In Developing Materials for Language Teaching (2013) Tomlinson introduces a text-driven approach to materials development. He goes into quite a bit of detail regarding text selection, offers a suggested framework for the approach and provides a practical example (pages 99-114). I won’t attempt to summarise, I’ll just say read the chapter! It was the most useful and applicable reading I undertook on my recent MA course.
For the purpose of this post, here’s the framework overview, taken from Tomlinson (2013:110, ©Bloomsbury)
We had to plan a lesson using the text-driven approach for a unit assignment. I chose to use my favourite poem as the text – Blessing by Imtiaz Dharker. Here’s a nice dramatization of it (I think originally BBC):
You can find the full text here
These activities are pitched at upper-intermediate, for young adults/adults.
I’m based in Bangkok, hence the personalisation in the first activity…
- you’re walking around the centre of Bangkok
- it’s 35 degrees, and you are in the sun
- you’ve no water and you really need a drink
How do you feel? How does your body feel? What would you do?
- all the shopping malls, restaurants, etc are shut so you have to stay outside in the heat
- no shops have any water or drinks available
- nobody else can offer you a drink of water
- the temperature has gone up to 38 degrees
- you’ve been outside for nearly a day
What would you do? How do you feel now?
Now imagine… you see a water truck across the road spraying fresh water
What would you do?
- Share your thoughts with a partner. Did you feel/do similar?
- You’re going to hear a poem about a similar event to above. Change the picture in your mind from your own feelings to the feelings of this person:
4. Teacher reads students the poem
Do you think the man’s feelings/actions are similar or different to yours? Why/how?
Intake response activities
- Work with a partner. Look back at the poem.
Partner 1 – read lines 1 – 17
Partner 2 – listen to Partner 1 read the poem. Mime the man’s actions/expressions
Read the poem again.
Partner 1 – pause after lines 2, 6, 8 and 11
Partner 2 – Close your eyes. Listen to the poem. When your partner pauses, say the first word/phrase you think of.
Development activities 1
6. Do one of the following:
- Imagine you’re the man. Run inside your house and tell your wife what’s happening
- Write a short newspaper report (80-100 words) on the event in the poem
- You are an engineer arriving at the scene. Call your manager and explain what’s happening
- Storyboard the poem (drawing) in 6 – 8 stages
7. In ‘Blessing’ the people need/wish for water during the long, dry season.
Think about something you really need or wish to happen. E.g.
- Meeting the love of your life
- Passing a test
- Seeing an old friend
Write a short poem (2 verses). Describe your feelings before (verse 1) and after (verse 2) the event happens.
Share your poem with a partner.
Input response activities
8. Language bits and bobs
A quick matching task just to clarify a few words
Match the words with the correct definition…
flash drip splash rush crash
frantic scream polish echo flow
- do something very quickly
- sound that is produced when sound waves bounce off a surface
- cause (water or another liquid) to move in a noisy way or messy way
- make (something) smooth and shiny
- suddenly cry out in a loud and high voice
- appear quickly or suddenly
- make a loud noise by falling, hitting something, etc.
- of liquid, gas, or electricity : to move in a steady and continuous way
- having a lot of wild and hurried activity
- fall in drops
Work with a partner. Find words in the text that relate to each of the themes below:
the body/the senses:
materials / elements:
Why do you think the poet has chosen these themes?
Read line 11: ‘a roar of tongues’.
If you don’t know the word ‘roar’, look it up in a dictionary. Why do you think the poet chose this word?
Development activity 2
- Learners look back at their poems and improve them based on language work in exercise 10. For example, they could try and include actions, themes, a metaphor, etc.
Two things I like about this approach
- You can differentiate and give learners choices at various stages
- It really suits drama activities and encourages lots of personal responses from learners
Two things I dislike about this approach
- Unrealistic planning time. If you’re writing it for a course book or a published lesson, great. But wow, it took a long time to think through…
- I feel the approach is more suited to higher levels in general
So, over to you:
- Have you used this text-driven approach before?
- What benefits/problems can you see with this approach in general?
- Would you teach the lesson above? Why/Why not?
Tomlinson, B. (2013). ‘Developing principled frameworks for materials development’. In Tomlinson, B (Ed). Developing Materials for Language Teaching. London: Bloomsbury
Feature image (c) Bloomsbury