Sunday 23rd February 2020, 10am UK time
Making materials that reflect the realities of marginalised groups
Panel webinar with Heloisa Duarte, Varinder Unlu and David Valente
The idea that all learners should see themselves and their realities, as well as those of others, in the materials they use in their English lessons has been brought to the forefront of teachers’ and materials writers’ minds over the past decade by the efforts of committed ELT professionals around the world. MaWSIG hosted this panel webinar to explore what anyone who creates ELT materials can do to better represent diverse population groups and identities. Focusing particularly on older learners, learners who identify as LGBTQ+ and learners who identify as being of colour, Heloisa, David and Varinder each analysed sets of ELT materials to highlight ways of making diverse learners and their realities more visible. We then opened the discussion to audience questions and panel debate on the topic. We hoped to collect concrete ideas and inspiration for developing materials that better reflect the realities of diverse and marginalised groups of English learners.
Heloisa Duarte has been involved in ELT for over 26 years as a teacher, teacher educator, materials writer, consultant and manager at prestigious national and international institutions in Brazil. She is a CELTA holder and has recently finished her MA in Language Education at NILE.
Varinder Unlu has worked in ELT for 26 years in all contexts from private language schools to FE and HE, teaching students of all ages. She has been a DOS/Academic Manager since 2002. She is currently the school Principal at Speak Up London. She is also a teacher trainer for both Cambridge CELTA and Trinity TESOL, a materials writer and a conference speaker and the co-founder and coordinator of the IATEFL Inclusive Practices and SENs SIG. She is now coordinator for IATEFL Global Issues SIG.
David Valente is the Coordinator of the IATEFL Young Learners and Teenagers Special Interest Group. He works as a PhD Research Fellow in English Language and Literature Subject Pedagogy at Nord University, Norway, where he also teaches on the 5-year Masters in Primary Education. David has over 20 years’ experience in ELT as a teacher, teacher educator, academic manager, author and editor and his specialist interests include using children’s literature in ELT, primary and secondary teacher education and inclusive classroom practices. David’s publications comprise a recent chapter on syllabus developments in primary ELT for The Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners. He is also Reviews Editor for the Children’s Literature in English Language Education (CLELE) Journal.
MaWSIG meets GI SIG, 25 January 2020, 1.30 pm UK time
Making good materials for everyone, everywhere, no matter how much money they have
Linda Ruas and Margarita Kosior
Both Linda and Margarita have been involved in projects teaching English learners and training teachers or making materials for use in areas with limited resources, be it financial or technological, and will share with us in this webinar ideas for creating learning materials under these constraints. Linda has led Global Issues SIG projects working with untrained volunteer teachers in refugee camps, and is now working with secondary English teachers in Guinea Bissau. She presented some of the simple lesson sequences and materials she has helped teachers create, as well as other ideas for teaching English such as WhatsApp groups and CoPs (Communities of Practice) for teachers to write short texts and lesson plans together about various local and global issues in West Africa eg. FGM, teen pregnancy, the cashew nut harvest and gender equality. Margarita is the author of a recent IATEFL GISIG publication 12 Months of Social Issues: ELT Calendar of Special Days. It is a compilation of lessons, one per month, focusing on a different special day (mostly UN and UNESCO) each time. In this way, this volume consists of twelve complete sessions, many which can be used in limited-resource classrooms. The publication aims not only to develop learners’ linguistic competence, but also to raise their awareness of important issues and encourage them to take action, reach out to the wider community, and make a difference. During her session, Margarita talked about the rationale behind the creation of these materials and also presented specific examples of activities and tasks, explained how they could be used in the English language classroom and gave tips on how we can create similar materials.
Linda Ruas, MA, is an ESOL teacher and CELTA trainer at LSEC in London. She has trained teachers for many years in various contexts: Brazil, Japan, UK CELTA and DELTA courses, and refugee camps and is now working, mostly remotely, with teachers across Africa, mainly in Guinea Bissau. Linda has written some materials: https://bit.ly/31M1odF and regularly creates more lessons about social justice issues on the Easier English New Internationalist wiki: eewiki.newint.org
As an advocate for social justice, Margarita Kosior believes in spreading awareness of global issues through ELT. Margarita has incorporated social issues into her teaching since the beginning of her career when, as a novice teacher, she still didn’t know much about Global Education. She simply believed that what she was doing was the right thing to do. Since then, she has participated in relevant projects, presented at international conferences and written ELT materials based on social issues ranging from modern day slavery, disabilities, the Holocaust, to kindness, as an underlying value necessary to make a big change in the world. Margarita shares her insights and teaching tips on her blog: ELT for a Better World and she is the author of a series of children’s stories, Tales of strays.
Wednesday 11th December, 7-10.30pm, The Wig and Pen, Oxford
The MaWSIG and ELT Freelancers joint Christmas Party
MaWSIG meets BESIG, 6th December 2019, 2 pm UK time
Making Materials that reflect learner realities
When it comes to making materials which reflect learner realities, we Business English teachers and writers tend to think we’re better at it that most other strands of ELT. After all, it’s what we do! We carry out needs analysis, we tailor make the materials, and we adjust the courses to suit changing needs. But can Business English really be so complacent? In fact, are we just as guilty at making materials which – as Kath Bilsborough suggests (IATEFL, 2019) – are far removed from our learners’ realities?
