. Learners type up a small portion of the text. (A similar length to that used for the dictation) and then gap some words. This could be words that they struggled to hear/decode the first time round (to facilitate this, after they listen to a chapter, do exercises and read to check, they could also check if they read anything different from what they had heard. Alternatively, listening first and then listening/reading simultaneously to compare). It could be chunks relating to the language/grammar point in that chapter, or a previous chapter. It could be any chunks that they understand but wouldn’t produce unprompted, that they think might be useful to activate. (See my post on text mining for more information about this approach.) Students then leave the reproduced, gapped text aside for a while. Later, they come back to it to play the audio and attempt to fill in the gaps. (NB: If you think this would be too easy, I can only say that I have done something similar with dictations: I’ve listened, made mistakes, identified mistakes through transcript comparison, marked mistakes but not corrected them, left it aside for awhile, come back to it and tried to listen and correct the mistakes – now gaps where something is wrong – and struggled! Generally I’ve been able to correct some and still failed on some, even though I’ve seen the correct answer previously.)

Is it extensive reading?

Some might argue that with all the activities breaking the text into small portions, reading graded readers doesn’t count as “proper” extensive reading. However, I would say that:

  • a graded reader can still be used for extensive reading/listening if the text is heard/read through first time round without using the activities. Or, after the activities have all been done, one could read/listen through the whole text without stopping for activities, enjoying a greater understanding of the text.
  • a graded reader is a beneficial learning resource that can be used as well as more traditional texts. E.g. I read other things to read extensively and use my graded readers mainly for intensive listening. As with anything, alone it might be insufficient but as part of a varied diet of activities, including extensive reading/listening without activities, it can be very valuable.

So, I don’t think it’s such an important issue to worry about. As long as students are aware of different ways of using their graded readers, of how these ways map to different learning goals, which may change as they progress through their graded reader, and, finally, of the benefits and limitations of graded readers as learning resource, then they can use their graded readers as suits their purpose and get as much out of them as possible.

Conclusion

Graded readers are a rich resource of learning, perfect for autonomous study. This is particularly true if you have access to an audio recording as well. A wide range of approaches can be used with a graded reader, depending on learning aims. There is also potential for a students to do further activities not stipulated by the graded reader, and create supplementary materials for use with them. Both the process of creation and the use of these can be another valuable part of the process of using a graded reader. Some teacher guidance could be helpful in enabling learners to make the most of their graded reader, through a cycle of experimentation and metacognitive discussion. This could be achieved without the graded readers necessarily becoming a teacher-led/controlled activity.

I’ve really enjoyed using my graded reader in Italian and look forward to using more! (And, I confess, I do still have a couple of productive activities to do – one of which is next on my agenda for this afternoon!) I also look forward to being able to help my learners get more out of their graded readers when I re-launch my reading project at IHPA in October! 🙂

If you have any more ideas for helping learners use graded readers more effectively as an autonomous learning tool, please share them by commenting on this post. 

My top 10 resources for learning about and teaching pronunciation

Pronunciation has been referred to as “the CINDERELLA of language teaching in that it has been neglected, and become disconnected from other language learning activities” (Underhill, 2010). Yet, it is known to exercise an important influence on all four  language skills, not only speaking: when we read, we “sub-vocalise” words, or hear them in our mind;  when we listen, our awareness of pronunciation will affect what we are able to hear and how the sounds we hear are represented in our mind. When  we write, knowledge of sound-spelling relationships comes into play, as we hear the words internally first. (Hancock, 2013; Underhill, 2010). This all-encompassing element of teaching is the focus of the latest post in my “ELT Top 10’s” series. 

So here we are:

My top 10 resources to help you get Cinderella to that ball! (Click on any picture to be taken directly to the corresponding resource.)

BOOKS:

 

1. Sound Foundations by Adrian Underhill

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

This book is fantastic. I came to it with nearly zero knowledge of phonology and little idea of how to teach pronunciation effectively. It revolutionised my approach to teaching pronunciation and reading it marked the beginning of an interest in this element of teaching that continues into the present. It’s written in a way that makes it accessible to anybody, regardless of knowledge level. It is a guided discovery to phonology and pronunciation, and contains a great number of activities that you can do alone to enhance your own understanding, or with your learners to help them develop theirs. There is also a “classroom toolkit” of further activities designed for classroom use. A word to the wise, though, don’t read it in public: it will get you making noises and faces that you may not necessarily want to share with the general public! 😉

2. Teaching the Pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca by Robin Walker

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 08.11.04

Screenshot from Amazon

This book recognises that pronunciation is no longer connected only with native speaker speech and sounds. English has become a globalised language, a lingua franca, and in many contexts learners will use it with fellow non-native speakers rather than native speakers. Have you ever wondered about the practical applications of Jennifer Jenkins’ lingua franca core? Do you know about English as a lingua franca but struggle to see how to apply this in the classroom? Then this book is for you. It also comes with an accompanying audio CD of sample speech from 15 ELF speakers, which you can put to various uses, helped by the book.

