Materials Development Task 3: Images

This is a new series of blog posts for teachers looking to become materials writers. It aims to help future writers explore topics and issues in writing, encourage deeper insight into the content of published materials, and promote a principled approach to materials development.

Think…

As a writer you might need to provide artwork briefs. These are descriptions of an image you’d like an editor to source or commission. Describing images in detail can be part of the writing process. Let’s practice.

Describe the image below in as much detail as you can. I’ll start you off:

An illustration to show ‘old’, ‘older’, ‘oldest’. Banner title: Comparatives and Superlatives. Below the title, …

Copyright Dreamstime

DON’T READ ON UNTIL YOUR DESCRIPTION IS COMPLETE.

Look back at your description. Which of these features did you mention?

facial expressions, facial hair, wrinkles, grey hair to signify age, glasses, race, gender, skin tone, style of dress, props to signify stage of life, body shape, posture.

  • Do you think that as a writer you might have input into such features?
  • How important would you say some of these features are? I.e. is it important that the man wears glasses?
  • How might the target market for the resource affect the choice of image?
  • How would you feel about explicitly mentioning some of these features in an art brief?
  • How might writing a brief for an image such as this become problematic?

Analyse

Review a range of images from published ELT materials. Preferably look over the units from one particular resource (e.g. a coursebook).

Consider the following:

  • What is the coverage like in the images, regarding race, gender, age, ability, etc?
  • Are there any images which you feel play to stereotypes in any way?
  • Would you say that there’s a bias in the images? If so, what? Might there be a justifiable reason for such bias?
  • Do you feel like any images have been used in a tokenistic way?
  • Do you have any comments regarding the choice of infographics or illustrations used in the resource?

Summarise your overall impression of the images used in the resource.

Task 1

Look back some of your own materials – ones including images. Reflect on your choice of images – how conscious were the choices you made? Would you change anything now? Why/why not?

Task 2a

You’ve been writing a unit on conflict for a publisher. It will appear in an adult General English coursebook for the European market. You’ve covered a whole range of topics related to conflict, including family feuds, opposing political viewpoints, Brexit, civil war, peace agreements, and environmental conflict related to natural resources. The publisher has decided to run with this as the header image:

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

  • In what ways might this choice be problematic?

Task 2b

Suggest an alternative image to represent ‘conflict’. Write a brief description of the image. Justify why this might be better.

Final thoughts…

Writing artwork briefs can be tricky, and the images selected may not always work as intended. This summary of an article by Hewings offers some insight into the way images can be perceived by learners.

For more on artwork briefs, see here.

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