In this webinar, I explored this question by taking a historical look at Business English materials and considered when – in the past – materials writers have got it right (and reflected learner realities) and when they have got it very wrong. We began back in the fifteenth century and travelled through materials from the last five hundred years arriving at the present day. We also looked at the evolving definition of Business English and how this has shaped the materials we use today and considered how future materials might do a better job at reflecting learner realities.
At the end of this historical tour, I concluded by suggesting that the fundamental skills of the Business English teacher and materials writers are really quite timeless. And that if we truly want to reflect learner realities, we need to view materials writing as three-way co-creative process between the materials writer, the teacher and the learner.
John Hughes has written well over 50 titles including course books and teacher resources. He has been involved as an author on a variety of Business English books including the six-level series Business Result (Oxford), the exam course Success with BEC (National Geographic Learning) and the resource book ETpedia Business English which received BESIG’s David Riley Award for Innovation in Business English and ESP. He specializes in training teachers in materials writing and has lectured on the subject at Oxford University. His website is http://www.johnhugheselt.com
MaWSIG meets YLT SIG, 15th November 2019, 3pm UK time
Moving away from exams dominance in YL materials
Shelagh Rixon and Wendy Arnold
The ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of Assessment
Teaching towards some test or exam, e.g. Standardised Attainment Tests (SATs) or using classroom assessment, e.g. designed by teacher’s, to further children’s learning and improve mindsets? These seem to be the two extremes of teachers’ possible activity regarding assessment. In this webinar we critically explored the influence that external examinations have in many contexts and highlighted the advances in teaching and materials that a good examination may promote against the background of the harm that a bad one can do. However, our main emphasis was on the positive effects that integrating teaching and assessment in class will have. We discussed Assessment for Learning (AfL), as opposed to Assessment of Learning (AoL), and showed practical examples of how this very practical approach can be implemented in class.
Wendy Arnold holds an MA in Teaching English to Young Learners from the University of York, UK. She was a primary teacher of English for 15 years in a Hong Kong state school. She has taught from grade 1 to 6, as well as Secondary Form 1 to 3. During her time as a teacher she experienced designing Assessment of Learning (AoL) tests three times a year, as well as Assessment for Learning (AfL) continual assessments. Results from both types of assessments were reported to parents. She has also authored and co-authored primary course books which include both AoL and AfL, as well as designed teacher training programmes which include both these components.
Shelagh Rixon’s first degree was in Classics but, having taught English in Rome for 3 years in the 1970s, she then trained as a teacher of TESOL to primary and secondary school children. She spent 16 years in the British Council in various roles before joining the University of Warwick as a lecturer in 1991. There she set up and co-ordinated the MA in Teaching English to Young Learners. She holds an MSc in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh and in 2012 obtained a doctorate in the area of early literacy teaching to Young Learners of English. She retired from Warwick University in 2009 and is now an Associate Tutor at the University of Leicester. She acts as a school governor and volunteer in two primary schools. She is co-editor, with Danijela Prošić-Santovac, of Integrating assessment into early language learning and teaching, published by Multilingual Matters in 2019.
MaWSIG meets TD SIG, Friday 11th October 2019, 3pm UK time
Making materials on topics that are excluded from mainstream coursebooks
Ilá Coimbra and James Taylor
Raise Up! is a charitable project that was created with a simple aim – what would a mainstream English language coursebook look like if it represented a wider range of people? We feel that significant improvements need to be made in how various groups in society are included in the most popular international coursebooks, and in this webinar we described how the first edition of Raise Up! came to be. Ilá began by summarising the current situation regarding representation in coursebooks. She described the groups that are currently unseen, hard to see or misrepresented, and explained why diversity benefits everyone: learners and teachers. In the second part, James went into the process behind the creation of Raise Up! and the principles that underpin it. He explained how the lessons were written and designed, and then spoke about the future of the project and how MAWSIG and TDSIG members can help out.
You can watch this webinar here.
James is a DELTA qualified EFL teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and podcast producer based in Brasília, Brazil. He has taught English to adults and teenagers in Brazil, South Korea, Belgium and Costa Rica since 2007. In August 2018, he self-published his first ebook, How Was Your Weekend? He produces the ELTON nominated TEFL Commute podcast.
Ilá has been an English teacher since 2001 and a teacher trainer since 2011, especially preparing students and teachers for language exams. Ilá is based in Munich, Germany, holds DELTA Module 2, CELTA and CPE certificates and has been attending and presenting at local, national and international conferences since 2014. She is also one of the founding members of BRAZ-TESOL Voices SIG, a special interest group that focuses on equality in ELT.
MaWSIG meets ReSIG, Friday 20th September 2019, 1pm UK time
Making more principle-led, quality materials
Most teachers and learners today are in the fortunate position of being surrounded by a wealth of materials, but quantity definitely does not ensure quality! How do we know if materials are pedagogically sound and in line with research findings? This webinar addressed the following questions and used practical examples of materials and anecdotes from my own experience to illustrate each point. Where do teaching and learning principles come from? What are principle-led, quality materials? How can teachers and materials writers create such materials? How can we identify such materials? The webinar ended with ten top tips for identifying and developing principled, quality materials.