3. Pronunciation Games by Mark Hancock

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon

A collection of games for teaching different aspects of pronunciation, this book is a must-have for any staffroom. The games are divided into three sections: 1. Syllables and stress; 2. Sound awareness; 3. Connected speech. Each game comes with complete instructions and photocopiable materials for you to take into class with you. Why not play the games with a colleague before using them with your students, so that you know what to expect? This book is completely different from Sound Foundations, being materials rather than theory-based, but both remind us that pronunciation need not be dry and dull, and provide us with a way to make it stimulating and engaging.

ONLINE RESOURCES AND ASSOCIATIONS

 

4. The Adrian Underhill online bundle!

 

a. Sounds: the pronunciation app

Screenshot from the Macmillan Sounds app website

Screenshot of the Macmillan Sounds app website

An ELTon award winner in 2012, this wonderful app is aimed at learners of English but can be equally as useful for teachers. You can hear the sounds on the chart, example words with those sounds in them, record&play back your own pronunciation, practice your phonemic spelling (great if you don’t know phonemic script and have embarked on a Delta!) and use a variety of quiz modes to test yourself on what you’ve learnt. It also comes with extra materials such as lesson plans and tips from the brilliant Mr Underhill, himself. (Can be used on both Apple and Android operating systems. Free version with fewer features, paid version at £3.99)

b. Adrian’s Pron Chart Blog

Screenshot of Adrian Underhill's pron chart blog

Screenshot of Adrian Underhill’s pron chart blog

So you’ve discovered the wonderful pron. chart and now you want to know what to do with it, how to use it with your learners and generally find out more about the marvellous world of pronunciation. This blog would be a good place to start. Here, you can learn all about how to integrate the chart into your lessons and how best to help your learners get their mouths around pronunciation. (Free resource)

c. A youtube video of an Adrian Underhill pronunciation workshop

Screenshot of Adrian's workshop youtube clip

Screenshot of Adrian’s workshop youtube clip

…And if you want to see it all in action, in the flesh, have a watch of this great youtube clip, in which Adrian demonstrates a range of techniques for making pronunciation more physical and visible for learners – and teachers! (Free resource!)

 5. ELF Pronunciation

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 09.10.54

Screenshot of the ELF Pronunciation blog

This blog is maintained by Katy Simpson and Laura Patsko – two teachers with an interest in teaching pronunciation to learners who need English as a lingua franca, who won’t be speaking to native speakers in the majority of their interactions. They have come together to create this fantastic resource for other teachers. From non-native speaker models to adaptations of well-known games for learners (so that the games become more ELF-friendly) to information about resources such as BBC Voices, and more, this blog has something for everybody. It’s full of practical, helpful information and materials for taking ELF pronunciation into your classroom, and it’s free! Can’t say fairer than that.

6.  English Communication Global

Screenshot: English Communication Global blog site

Screenshot of English Communication Global 

This is Robin Walker’s site. On it you can find a mixture of great resources e.g. articles, links to books that may be of interest, materials, blog posts – so it is not just the services offered, although these may be of interest to you too e.g. coaching for presentation-giving and INSET training workshops. Well worth having a look!

7. Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

This website is maintained by Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald, successful speakers and materials writers, and is a pronunciation treasure trove of quality content. You can find talks, materials, activities, blog posts, articles and more, all related to pronunciation and related issues. And, it’s free! So what are you waiting for? Get discovering and experimenting!

8. Teaching English British Council

Screenshot of TEBC Pronunciation Articles page

Screenshot of TEBC Pronunciation Articles page

The Teaching English British Council website has a collection of articles relating to pronunciation that would be worth reading if you want to extend your knowledge and understanding in this area. All freely available! If you are interested in English as a Global language, due to the effect this has on pronunciation teaching and, indeed, all other areas of teaching, then don’t forget to have a look also in the research publications section, where you can find The future of English as well as other publications, all freely available to download.

Screenshot of The British Council phonemic chart

Screenshot of The British Council phonemic chart

Another interactive phonemic chart, this time by The British Council and freely available to use online, in addition to being downloadable as an app.

9. IATEFL Pron. SIG

Screenshot of IATEFL Pron SIG's website

Screenshot of IATEFL Pron SIG’s website

If you are interested in pronunciation, you might like to think about joining IATEFL’s Pron. SIG. This would connect you with like-minded individuals and entitle you to receive Pron SIG newsletters too. Like other IATEFL SIGs, you can expect webinars and pre-conference events around your area of interest.

