MaWSIG Past Events
Visit our blog to find summaries and Q&As from many of these events, and much more!
Toggle the information below to find more details about our past events, including when and where they happened, who was involved, and what was discussed.
If you’d like to organise an event with MaWSIG, contact our events team.
IATEFL PCEs and Showcases
IATEFL Belfast 2022 PCE
IATEFL Harrogate 2023 Pre-Conference Event: Materials creation: More than just the student's book
Monday 17 April 2023, IATEFL Harrogate
When considering learning materials, it’s easy to focus on the student’s book, and to overlook the fact that materials creation involves a wide variety of other components. In our 2023 PCE, we’re exploring other aspects of our work, including the various elements of a coursebook package, learner reference materials, materials that teachers write for their own classrooms, and resources that learners access through social media. In fact, we’ll be talking about everything but the student’s book!
These are some of the key questions we are hoping to answer:
- What skills are involved in developing different material types?
- What principles underlie this area of materials creation?
- How do the materials reflect current thinking on teaching and learning?
- How might someone get involved in this type of materials creation?
- What are your top tips for creating these materials?
The day will be packed with talks on the approaches that materials developers take in different contexts. We will cover a range of materials that supplement, extend or even replace the student’s book. There will be plenty of opportunities for networking throughout the day.
This was our first ever hybrid PCE, with participants joining us in Harrogate and via Zoom.
IATEFL Harrogate 2023 MaWSIG Showcase
Thursday 20 April 2023, IATEFL Harrogate
The IATEFL SIG’s Showcase days are a collection of talks related to the SIG. For convenience, the talks are all held in the same room. The MaWSIG Open Forum is a chance for you to: hear a summary of MaWSIG’s activities over the past year, ask questions, and input into the SIG’s activities in the future.
IATEFL Belfast 2022 Pre-Conference Event: Exploring dichotomies, bridging gaps and joining the dots
Monday 16 May 2022, IATEFL Belfast
Following on from 2021’s successful PCE, and maintaining its practical approach, the MaWSIG PCE will explore the various stages that materials travel through on their way to the classroom. Does the route involve bridgeable gaps, or dots we can work to join up more effectively? We’ll be discussing some of the key questions and dichotomies that can crop up along the way. For example:
- What shapes ELT materials more: market demand, pedagogical theory, or research?
- What are the obstacles to making materials inclusive?
- What are the constraints that affect the journey of materials from the initial concept to final product?
- Is it possible to self-publish successfully without the marketing forces of a publishing company behind you?
- Writing materials for our own classroom: how do teachers ensure quality and fit?
Our PCE included both stimulating talks and time for discussion, as well as plenty of opportunities for reflection and networking.
IATEFL Belfast 2022 MaWSIG Showcase
Wednesday 18 May 2022, IATEFL Belfast
The IATEFL SIG’s Showcase days are a collection of talks related to the SIG. For convenience, the talks are all held in the same room. At 14.10 we will hold the MaWSIG Open Forum – a chance for you to: hear a summary of MaWSIG’s activities over the past year, ask questions, and input into the SIG’s activities in the future.
IATEFL Online 2021 Pre-Conference Event (delayed from 2020): Practical tools and tricks of the trade: sharing our expertise
IATEFL Liverpool 2019 Pre-Conference event (with LITSIG): Creative Arts and Materials Writing
1st April 2019
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.
IATEFL Brighton 2018 Pre-Conference event: Writing for the world
9th April 2018
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.
IATEFL Brighton 2018: SIG Showcase
11th April 2018
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.
IATEFL Glasgow 2017 Pre-Conference Event: Nuts and bolts: practical considerations for the ELT materials professional
3rd April 2017
The sessions were as follows:
How to become a lean, mean writing machine (Daniel Barber)
If you want to be a freelance writer, you will need to learn to manage your time. Dan will talk about making the transition from classroom to computer, how to avoid squandering entire afternoons on Wikipedia and what it’s like working with a coach.
Optimising the author−editor relationship (Penny Hands)
The relationship between author and editor is key to a successful materials development experience. Penny will talk about her research into what makes this relationship work. There will be opportunities for participants to share their own experiences. For a preview of Penny’s talk, click here.