Joint webinar with TESOL Association MWIS, 17th July 2019
So many ‘Englishes’! What does this mean for ELT writers and publishers?
Sherrise Roehr (Publisher, National Geographic Learning) & Karen Spiller (Co-founder of ELT Teacher2Writer and ELT Publishing Professionals)
You can watch this webinar here.
We live in an age of many ‘Englishes’! British or American English? Standard or ‘new Englishes’? And what about EFL, ESL and ELF? This webinar looked at the key characteristics of these labels. It considered how they influence the content and development process of ELT materials and offered examples and tips to help writers and publishers deal with the constraints and embrace the opportunities.
Creative Arts and Materials Writing, 1st April 2019, LITSIG/MAWSIG PCE, IATEFL Liverpool
Most teachers who use texts taken from the arts – be they literary, visual or musical – create activities to accompany them, and many of these teachers create materials for publication, or would like to know more about how to do this. Similarly, professional materials writers often incorporate creative materials into their publications, or would like to explore how to do so.
Our speakers and talks were:
Language BLANK Literature: from Conjunction to Preposition
The study of language and the study of literature have long been separated and are often treated as if they were antagonistic domains, both in mother-tongue and in foreign-language teaching. This talk argued for the integration of the two domains, by focusing on the notion of linguistic creativity which underlies both, and providing performance illustrations from several literary genres.
Christina Klein Wolf and Eduardo Wolf
Shakespeare for language and literature students: choosing extracts, designing materials
We briefly discussed the principles that underlie our approach to designing materials to teach Shakespeare to language and literature students. We argued that a focus on contextualization, close reading, and independent study can provide a solid basis for the design of engaging materials for upper-intermediate and advanced learners which foster language awareness, critical thinking, and creativity. Participants engaged in a couple of hands-on activities and we suggested some further reading.
Taking a leaf out of the books of great writers
Which ELT materials writer does not love to read? Cheryl hasn’t met one yet. Whether our passion is for poetry or prose, we all delight in the written word. What, then, might we learn from the well-known writers we admire? Cheryl explored the advice of great writers on their craft, highlighting ways that we might seek inspiration and nurture creativity, choose content and discover our niche, and develop the habits of our literary heroes.
BritLit: Teachers doing it for themselves
The British Council’s BritLit project (2003-2013) aimed to engage learners as readers and teachers as materials writers. BritLit involved teachers from Portugal, Spain, Italy, India and Russia developing materials – not lesson plans, but ‘kits’ from which users can make appropriate selections. This talk drew on examples from the wealth of material still available online, suggesting approaches for writing materials for bringing literature into the EFL classroom and sharing some of the work produced by the teachers inspired by BritLit.
Hania Krystyna Bociek
The art of it all…. Paintings to inspire your material
Taking a leaf out of Thornbury and Medding’s “unplugged” approach, this session highlighted how learner interaction with paintings can inspire the materials created for/used in your classroom, in both a f2f and digital/virtual environment. We considered a series of paintings and invited participants to inspire the language we target and the emotions we wish to express. Creativity is in the eye of the beholder …
The workshop provided practical ideas for both newcomers to English through art and those who are already inspired users. Referring to English Through Art (Helbling, 2011) it also suggested to writers how art can be incorporated into their material.
Alice Savage & Walton Burns
Play with Language: Teaching Communication Skills with Theatre and Video Scripts
Scripts such as plays and videos are a natural resource for teaching speaking skills. Unlike textbook dialogues, often written to highlight vocabulary or grammar, scripts often use natural language and realistic contexts to teach the “hidden” language of pragmatics. Pragmatics refers to the tools we use to do things with words. It includes use of intonation, gesture, implicit meanings, and expressions that signal intentions or emotions. Participants worked with plays and videos and come away with lesson plan options and resources.
Helen Holwill & Nicola Prentis
How to write Graded Readers (a.k.a. Get paid to write fiction)
Have you used Graded Readers and ever wondered who writes them and if you could do it, too? Being a fan of literature and adapting classics is one way in, writing original fiction is another. But who do you contact and how do you write a successful proposal? We explored how Readers are selected and produced, giving invaluable insights about how to get your foot in the door.
The What about …? Webinars, 2018-2019
Saturday 12th January 2018
Elaine Hodgson – What about writing Teacher’s Guides?
Subscribe in the top right box to be emailed when Elaine’s Q&A from the webinar is published.
You can watch Elaine’s webinar here.
For many, teacher’s guides are the first door to be opened in publishing. Although they are not the big stars in any course book series, writing a high quality guide that will prove useful to teachers requires varied skills and a great deal of flexibility. In this webinar, we explored the main reasons why teacher’s guides are still considered important ancillary materials, what should be taken into consideration when writing one, as well as making+ some suggestions on how to develop guides that will be used effectively by teachers.
Dr Elaine Hodgson is a freelance materials writer, as well as a tutor and supervisor in the Distance MA in TESOL at the University of Birmingham. She holds an MA and a PhD in Applied Linguistics and has written for publishers in Brazil, Mexico and the UK.
Thursday 13th December 2018, 6.30pm-11pm
MaWSIG Xmas Party
The What about …? Webinars, 2018-2019
Sunday 9th December 2018
Dr Catherine Walter – What about writing grammar activities?