The Pron. SIG also have a Facebook page which you can “like” for free:

Screenshot of IATEFL Pron SIG Facebook Page

Screenshot of IATEFL Pron SIG Facebook Page

Again, this is a great way to connect with others who have a keen interest in all things pronunciation-related and keep up with any new developments in this area of teaching.

10. Online learner dictionaries

 

Screenshot of Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary

Screenshot of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

 

Screenshot of Macmillan Online Dictionary

Screenshot of Macmillan Online Dictionary

 

Screenshot of Cambridge Learner's Dictionary

Screenshot of Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary

And finally, let’s not forget the venerable online dictionary. These days, online learner dictionaries, such as those pictured above, are very complex affairs, dealing with the wide range of crucial elements that are involved in “knowing” a word. One very useful element within these dictionaries is the combination of the phonemic spelling provided with each word, with the sound file. So you can see the phonemic script and listen to a recording of the pronunciation. Both of these are usually given in both British English and American English versions. 

As usual, there is no doubt that I have inadvertently omitted some quality resources from this list – so if you have a burning desire to have something (a book, an article, an online resource) added to this collection, please do comment below! 🙂 

References:

Hancock, M. and McDonald, A. (2013)  Adrian Underhill on pronunciation as the Cinderella of ELT published on their blog.

Underhill, A. (2010) Pronunciation – the poor relation? Teaching English British Council website

 

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!) 

Top ten resources for teachers (part 2!)

“The internet is a great place for English language teachers, if you know to where to look!” …thus began part 1  – a post that was written to bring a group of internet-based gems together, to make it easier for all English language teachers to find and benefit from them. It has turned out to be a popular idea, even gaining a nomination for the  Teaching English British Council blog of the month award, BUT it also ruffled a few feathers: In making the list, I left off some brilliant resources!

So here is part 2 – another top ten resources for teachers to try out… This time, including the websites/resources that YOU wanted to see included! (Plus some more of my own…)

1. ELTpics

 

Screenshot of ELTpics home page

Screenshot of ELTpics home page

 

This collaborative project has made it possible for teachers to easily source creative commons – licensed photos for use in their classrooms. The above website has links to explanations about creative commons licensing, as well as how to download and accredit images. The images themselves are stored on flickr:

Screenshot of ELTpics Flickr site

Screenshot of the ELTpics photo-stream home

If you click on “albums”, then you can see, at a glance, all the different categories that are in use on ELTpics e.g. predictions, phrasal verbs, adjectives…  The project leaders set a new category on a regular basis, inviting everybody to send them pictures to upload into that category. You can also submit photos to be included in older categories. It is important that the photos you upload are your own and that if there are people in the photos (e.g. a picture of students doing an activity), that you have their permission to share those photos too.

2. Take a photo and…

Screenshot of Take a photo and...

Screenshot of Take a photo and…

Linked with the ELTpics initiative above, this blog contains ideas for how you can use photos – taken from the ELTpics stream or otherwise – in your classroom to great effect. Worth a look if you are after some inspiration!

3. (a) Teachit ELT

Screenshot of Teachit ELT

Screenshot of Teachit ELT

This is a website I hadn’t come across before – to the surprise of one of the readers of the original post. Free members have access to the above-pictured resources (nicely indexed in various ways – by level, skill, specialism etc) but can only download  .pdf files. If you want access, for example, to an audio track, you’d have to upgrade your membership. It looks as though you can get plenty of mileage out of .pdf access only, though, so worth a look.

Because you have to pay to enjoy the full benefits of this site, I will offer an alternative no. 3:

3. (b) Breaking News English

Screenshot of Breaking News English

Screenshot of Breaking News English

A 2014 ELTon nominee, this site offers freely available lesson plans and activities based on simplified news articles written by the site owner. Resources are divided up by level and as well as providing written text, there are also recordings of the articles being read aloud. These can be accessed at different speeds. There is also a dictation facility, which you can use with learners, allowing them to listen and type what they hear into a box (containing clues in the form of the dictation text written in asterisks, one for each letter of a word with space between words), and find out if thy are right or wrong.

4. Wordandphrase.info

A screenshot of wordandphrase.info

A screenshot of wordandphrase.info

Time for one of my own favourites! This wonderful site allows you to find out about words and chunks of language, through corpus data analysis. You can input a chunk of text and see which words fall into the top 500, the top 3000 and which words are outside of the top 3000, according to frequency of use. You get definitions, synonyms, common collocates divided up by word type. You can also see which register(s) words/chunks are used in and see examples of use, either filtered by register or all registers mixed together. As teachers, we are often faced by student questions regarding usage or student work containing language that doesn’t seem quite right to us, though there is no grammatical reason why it couldn’t be. Wordandphrase.info is great for answering all these queries. Going a step further, it’s a great resource to get students using themselves, as a tool to help them answer their own language-related queries. If you want to know more, or want help using the site, I’ve written a series of posts about the site, including self-access materials to guide students (or teachers!) through use of it.

