Materials writing conversations #5: the recording

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

Editor: We need to get all the listening texts finalised by early next week, as we’ll be in the studio on Wednesday and Thursday.

Me: Okay. Two full days in the studio. Sounds busy. I guess there’s a lot to record.

Editor: Yeah. It’s always a rigmarole booking studio time, making sure everything is ready and all that. Luckily, the two voice actors we used for the previous levels were both available again, so that saves some hassle.

Me: Wait. The same two voice actors? (more…)

Materials writing news and views, September 2019

September already? It’ll soon be Xmas…

New releases

Deborah Hobbs (author) mentioned the release of ‘Open World’ (CUP). This is from the Cambridge English website:

Open World is an exciting new course from Cambridge which takes you further. Embark on a journey beyond the traditional boundaries between exam preparation and real-world language.

The book looks a bit Life-y based on that front cover.

Paul Ashe announced the release of New Hello! for the market in Egypt. If you’re interested about the context that this book will be used in then here’s a summary of ELT in Egypt from the British Council.

There are inspection copies out for C21 from Garnet Education. If I manage to get a copy I’ll review it. There’s an uber-positive review on their site about it, which was published in the EL Gazette.

Every publisher seems to be marketing books as developing ‘21st Century Skills’ these days. I’ve just googled a list of core ‘21st Century Skills’… eeek. I’m a crap leader, fairly unproductive, sometimes inflexible and not that creative. Send me the book Garnet, I can learn from it…

Emily Bryson has just written ’50 Ways to Teach Life Skills’ for Wayzgoose Press.

MaWSIG webinar(s)

Don’t forget this IATEFL MaWSIG webinar on Friday. I’ll be at work but hopefully I’ll get it on catch-up…

There’s another talk on 11th October with the authors of Raise Up, which I’ve mentioned before. Link to MaWSIG upcoming events here.

Good reads

‘A five-minute history of script writing in ELT materials’ – a post from 2016 by John Hughes.

Book review: Activities for task-based learning (the two Neils) – review by Allison Lewis.

The Quizlet Quest – a good example of how to introduce a new tech tool to learners, from Katherine Martinkevich. Publishers should include stuff like this to orientate learners to their digital resources.

I’ve been dipping in and out of ‘Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development’ (edited by Dat Bao, 2018). Most of the book is available on Google Books as a preview, NICE!

I know, I’m always harping on about Tomlinson. But…

What I really like about the guy is, as you’ll see in his chapter on ‘making typical coursebook activities more beneficial for the learner’, he never shirks giving clear, practical examples. Here’s some basic suggestions for how to tweak closed questions to make them more challenging and personalized:

Every time I read Tomlinson’s words I feel like I’m reading a real practitioner’s words. I don’t always agree, but I really value his voice in the industry.


There’s a new online community at Freeed for ELT teachers. Freeed is a platform for sharing resources, collaborating, and discussing ELT-related topics. It’s just taking off. You need a login. There’s a giveaway on the platform this month of Sandy Millin’s ELT Playbook.


The jobspots on ELT Publishing Professionals are getting more frequent. There is an excellent role available RIGHT NOW if you’re looking for your first materials writing gig. It’s with Wall Street English, and it will be live for another 2 days, so sign up and apply!!!

Other than that, standard stuff. Integra always seem to be after people. York Press Freelancers have just put a call out for a content editor. See Facebook group for details. I haven’t had many alerts from the big publishers this month about things like Development Editor roles.

This month I’ve mostly been…

  • celebrating! The coursebook will be out late October, and my other work is going really well.
  • worrying! There’s an editorial change on a project I’m working on. Will the new editor hate me?!
  • joking around! Here’s one of my imaginary materials writing conversations, which some of you have been positive about.
  • reviewing… new materials for an in-house product. I cannot believe it – I’ve not come across one pun in the materials yet. Rubbish.

If you only read one materials writing related thing this month…

The next course of TASK-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING (TBLT): FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE from SLB Co-op is starting on November 8th. There’s an early bird price for now.

Lesson idea: ‘used to’ for describing past appearance

I made this activity up in class and it worked well! Really creative, loads of interesting language, and also a good way to practice ‘used to’ for describing past appearance.


  • Students work in pairs
  • Everyone has some scrap paper (or the back of their handout). Tell students they have 1 minute to draw their partner. 1 minute only.
  • So, Student A has drawn student B, right? Now, Student As swap drawings with each other. Student Bs swap too. They have one minute to add loads of random features onto each drawing. Random things like strange tattoos, unicorn horns (!), I don’t know… anything they want. Then they give the sketch back to the original artist.
  • Pause for some laughter
  • So, Student A now has a distorted sketch of their partner, Student B. Tell them that this is what their partner looked like 10 years ago. Back then, Student A and Student B were old schoolmates… They haven’t seen each other in ages!
  • Board part of a dialogue, like this…


Materials writing conversations #4: the artwork brief

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

[Researched photo: someone sunbathing]

Comment (design): Can you be more specific? E.g. male/female, etc

[Researched photo: an image to match the phrase ‘I enjoy sunbathing’. A male, perhaps…]

Comment (design): Can you be more specific? Is the speaker male or female?

[[Researched photo: an image to match the phrase ‘I enjoy sunbathing’. I’m not sure if the speaker is male or female. I have requested that the speaker is male, but I don’t know until this is recorded. Maybe the best thing to do is stick with a generic reference to sunbathing, e.g. an image of a bottle of sun cream]

Comment (development editor): Given issues with appropriacy, perhaps a male would be better? (more…)

Materials writing conversations #3: natural, authentic speech

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

Editor: So, do you have any suggestions for the pronunciation stage? We were thinking of, maybe, catenation.

Me: Right. Okay, I can do that. If it appears in the listening text I mean.

Editor: What do you mean?

Me: Well, just… if catenation is a feature of the text. Like, if catenation is actually used by the speakers in the dialogue.

Editor: Well… it will be. If we decide it’s the main pronunciation point for this spread then…

Me: Hang on, can we back up a bit here? Aren’t we doing things backwards? (more…)

Materials writing conversations #2: death, death, death

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

Editor: You’re coming up with some great material for the ‘Extremes’ unit. I love the texts! I do have one issue though…

Me: Okay, which is…?

Editor: I think they need some tweaking

Me: you mean completely rewriting, right?

Editor: No… Yes.

Me: Okay. Which ones?

Editor: Well, there was this one about Mount Everest.

Me: you mean Mount Qomolangma, right? (more…)

Tweaking my young learner teaching

I start my PGCEi next month. I’m really looking forward to having an extra reason to reflect on my classroom practice, overall approach, etc, and delving into research about how children learn and develop.

I’m focusing on primary level learners during the course. I have experience teaching ‘upper’ primary age groups (aged 9-11), but I’d love to learn more about teaching younger primary learners. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone teaching younger learners during the CELTA YL extension course a few years ago. With this in mind, the PGCEi is a perfect opportunity to gain more experience and understanding of YL teaching and child development. (more…)