Watch Catherine’s webinar here. And subscribe in the top right box to be emailed when her Q&A from the webinar is published.
For many learners being able to express themselves using standard grammar is important, for one reason or another. Current theories of instructed language acquisition recognise a place for the teaching of grammar, and there is clear evidence that teaching grammar explicitly is more efficient than relying on implicit learning. This webinar focused on helping participants reflect on criteria for writing effective grammar teaching materials that make economical use of classroom time, and that respect learners and teachers.
Dr Catherine Walter has been writing evidence-based English language teaching materials since the early 1980s. With Michael Swan, she is the co-author of, among others, the award-winning Oxford English Grammar Course. Catherine is also the Series Adviser for Navigate, a multi-level course for adults which incorporates the approaches that will be explored in this webinar. She is an Emeritus Fellow in Applied Linguistics of Linacre College, University of Oxford, and continues to pursue research in instructed second language acquisition. Catherine has a strong interest in inclusivity in language learning and teaching.
Sunday 25th November 2018
Prof. Henning Rossa and Dr Karoline Wirbatz – What about writing CLIL materials?
In this webinar, participants were introduced to the concrete educational context in Germany as an example to illustrate how CLIL is currently implemented and provided as a form of additive, late partial immersion in schools. We discussed existing learning and teaching materials for English as the “CLIL Language”. Following that, the focus was on further adapting these materials, as well as creating new materials. The webinar also touched upon the design of suitable worksheets and reading materials.
Prof. Henning Rossa is currently professor of foreign language education (TEFL) at the University of Trier and has previously taught at the University of Paderborn and TU Dortmund University, where he coordinated a study programme which prepared teachers of content subjects for CLIL instruction. His research interests include language assessment, L2 classroom research and teacher cognition research.
Dr Karoline Wirbatz joined the English department of the University of Trier in April 2017 and has previously taught at the universities of Dortmund, Paderborn and Western Sydney. She has studied at the University of Western Sydney, where she obtained her PhD in 2014. Her PhD thesis investigated the developmental path of German first language children focusing on the order of elements in speech and what is signaled by the ordering of constituents. Her main research interests are first, second & third language acquisition, bilingual education, and classroom SLA.
13th October 2018
Vicky Saumell – What about creating technology-enhanced materials?
The second webinar in MaWSIG’s What about …. ? webinar series is available to see again. Please check back for a link soon.
This will only be available to non-members for a limited time.
Nowadays, many teachers try to use digital materials to supplement language materials. However, ready-made digital materials do not always suit students’ needs nor meet teachers’ aims. In this talk, Vicky explored ways of creating digital materials for language learning in meaningful and creative ways by presenting the contextual and pedagogical realisation of the materials, the principles behind the writing process and by sharing activity samples as part of technology-enhanced lesson plans.
Read Vicky’s Q&A posted after her webinar here.
Vicky Saumell holds a Diploma in the Theory and Methodology of TESOL and another in Educational Technology.She has written and taught online New Learning Environments for the Master’s in ELT at Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia and teaches at Instituto San Francisco de Asis and Buenos Aires English High School in Buenos Aires. She is also a freelance author and has worked as a writer and trainer for Pearson, CUP, Macmillan and Santillana.
8th September 2018
Brian Tomlinson – What about principles for ELT writers?
Read Brian’s Q&A posted after his webinar here.
22–23 June 2018, Materials writing: opportunities and challenges, Joint conference, Oxford
Conference Programme (pdf):
MaWSIG & Oxford Brookes Conference Programme
On 22nd and 23rd June we co-hosted a face-to-face conference in Oxford (UK) called ‘Materials writing: opportunities and challenges’.
Our main themes were getting started with materials writing, the exciting new directions ELT materials may take in the future, and innovative ways to tackle challenges that can occur in the materials creation process.
See our facebook page for more information and photos from the event.
11 April 2018: SIG Showcase at IATEFL Conference
Our MaWSIG Showcase was a whole day featuring a range of fascinating talks, all with a materials-writing theme. Speakers were Damian Williams, Graham Burton, Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton, David Read, Chris Mares, Julie Moore, Andrew Dilger and Tim Herdon. More info here.
9 April 2018, IATEFL Brighton MaWSIG Pre-Conference Event
Our Pre-Conference Event (PCE) was all about a shift that’s happening in ELT. We’re developing a broader understanding of who our students are, where they are and what they need. English is a global language, and the focus of ELT is no longer on a limited range of learners and settings. This Pre-Conference Event examined the implications of this shift for materials writers. To what extent do today’s ELT materials reflect the global use of the language?
This PCE brought together five speakers with expertise in different aspects of writing for the world. They considered the wide range of contexts where English is taught and will explored how context affects materials design. The timetable for the day was as follows.
|10:00||Welcome and introduction||MaWSIG Committee|
|10:15||From EFL to ELF: Materials Writing for English as a Lingua Franca||Marek Kiczkowiak|
|11:30||Creating effective pronunciation materials||Laura Patsko|
|12.15||Competition time!||MaWSIG Committee|
|13:30||Are you writing for all learners?||Romulo Neves|
|14:15||Materials writing for language education in emergencies and development||Psyche Kennett|
|15:30||Designing materials that address learner and teacher spiky profiles||Julie Day|
The winner of our ‘Writing for the World’ competition was Jae-young Lee, who has taught at Woo-myeon Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea, and who is current taking a master’s degree at the International Graduate School of English. Congratulations Jae-young! The judges thought Jae-young’s lesson was innovative and would be engaging for young learners. The lesson has clear objectives and ties together well. Jae-young’s lesson is available here.