A short introduction to negotiating contracts (Chris Lonsdale)
Negotiating contracts is a key activity in ELT publishing, yet it is not an activity that many of us know much about. Chris Lonsdale, academic and corporate trainer at the University of Birmingham’s Business School, will provide an outline of the key things you need to know to successfully navigate negotiations. For a preview, click here.
Creativity, collaboration and coursebooks (Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton)
This interactive session provides insights into what publishers are looking for from authors, what makes a good editor, and how authors fit into the bigger picture. You will be presented with a range of publishers’ perspectives and also have the opportunity to discuss your own ideas and reactions. For a preview, click here.
IATEFL Birmingham 2016 Pre-Conference Event: Print vs. digital: Is it really a competition?
12th April 2016
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.
IATEFL Manchester 2015 Pre-Conference Event: The Material Writer's Essential Toolkit
10th April 2015
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.
MaWSIG members can log in to their IATEFL dashboard to watch recordings of many of these webinars. Once logged in, click on ‘My Resources’, then select the ‘SIG Resources’ button. Select MaWSIG from the list under ‘Filter by SIG’ to view the recordings.
Writing materials that develop reading skills
Wednesday 21 September 2023
Presented by Mark Heffernan & David Byrne
Reading activities are commonplace in EFL materials. However, typically many of these activities practise the skills as opposed to developing them. In this talk we will examine how reading is often presented in EFL materials, making the case that practice alone will not lead to perfection.
We will propose an alternative approach, exploring how to write materials that raise learners’ awareness of reading skills, and develop as opposed to practise or test these skills
Entering the world of materials writing
Wednesday 19 July 2023
Presented by Bethan Stokes
As a teacher, we all create and develop our own materials in some shape or form. But how do we ‘become’ materials writers? I’ve been asking myself this question for a number of years and have finally decided to try and find out. This webinar will give you an insight into my journey of getting started in materials writing and hopefully answer some of your questions about taking the first steps. I’ll also show you how I try to write materials which are fun and get students talking about interesting, current and often controversial topics. We’ll also touch on teacher’s notes (and my love/hate relationship with them.)
PCE Cool-Down webinar: Preparing materials for teaching vs for testing in ELT
Tuesday 30th May 2023
Presented by Defne Akinci Midas
This session focuses on the different features of the materials prepared for teaching and learning in the ELT classroom compared to those for language testing. The presenter will elaborate on how to prepare quality course materials together with the reasons why they cannot be replaced by materials prepared for testing. The session provides insight and practical tips for teachers and anyone involved in creating teaching materials and tests in ELT.
It continues the theme of materials writing beyond the coursebook which we explored in our Pre-Conference Event (PCE) at IATEFL Harrogate 2023.
PCE Warm-Up Webinar: Check, check, check – A checklist to develop materials based on storybooks
Tuesday 28th March 2023
Presented by Ana Clara Castilho Ramos
Ana Clara Castilho Ramos
Teaching early years requires a specific set of skills, and materials for this age group should reflect the young learners’ holistic and language needs. Accordingly, there are many benefits to using picture books and story-based materials. This talk aims at presenting a checklist with a blend of practical and theoretical insights into how to develop effective materials based on storybooks. We will explore the principles and beliefs used in the design of the checklist, and how you can use it to produce your own materials for young EFL learners.
PCE Warm-Up Webinar: Self-Publishing ELT Materials
Friday 24th February 2023
Presented by Walton Burns
Self-publishing is an increasingly viable, accessible and affordable option that allows for the creation of ELT materials that have a regional focus, fill a particular niche, or use innovative methods. What’s more, self-publishing lets writers enjoy the greater levels of freedom and control over content, marketing, and sales. Self-publishing often allows authors to earn a greater royalty per book, potentially earning more money. Some prefer to publish in conjunction with their institution or even give the materials away, options that for-profit corporations don’t always allow.
MaWSIG Meets TESOL Spain Webinar: The what, the why and the how of writing a Teacher’s book
Friday 9 December 2022
Presented by Annie Altimarino
When it comes to creating materials for use in a variety of international contexts, teachers’ books have been discussed far less than the related coursebooks for students.
