For those unable to attend the MaWSIG-LitSIG joint Pre-Conference Event in Liverpool on 1 April 2019, and to refresh the memories of the 95 people who did, MaWSIG is publishing several posts over the next fortnight recapping each session. To outline what’s in store for you, Christien van Gool, the Social Media Co-ordinator for LitSIG, has written this overview of the day.

The Pre-Conference Event, ‘Creative Arts and Materials Writing’ was opened by the two coordinators: Aleksandra Popovski of MaWSIG and Robert Hill of LitSIG, with a large audience of 95 people. The opening talk was given by Professor David Crystal with a talk entitled ‘Language BLANK Literature: from Conjunction to Preposition’. Crystal started his talk with a nice quote from Robert Graves: ‘A poet … must master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them’ (1961) to illustrate that often language and literature are divided but that in fact they are two sides of the same coin. We received a handout with four examples: Naming of Parts by Henry Reed, an extract from The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, Sunday Words by John Kitching and an extract from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. In this last play there’s a scene where the two characters are playing with questions – which led Crystal to talk about Shakespeare: the perfect place where language and literature come together. And he gave us a taste of Original Pronunciation (OP): ‘OP gives a fresh insight into language (e.g. rhyme and puns)’.

Christina Klein Wolf and Eduardo Wolf explained how they worked in an EAP context with Shakespeare texts. The criteria for text selection are: popularity of the plays, accessibility (film, videos), thematic relevance, linguistic relevance and genre diversity. The main point that Chris made is that Shakespeare teaches students to dare with language and therefore he is a great author for both students and teachers to work with.

Cheryl Palin in ‘Taking a leaf out of the books of great writers’ delighted us with a number of quotes from great writers to inspire us in our writing. She showed that even well-known writers can experience writer’s block but that they have tricks to overcome problems that we can learn from. (Dickens went on long walks when he got stuck, for example).

Alan Pulverness talked us through the BritLit project, which ran from 2004 to 2013, and started in Portugal. Alan outlined the scope and relevance of the project: he explained that almost 50 ‘kits’ were produced, which can still be found online (on The idea was to bring extensive reading alive. The main focus was on short stories that were authentic.

Hania Bociek highlighted yet another aspect of materials development: using pictures and paintings. Pictures can be used in a number of ways and are a good way to get discussion going for several (linguistic) reasons. Of course, it’s important to choose the right picture, but the internet is such a rich source (often museums have databases) that it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that fits the purpose.

Alice Savage and Walton Burns showed us how scripts such as plays and videos are a natural resource for teaching speaking skills. Unlike textbook dialogues, which are usually written to highlight vocabulary or grammar, scripts often use natural language and realistic contexts to teach the ‘hidden’ language of pragmatics (use of intonation, gesture, implicit meanings etc.).

Finally, Helen Holwill and Nicola Prentis enlightened us on how to write a graded reader (with reference to both adaptations and original titles). Both Helen and Nicola write graded readers, so they gave us inside information on how to get started. The challenge of adaptations is that you have to edit quite a bit in order to make a new story that has the same feeling. For original titles, of course, you need much more creativity in thinking up a plot that works.

Christien van Gool has been an English teacher since 1980 and has mainly worked in secondary education. She has been active in the Teachers’ Association in her home country (the Netherlands), organising seminars and conferences since 1986 and acting as main editor for Levende Talen Magazine. Her other roles over the years include writing materials, writing columns, and translating. She has been involved in the IATEFL Literature Special Interest Group as Social Media Co-ordinator since 2014.