Jae-young presented her lesson plan at the MaWSIG PCE in Brighton on Monday, 9 April.
9-11 March 2018, Madrid, TESOL Spain
MaWSIG are happy to have collborated with TESOL Spain on their annual convention event in Madrid in March 2018, hosting a special one-day MaWSIG strand. We are grateful to our speakers for sharing their ideas and knowledge in interesting talks and workshops, where we learnt about creating effective tasks, encouraging critical thinking, engaging primary learners, and how insights from research can inform materials and teaching in ELT. Thank you to everyone who came along to hear them and to find out more about MaWSIG!
Thursday 14th December, 2017
Friday 24th November 2017
A recording of the Ways into Material Writing from the IATEFL Web Conference is available free to members of IATEFL. Log in to your account here and choose Webinars, from the Downloads & Documents section.
30 September 2017, Skopje, Macedonia
Although many teachers in Macedonia write their own materials to use with their students, they have little or no formal training in materials writing. That is why ELTAM, the English Language Teachers’ Association of the Republic of Macedonia, teamed up with MaWSIG to bring experienced materials writers to Skopje for a one-day conference. This event gave participants the opportunity to learn more about materials writing and to find out what it takes to write and publish their own ELT materials. The event was held at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Faculty of Philology Blaze Koneski, Department of English Language and Literature, Skopje and was supported by the Faculty of Philology Blaze Koneski, Department of English Language and Literature, Skopje. You can find out more about ELTAM here and details of conference here.
Saturday 3rd June 2017
A webinar with Nik Peachey titled: How to publish your own materials – from writing to publishing to marketing. Everyone was welcome – both members and non-members. Nik Peachey is a freelance teacher trainer, materials writer, blogger and consultant specialising in digital publishing and the development of digital resources for teachers. He has been involved in English language teaching since 1992 and has worked all over the world as a teach, trainer and project manager. In 2016 after winning the British Council ELTon award for Innovations in Teacher Resources he co-founded PeacheyPublications.com
Monday 3 April 2017
The MaWSIG PCE at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow took place on Monday 3 April. The theme was Nuts and bolts: practical considerations for the ELT materials professional. The sessions were as follows:
Saturday 18 February 2017
MaWSIG online event: From pen to press – your questions answered
By Lizzie Pinard
On Saturday 18 February 2017 at 4 pm, MaWSIG hosted an online panel discussion event using Adobe’s webinar platform. Four panellists joined us and shared their views on a range of questions that had been submitted in advance via social media. The panellists were Vanessa Reis-Esteves (young learners author), Sarah Milligan (commissioning editor for Onestopenglish), Julie Pratten (founder of Heart ELT Publishing) and Lyn Strutt (freelance ELT content editor, copyeditor and proof reader).
While the event was unfolding, in addition to being behind the scenes on the webinar platform, MaWSIG Committee member Lizzie Pinard took notes. Here is Lizzie’s write-up of the session, adapted with permission from her own blog. A recording of the session is available to IATEFL members here (scroll down until you see it – recordings are not organised chronologically).
Question 1: Are there any agreed-upon principles about materials writing?
There’s a lot of advice out there now that wasn’t available a few years ago. There are principles, but it depends on who you are writing for; not every publisher has exactly the same rules. Vanessa reports that in Portugal, rules are less strict and more dependent on the context of writing – when writing for young learners, you’d be allowed to do certain things that would not be possible if you were writing for older learners. General questions to ask include: Is it going to be clear? Is it going to make sense? Is it going to achieve its aim? Lyn suggested the following useful links:
- The MaWSIG Blog
- Blog post: Rules for rookie writers
- Blog post: Getting started
- Blog post: The voice of the teachers notes
- Blog post: How not to write really rotten materials
- Rachael Roberts’ blog: Materials development category
- John Hughes’ website
- ELT Teacher2Writer
- The No-Nonsense Guide to Writing
Question 2: What design principles do you use when planning layout, colours, fonts and image and text incorporation?
For young learners everything needs to be visual in order to guide the learners. In the past, we might have used colour to make the pages appealing and to attract attention, but nowadays it is important to consider students with special learning needs/requirements. How can the design of a page make learning easier? Every image has a purpose, which is to help students master and take control of learning.
Materials today are much more visual and magazine-like than in the past. Lots of powerful images are used; these are not always directly connected to a specific task but are used as lead-ins to topics. For commercially published materials, the in-house designers at the publisher will work with a design agency, which will plan the design for the book. The design will be influenced by the market and by other books by the same publisher. For a major coursebook series, the author will be involved in the discussion and will be allowed to have input but will not be in control. The author and editor may fine-tune it later on, but the overall structure and key colours will be selected by the design team at an early stage. If you are self-publishing, look at successful books and books you think work in the classroom and use those as a guide; they have been designed by people who know what they are doing. The EMC Design blog may be of interest.