This webinar will be aimed at explaining why the teacher’s book is as important as the other components of a coursebook pack, what is involved in writing a teacher’s book for use in various international contexts, the challenges we face when writing for such diverse contexts and how to overcome context- / cultural- specific issues.
MaWSIG meets NATE Russia: Developing teaching aids with surprise pedagogy in mind
Friday 25 February 2022
Presented by Ludmila Kozhevnikova and Peter Stepichev
Teaching aids are an excellent resource for teaching and learning. Not only do they make classes more interesting and effective, they also help teachers present material in a creative and engaging way. Moreover, teaching aids help teachers accommodate students’ different learning preferences and individual needs.
In this webinar, we discussed how we can add value to teaching aids by employing the principles of “surprise pedagogy”. We looked at designing teaching aids that both entertain and educate students, thus boosting motivation and encouraging learning. This was illustrated by the tools developed for young learners: “a grammar mug” and “grammar blocks”.
Creating ELT materials with no words (or very few)
Saturday 20th February 2021
Presented by Jen Dobson
Materials for early childhood English tend not to contain much text and cap appear deceptively simple; however, in order to develop successful lessons, materials writers need a wealth of classroom experience and an in-depth understanding of how young children develop and learn. In this webinar, I’ll share tips and answer questions about creating engaging classes that not only involve the whole child, but also evoke curiosity and are full of humour and play.
Making materials that reflect the realities of marginalised groups
Sunday 23rd February 2020
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.
MaWSIG meets YLT SIG: Moving away from exams dominance in YL materials
15th November 2019
Presented by 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.
Joint webinar with TESOL Association MWIS: So many ‘Englishes’! What does this mean for ELT writers and publishers?
17th July 2019
Presented by Sherrise Roehr and Karen Spiller
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.
What about writing CLIL materials?
25th November 2018
Presented by Prof. Henning Rossa and Dr Karoline Wirbatz
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.
Course (be)ware: key lessons in online course development – a follow-up from IATEFL
20th May 2015
Presented by Paul Sweeney
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?
MaWSIG meets SPELT & NELTA: Materials promoting Learner Autonomy in Large Classes with Limited Resources
Friday 26th November 2021
Presented by Prof. Zakia Sarwar & Dr. Ganga Ram Gautam
In this webinar, teachers from two organizations, Society Of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT) and Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA), will share their successfully used materials and activities in large classes with limited resources. These materials acknowledge the fact that in most developing countries, digital learning facilities are either scarce or erratic. The materials are designed to encourage autonomy and self-esteem in learners as well as relating these fun learning materials and activities to their own educational contexts. This results in nurturing a positive “can do” attitude in learners, as they are exposed to meaningful language learning activities, even without a multitude of resources.
Reinventing the (Green) Wheel
Friday 15th January 2021
Presented by Kath Bilsborough and Ceri Jones
Innovation doesn’t have to mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sometimes a tried-and-tested classroom activity can be transformed into a more meaningful experience with just a tweak – in this case a green tweak. We’ll start this webinar with a short lesson using familiar tasks with an environmental twist. Then learners and observers will discuss the lesson, identify pros and cons, and share their views on being expected to teach green issues in the English classroom. We’ll end by drawing conclusions and discussing questions from the audience.
MaWSIG meets GI SIG: Making good materials for everyone, everywhere, no matter how much money they have
25th January 2020
Presented by 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.
MaWSIG meets TD SIG: Making materials on topics that are excluded from mainstream coursebooks
11th October 2019
Presented by 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.
What about writing Teacher’s Guides?
12th January 2018
Presented by Elaine Hodgson
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.
What about creating technology-enhanced materials?
13th October 2018
Presented by Vicky Saumell
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.
From pen to press - your questions answered
18th February 2017
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.
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.
31st May 2015
Presented by Cleve Miller
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.
From general to specific: Materials for EAP vocabulary teaching
Friday 26 March 2021
Presented by Clare Maas
Vocabulary often comes across as the neglected sibling of grammar structures in syllabi and coursebooks. Particularly in EAP and ESP, though, developing specialised lexical competence and awareness of register is essential. In this webinar, I’ll discuss what it means to truly ‘know’ a word or expression, and share ideas for materials and activity types that help us to provide opportunities for learners to develop this knowledge. Examples will be from my own EAP materials, but the ideas will be adaptable and applicable to other contexts, too.