5. Science Direct

Screenshot of Science Direct

Screenshot of Science Direct

This is another one of my favourites. I hear you wondering, though, if I’ve got the name wrong – what’s science got to do with ELT? Well in fact, this is a site that allows you to search for articles from (as you can see) a range of disciplines. There are no small number related to different facets of ELT too. E.g. this search I did relates to learner autonomy and metacognition. You can search by journal title, author name etc. or browse by broader categories. One good thing about this site is that if you access a particular article, it will then offer you links to another set of articles based on the subject matter of the initial one you looked at. Of course there are the usual quantity of articles that are not freely available BUT, equally, there are plenty that are, and you can download these as .pdf files. So this is a handy way to access ELT-related literature.

6. Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

This great site contains a mixture of classroom materials and other resources e.g. articles and reviews related to pronunciation and listening skills. The site owners, Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald, are successful published authors and materials writers, so the materials are of high quality and the blog content worth reading. Pronunciation and listening are often referred to as the Cinderella skills, those that get neglected, and that are difficult to teach. Well, this site provides the inspiration necessary to get to Cinderella to that ball!

7. Recipes for the EFL classroom

Screenshot of EFLrecipes.wordpress.com

Screenshot of Recipes for the EFL classroom

This handy little blog fills a niche: It doesn’t offer lesson plans or glossy materials, but what it does do (and well, if the stats I’ve heard about are anything to go by!) is offer a mixture of activities, techniques and ideas that you can very easily use in the classroom. Taking the metaphor of a lesson as a meal, this blog divides aspects of teaching up by course and provides “recipes” for doing things differently and perhaps that little bit better. As an added bonus, you get some actual food and drink-related recipes too! Well worth a visit and bookmark.

9. TEFL.net

Screenshot of TEFL.net

Screenshot of TEFL.net

This site has been around for donkeys years. As well as lesson plans and resources, it hosts some discussion forums, a plethora of articles on ELT-related topics, a site of the month award offered on a – you guessed it! – monthly basis to recognise quality ELT websites, and more. You can also sign up for a weekly email that will bring teaching tips right to your doorstep – or inbox – regularly.

10. Film English

Screenshot of Film English

Screenshot of Film English

This website is an ELTon award winner for Innovation in Teacher Resources, and rightfully so: It contains a wealth of lesson plans based on short films. As well as using these to teach language, the lesson plans deal with “cine literacy” and encourage critical thinking skills development, important in this day and age. All resources are freely available, with the option of offering a donation to support the site and maintain its current “ad-free” format.

Afterword

That brings me to the end of another Top 10! I hope you enjoyed it and will find it useful. To the person who recommended EFL Smart Blog , it seemed a good site (if an interesting colour scheme) but more directed at students than teachers. For my top ten resources for teachers list, there has to be a significant element of the site that is geared towards helping teachers in some way. As you can see by the range of sites listed, there is no fixed format for this help to take, the only stipulation is that utility for teachers, not only students. 

Keep the recommendations coming – there’s always the chance of a part 3!

British Council Blog of the Month award nomination!

A big thank you to Teaching English British Council for nominating me for their blog of the month award for this month! The nomination is for my Top ten resources for teachers  post, which some of you may have already seen. Thank you also to the 438 people who have voted for me by “liking” the post since TEBC posted their nomination on the Facebook page sometime yesterday! A pleasant sight to discover upon returning from my holiday (3 whole days off ELT! It’s a record!!)…

Thank you to TEBC and all the people who have voted by "liking" my nomination!

Thank you to TEBC and all the people who have voted by “liking” my nomination!

There are already some great other nominees/blog posts up for the award, so I don’t imagine I shall win, but it’s lovely to have been thought of, and lovely to have got a few “likes” too. 🙂

The post came about because there are so many great resources on the internet if you know where to look but not all teachers may be lucky enough to know all of them. So, I made an annotated list of ten (with some cheating, I mean grouping!) of the best, as a useful starting point – and with 9,262 views since I posted it on the 12th May this year, it is my most-viewed post of all time! I’m now planning a “part 2” – to add some of the fantastic resources omitted, such as ELTpics!!  I’m glad (going by the “likes” and views) that people seem to think it’s a good idea to bring these resources together and I hope it has been useful to you all.

Why not have a look at the TEBC Facebook page and see what posts the other nominees have been nominated for, and if you feel so inclined, have your say by “liking” the post you think deserves to win? And while you’re at it, have a look at the wealth of interesting stuff that the TEBC group share via this page on a regular basis! Well worth a peruse.