Question 3: How important is the inclusion of cultural content in instructional materials design?
Julie said this is becoming more and more important. This is, however, a tricky issue. It is not easy to create intercultural content in a book intended for general markets, yet teachers expect books to be accessible to different cultures. Vanessa said that in the past, coursebook culture was predominantly Anglo-American; now, education ministries recognise the need to prepare young learners to work with people from other cultures. They increasingly require school books to teach children to value differences rather than to judge or stereotype people from other cultures. This is an exciting time – there is a move away from Anglocentrism and towards something more global, which can only be a good thing.
Question 4: With so much free content online, both for students and teachers, what can paid content offer?
Sarah works for Onestopenglish, a subscription website offering paid content. In her view, free content is fantastic in many ways, but paid content has been through a rigorous publishing cycle. The material has had not just one pair of eyes on it but rather several – writer, designer, editor – so it can offer higher quality in terms of the way its presented and the way that it reaches the teacher.
Question 5: Is there a market for self-published materials?
Julie’s opinion was that there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing because of its association with vanity publishing. Often, self-published material has gone through an editorial process – but not always. Lyn emphasized that the role of the editor is still important in self-publishing; you may have a great idea, but you need an editor to work on it – not just to check for typos, but to provide input that will make your material better. The more input you have, the better the material will be. Perhaps publishers could take on materials that have been self-published and do something with them? The main difficulty with self-publishing is actually selling the materials.
Question 6: Although in academia the native speaker vs. non-native speaker dichotomy seems to be history, what are the real chances of non-native speakers writing ELT material for international markets?
Sarah said the chances are 100%; she was surprised and saddened that the question was being asked. If a writer is turned away for being a NNS, then that’s discrimination – just as it is with NNS teachers. Publishers should choose their writers according to the quality of the materials they write. Julie’s concern as a publisher is that the ideas are good, the content is good and there is a need for the material; she has several NNS authors on her books at the moment. NNS writers report feeling ignored, but if you look at what’s available on the market, the writers are no longer all English or American. Vanessa added that NNS writers will know their context better in terms of difficulties those students might have, so they should be seen as an asset. It’s more about the contribution you are bringing to the material rather than the language or country on your passport.
Question 7: What is THE qualification you need to get into writing?
Vanessa said that a writer needs to be a teacher at heart. You need to understand how learning happens. You also need to be objective enough to assess whether something would work with most teachers/students, not just with your own. You need a very big ‘teacher heart’ and a lot of resilience and taking on board of other people’s ideas. Julie agreed that you need to love teaching, but she suggested that you also need a creative spark. We will always need innovation; that’s what publishers are looking for. Sarah and Julie both emphasized the value of collaboration – if a creative teacher works together with a strong writer, the outcome could be very powerful.
Question 8: I know plenty of people who’ve sent book proposals to publishers but who have not heard anything back. On the other hand, some established names have been involved in book after book. Is this because the book proposals were not good enough or because editors prefer writers they know?
For Sarah, it’s becoming rarer for publishers to accept proposals because publishers work with publishing plans that are based on extensive research. They have looked at markets and identified their needs; they have specific projects in mind. Publishers do accept new authors, but when they have a writer they love working with, why would they not use that person? However, they do take on new writers when their regular writers are unavailable. If you want to submit something, you can submit a proposal, but a CV showing your experience and expertise is more useful as publishers can see if it matches up with what they are trying to do.
What worked for Vanessa was giving lots of talks. Make sure you have something to say and that what you have to say is of interest. So, go to IATEFL, join a SIG (and be an active member) and collaborate with others. If you do it enough, then somebody will notice you. It’s about being in the right place at the right time. You need to network. IATEFL is a great place to start networking, as are local organisations and conferences. Sometimes people get into writing by having a great blog and that blog being noticed. If you have an audience, people will notice you sooner or later.
Lyn emphasised that she knows several authors who were spotted at IATEFL and who have plenty of work because of that. A blog is a very good way of proving you can write. If you give away some of your ideas (e.g. teaching tips and lesson plans), then people may buy your further ideas. If you can show that you are able to produce material, that’s what’s going to make publishers look at you and think you can do something bigger. Then, it’s important to be reliable – always deliver on time.
Julie raised the issue of all the people who cannot go to IATEFL because it’s expensive, or because they don’t live nearby. She thinks publishers could do more to help new blood get into books. With Heart ELT, Julie put out a call for writers to donate chapters. These were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and she ended up with a mix of well-known names and unknown writers, all of whom sent in good, well-structured material.
Sarah agreed that the big publishers could definitely give people a few more chances and go to more local conferences. Publishers and commissioning editors do go to local conferences to find people who can’t afford to go IATEFL in the UK. Also, it is worth entering writing competitions. She agrees that editors do look at people who have self-published and done workshops. It’s all about putting yourself out there.
At this point, we ran out of time! A huge thank you to all the panellists (and if you read this and think I have misquoted you, please let me know!) and to everybody who attended the event.
Lizzie is currently based in the UK and has previously taught in various European and Far Eastern countries. She has been teaching for seven years and holds a Delta and an M.A. in English Language Teaching. Her interests include materials writing, doing classroom research and exploring the relationship between the development of learner autonomy, motivation and metacognition.