Looking back: looking forward – 10 tips for 2021-friendly materials
Friday 11th December 2020
Presented by Fiona Mauchline
Although we don’t know what lies ahead for teachers, we can be sure there will be some distance learning, some remote teaching and some face-to-face interaction. In certain contexts – like mine – there will be a bit of everything. So, what knowledge, new and old, can we apply to our ELT materials to make them engaging and productive for both teachers and learners? Come along and get 10 tips for 2021-friendly materials: ask questions, share thoughts and discuss ideas.
MaWSIG meets BESIG: Making materials that reflect learner realities
6th December 2019
Presented by John Hughes
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.
MaWSIG meets ReSIG: Making more principle-led, quality materials
20th September 2019
Presented by Heather Buchanan
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.
What about writing grammar activities?
9th December 2018
Presented by Dr Catherine Walter
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.
What about principles for ELT writers?
8th September 2018
Presented by Brian Tomlinson
6th May 2015
Presented by Jill Hadfield
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.’
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).
Horrible History: Rising to the challenge of writing engaging materials
7th March 2015
Presented by Genevieve White and Emily Bryson
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.
How to publish your own materials - from writing to publishing to marketing
3rd June 2017
Presented by Nik Peachey
MaWSIG May 2014
MaWSIG May presented a series of webinars from speakers at the forefront of ELT.
- 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’
Networking events and get-togethers
If you would like to organise a similar event in your local area, please get in touch with our Events Coordinators.
Online networking: MaWSIG December end-of-year get-together
Thursday 15 December 2022
The MaWSIG team invites fellow ELT teachers, materials writers, editors and publishers to our end-of-year get-together. ‘Zoom’ in from wherever you are to catch up with friends and colleagues old and new for quizzes, networking and a chat at this informal social event. Bring your own drinks and snacks!
MaWSIG Meetup: Edinburgh, Scotland
Friday 11 November 2022
Fifteen members and non-members, all based north of the border, met up in the Antiquary pub in Edinburgh for an evening of catching up and sharing ideas. The gathering brought together materials writers, teachers, and one translator. We enjoyed introducing friends and colleagues old and new to the group, and finding out and sharing ‘one thing not many people know’ about each other. Fun and food was had by all.
MaWSIG Meetup: Edinburgh, Scotland
Friday 11 November 2022
Fifteen members and non-members, all based north of the border, met up in the Antiquary pub in Edinburgh for an evening of catching up and sharing ideas. The gathering brought together materials writers, teachers, and one translator. We enjoyed introducing friends and colleagues old and new to the group, and finding out and sharing ‘one thing not many people know’ about each other. Fun and food was had by all.
Online networking: MaWSIG December festive get-together
Thursday 16th December 2021
Our annual get-together took place online, and was a great chance to network with members of MaWSIG.
The Magical Merry MaWSIG Meet-Up (online)
Thursday 17th December 2020
Christmas party, Oxford, UK
15th December 2016
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.
MaWSIG festive get-together 2021
The MaWSIG and ELT Freelancers joint Christmas Party, Oxford, UK
Wednesday 11th December 2019, The Wig and Pen, Oxford, UK
23rd September 2015
This MaWSIG Meetup, in conjunction with ELT Teacher 2 Writer, was held at The Slug And Lettuce, Oxford.
30th June 2016
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 Xmas Party, Oxford, UK
13th December 2018
MaWSIG Meetup in Trier, Germany
14th January 2017
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.
25th June 2015
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.
The first MaWSIG Meetup, London
10th November 2014
The first MaWSIG meetup was held in London on 10 November 2014. There is a blog post about it here.
Joint conference with Oxford Brookes University: Materials writing: opportunities and challenges, Oxford, UK
22–23 June 2018
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.
ELTAM and MaWSIG one-day conference, Skopje, Macedona
30th September 2017
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.
MaWFest online festival 2014
14th December 2014
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
Did you miss our first MaWFest? Check out a blog report here.