14 January 2017: MaWSIG MeetUp (Germany)
There was a MaWSIG Meetup in Trier, Germany, on Saturday 14th January. The Meetup brought together people who write ELT materials and/or are involved in publishing ELT materials. The main event was at 2–6pm at THEO, Simeonenstraße 59, 54290 Trier. Entrance cost 15€ including homemade ‘Kaffee & Kuchen’ buffet (plus tea and bottled water). In the evening there was an optional wine-tasting with five regional wines.
Christmas Party at the Jericho Tavern, Oxford
MaWSIG welcomed in the festive season with fellow ELT editors, authors and publishers at the MaWSIG Christmas Party on Thursday 15th December in Oxford. Everyone had to pit their wits against the best brains in ELT in a Christmas quiz! It was also a chance to catch up with friends and network with colleagues old and new.
30 June 2016 London MeetUp
This MaWSIG MeetUp saw a small but perfectly formed gathering at the Star of Kings pub near Kings Cross with writers, editors and publishers meeting and chatting. We also said an official goodbye and a big thank you to three outgoing committee members: Sophie O’Rourke (Events Coordinator), Lyn Strutt (Deputy Publications Coordinator and Website Coordinator) and Kirsten Holt (Deputy Events Coordinator).
MaWSIG PCE, 12 April 2016
Our PCE at the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham was titled Print vs. digital: Is it really a competition?
The last few years have seen radical digitisation throughout the publishing industry and English language teaching has been no exception. As we feel our way through these changes and start to understand the landscape we now find ourselves in, we are asking whether the industry as a whole has started to stabilise. Have we found our niches, and can print and digital work seamlessly together? And what does this mean for material writers?
In this highly interactive PCE, we explored the skills and techniques that material writers need to create professional, engaging and relevant materials for a range of different teaching contexts, such as primary, secondary, adult, exams or ESP. We walked away with refreshed thinking, new knowledge and – perhaps most importantly – new ideas to help us create English language teaching materials, whether for digital, print, or a blend of both. Our fantastic line-up of speakers featured Ceri Jones, Genevieve White, Katherine Bilsborough, Fiona Mauchline, Damian Williams and Sue Kay. Our closing panel comprised Debra Marsh, Katherine Bilsborough, Damian Williams and Jo Sayers, with MaWSIG Coordinator Rachael Roberts chairing and some lively input from the delegates.
MaWSIG Conference, London, 20 February 2016
New ways of working for new ways of learning started by looking holistically at how digital platforms have had an impact on our work–life balance, and the first sessions focussed on how to achieve a better balance. Delegates went on to look at how digital materials are being used in classrooms today, and how this affects the way in which we create materials for these new learning environments. Macmillan very generously sponsored the entire event, hosted at their conference centre near Kings Cross. The conference ended with an evening drinks reception and networking.
The full programme is available here.
A MaWSIG Meetup took place on Wednesday 25 November 2015, in Berlin. This meetup was in association with ELTABB. Early reports on Twitter suggested it had gone very well and Rachel Daw now has a great summary of it on her blog.
This year’s online festival, MaWFest, took place on Saturday 7 November.
The theme of the day was images and copyright, and speakers included Andrew Walkley, Karen Spiller, Getty Images and the Copyright Licensing Agency.
Sessions were in a variety of formats from webinars to Twitter chats. The schedule is here. The webinars are now available for members to view on the IATEFL website:
- MaWSIG online festival 2015 – David Duffield
- MaWSIG online festival 2015 – Toby Hopkins
- MaWSIG online festival 2015 – Andrew Walkley
MaWSIG Meetup Munich was a joint MaWSIG/MELTA event held in Munich on Thursday 25 June. The meetup was an informal networking evening, where MaWSIG and MELTA members will got to meet each other as well as editors and commissioning editors from ELT publishers.
If you would like to organise a similar event in your local area, please get in touch with our Events Coordinators.
We hope you can join us at an event soon.
MaWSIG May 2015
MaWSIG May presented a series of webinars from speakers at the forefront of ELT.
Wednesday 6 May, 6.30 pm BST (5.30 pm GMT)
Jill Hadfield on covert syllabuses. Here’s what she says about the subject:
‘I first used this term in a positive sense when speaking about group dynamics activities from my book Classroom Dynamic, using it to mean activities which have an overt language learning aim but a kind of “secret” group dynamic aim tucked inside a language learning aim, i.e. invisible to the student and thus non-overt. Since then I have expanded it to include other things such as an L2 identity-building syllabus which can co-exist with the overt language learning syllabus throughout a course. Covert syllabuses, however, can also (and the term is usually used with this implication) include ‘bad’ syllabuses as well as good ones – e.g. unconsciously sexist materials, a white middle-class cast of characters, or glorification of the celebrity culture. In this session, I will look at examples of positive and negative covert syllabuses and suggest some awareness-raising activities for ensuring negative syllabuses are eliminated and positive ones included.’
If you missed the webinar, it can be viewed by members on the IATEFL website:
For those of you interested in the learner preferences dichotomy and Apter’s Reversal Theory, Jill’s article is in RELC Journal 37.3 and is available here (with subscription).
Unfortunately we had to postpone Christiane Perone’s webinar on 13 May, due to illness.
Wednesday 20 May, 7.30 pm BST (6.30 pm GMT)
Paul Sweeney, ‘Course (be)ware: key lessons in online course development – a follow-up from IATEFL’
The development of online courses is increasingly common where ‘online course’ is taken to mean a set of online materials made available to students or teachers of English as a substantial component of a learning programme. From very different starting points, publishers exploring online content development and institutions exploring course delivery online often end up meeting in the middle. What principles of good practice are available to inform this work? This talk is based on a range of shared development experiences from seasoned e-learning practitioners. They reported on courses developed for different audience types (students and teachers of English), varied subject matter (linguistic content as well as teacher training) and factors such as audience age and project size. My talk will take the audience through key lessons derived from the survey. The talk will reference some principles of online learning design but the main emphasis is on the practical, project-based lessons across areas including course design, authoring tools, delivery platforms, the quality and type of content and the role of content within the overall course. The talk will consider the influence of factors such as evolving online behaviours and user expectations, emerging course models e.g. MOOCs, the shift to desktop to tablets and smartphones and changing technical and learning design standards. Finally, what, if anything, is to be done about new pedagogical considerations such as adaptive learning, learning analytics and gamification?
The Q&A from this webinar is on our Facebook page.
Sunday 31 May, 12 pm BST (11 am GMT)
Cleve Miller, ‘New Publishing’
In this webinar, Cleve takes a ‘high altitude’ perspective on the future of materials design, combined with concrete examples of how this future is actually happening now. The main message is that we should be optimistic about careers in ELT authoring, and will look at specific examples of why it’s realistic to be optimistic. Areas discussed include the fact that content is a now a process, not a product. As material designers, who are we selling to, and how is this changing? The future is CLP: customization, localization, personalization. Cleve talked about at new publishing models, including self-publishing: ebooks and platforms. How will we make money, and who will pay it? What does this mean for course design if blended and flipped are the ‘new normal’? Cleve also looked at examples from (publisher and self-publishing) authors, and some tools that can be used.
Members can view the webinar on the IATEFL website:
IATEFL Manchester 2015
MaWSIG PCE 2015: The Material Writer’s Essential Toolkit
No matter how much experience you have as a materials writer, no matter whether you’re writing for print or for digital, there are certain core skills that every writer needs to master.
Can you write an effective multiple choice question? Can you write audio and video scripts that sound authentic? Can you write a great artwork brief and make your pictures ‘pay their way’? Can you use technology to make your writing better and more efficient? Can you write activities for video? Can you use corpus tools? Can you handle the challenge of writing ESP material? Can you take content that you know works in your classroom and make it work in a coursebook?
In this highly interactive PCE, MaWSIG ran a series of short workshops from Sue Kay, Ben Goldstein, Ceri Jones, Nick Tims, John Hughes, Kieran Donaghy, Anna Whitcher, Julie Moore, Evan Frendo and Christien Lee. Attendees had the chance to work with these leading materials writers to learn, to ask questions, and to share expertise.
Download the programme here:
Some of the speakers created short preview videos. You can view them below.
On Saturday 7 March 2015, Genevieve White and Emily Bryson gave a free webinar called ‘Horrible History: Rising to the challenge of writing engaging materials.’ Genevieve and Emily were relatively new to materials writing when they started writing on the British Council Anniversaries Project. In this webinar, they reflected on their personal development and provide practical tips on how to create classroom materials that make both history and English interesting! The British Council Anniversaries Project celebrates 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta, 450 years since Shakespeare was born and 100 years since the end of the First World War.
MaWFest: the MaWSIG Online Materials Writing Festival
The MaWSIG Online Materials Writing Festival was a free, one-day, online-only event held on 14 December 2014. The day featured a mix of online Q&As, a Twitter hashtag chat and a Facebook panel discussion.
The line up included:
- Online Q&A with Liz Soars, co-author of Headway
- Twitter hashtag chat: #askedit with Karen White and Lyn Strutt
- Online Q&A with Nick Sheard (Head of Adult Publishing, ELT Division, Oxford University Press)
- Facebook panel chat with Mila Rendle (Head of Consumer Publishing, Cambridge University Press), Katie Nielson (Chief Education Officer, Voxy) and Lindsay Clandfield (Co-founder, The Round)
- Online Q&A with Sam Missingham, Head of Events at Harper Collins UK
The first MaWSIG meetup was held in London on 10 November 2014. There is a blog post about it here.
MaWSIG May 2014
MaWSIG May presented a series of webinars from speakers at the forefront of ELT. The recordings are available for viewing; please log in on the IATEFL homepage.
- Karen Spiller and Sue Kay on ‘How to become an ELT materials writer’.
- Lindsay Clandfield on ‘Mistakes of a rookie writer’.
- Ben Goldstein on ‘Seeing the big picture’.
- Fiona Mauchline on ‘Writing for teens – personalising, imagination and the Twilight Zone’.
New Directions in Materials Writing, January 2014
Our first event pre-dates this website, but there is a report on it in our first newsletter, Building Materials, which can be viewed in the Member Area of the IATEFL website. You can also read about it in Sophie’s Storify.