TESOL Spain conference, Madrid: one-day MaWSIG strand
9th-11th March 2018
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!
Every primary classroom has its own unique culture, composed of a variety of children with different strengths and abilities so Kath Bilsborough offered a ‘DIY guide to producing excellent tailor-made primary materials’. Classroom materials play an important role in nurturing a positive, inclusive environment where every child achieves success. In this workshop, Kath looked at some key considerations in crafting appropriate materials, and you will design some tailor-made resources for your own learners.
Jen Dobson and Michelle Worgan talked about ‘Becoming an independent ELT writer’. They shared their experiences, both good and bad. They gave practical advice on the type of work you can expect to find and how, fundamentals about freelancing in Spain, and the qualities you need to succeed whether going independent, or supplementing your existing income.
Amanda McLoughlin talked about ‘Creating critical thinking activities for the English classroom’. This session asked what critical creativity is in the language classroom and looked at activity types which encourage critical creativity in our learners.
Jo Tomlinson and Fiona Aish’s workshop ‘The Art of Task Construction’ explored how to create good tasks which engage students and fulfil learning outcomes successfully.
The MaWSIG keynote speaker, Clare Maas of Trier University (Germany), asked ‘How can research inform our ELT materials writing?’ Clare’s talk translated her insights into accessible advice for anyone writing ELT resources. She showed you how you can engage with, and engage in, relevant research when creating materials for your own classrooms or publication, and also considered implications for integrating cultural elements.
MaWSIG Conference, London: New ways of working for new ways of learning
20th 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.
IATEFL Web Conference: Ways into Material Writing
24th November 2017
Panel members were:
Tania Pattison – Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Tania is a freelance writer/editor based in Ontario, Canada. As a writer, Tania specialises in EAP. She authored Critical Reading (Pearson Canada, 2015) and is currently working on a new EAP project. As an editor, Tania has worked on a variety of materials, from academic texts to young learner materials; her clients have included OUP, Richmond, the British Council and many others. She has also been editor of IATEFL Conference Selections since 2010. Tania’s other projects include editor and teacher training, curriculum design, and she still occasionally finds time to go back to the classroom to teach EAP.
Rachael Roberts – Leamington Spa, UK
Rachael has been working as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer for more than 25 years. She is the author of several coursebooks for adults, upper secondary and Cambridge exams, as well as other smaller projects. Currently she spends most of her time writing, but still teaches on an ad-hoc basis. She also devotes rather too much time to twitter (@teflerinha) and to her website – writing free materials and posts on different aspects of materials writing and teaching at www.elt-resourceful.com.
Lewis Lansford – York, UK
Lewis got his first taste of teaching English in Barcelona in the late 1980s. The experience inspired him to get a Master’s in TESOL, after which he taught at a university language center in Arizona and then a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, he took an editorial job with a major publisher in Hong Kong developing materials for Asia, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer in the UK, writing full time for the past ten years. He has worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for English learners of all ages across the world.
Deb Tricker (Richmond) – Oxford, UK
Deb started teaching English for OISE during her university vacations nearly four decades ago, and has flipped between teaching and publishing, inhouse and freelance, since she answered an ad for a bilingual dictionaries editor in 1985. She has worked for Pearson, CUP and OUP, and since 2008 has been Group Publishing Director at Richmond Santillana. Deb was an ELT research consultant for OUP in Spain, and over the years has spoken to hundreds of teachers in different countries about their classroom situation and needs. She has commissioned print and digital materials for primary, secondary, adult, exams, grammar, vocabulary and readers.
Andrew Dilger (OUP) – Oxford, UK
Andrew Dilger is a Managing Editor at Oxford University Press. With over 15 years’ experience in ELT publishing, he has commissioned, edited, or project managed a variety of titles in the following areas: Adult (general English), Business English, ESP, Exams, Professional Development, Secondary (general English), and Graded Readers. In a freelance capacity, he has also worked with Pearson, CUP and Richmond. Prior to working in publishing, Andrew was an EFL teacher and trainer and worked in more than 10 different countries.
MaWFest online festival: Images and copyright
7th November 2015
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 first MaWSIG event: New Directions in Materials Writing
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.