I’ve been working on a cool new series of functional Business English lessons for ESL Library. Here’s a bit about the approach taken and my experience of working with ESL Library.
The overall content
Here’s the basic info:
And here are the topics:
The approach taken
As the name suggests, we went down a functional language route with this one. We wanted practical phrases for both transaction and interaction in everyday business contexts. We were also keen to demonstrate the range of phrases learners might encounter or use that serve a similar purpose. That meant some of our listening texts were quite long, or multiple texts were used within a lesson. We didn’t want a rigid kind of ‘here are the target structures’. Instead, we went for target language but alongside natural features like phatic conversation, non-fluency features, vague language, that sort of thing (lol).
The topic of online meetings lent itself to that (of course)! I enjoyed writing the start of this convo – familiar to us all now!
My main focus as a writer was on developing listening skills, with a focus on ‘meaning-building’ tasks. In my experience as a business English teacher, my learners often struggle to stay focused in meetings, presentations and so on, so I aimed to provide plenty of opportunity to focus on grasping the overall meaning and not getting bogged down or dwelling on details.
So, we’d go from overall understanding / key details which build context for later listening…
To free notetaking rather than typical comprehension Qs to test listening skills…
And then completing a task which relies a bit on the quality of learners’ notetaking, through which we can still check comprehension but more holistically IMO.
But there are the occasional listening tasks that are simpler comprehension format at times – gotta mix it up.
When it came to the functional language, activities vary between learners analysing the text for themselves and us drawing out the chunks for them:
Of course, teachers can approach this as they wish. We just thought that drawing out the language at times would make the texts more accessible for lower levels. The resource is pitched at Intermediate although some of the tasks could be used at pre- I’d say, depending on your focus.
I did decide to add controlled practice stages, such as in this example:
I think it’s important to cover bases to be honest, you just never know the teachers’ level of experience (plus learner confidence/ability) so plenty of support, some familiarity, and more closed language trapping tasks can be useful.
I normally ended each resource in this series with a chunky roleplay as a vehicle for using that functional language. I decided to add prompts to each role (see the ‘remember you need to’ bit in the example below), again just to facilitate and make the resource more accessible to lower levels.
How much input did I have into this project?
I’m the only writer for the series (so far that is) and I was allowed tons of input into the content. I worked closely with the team at ESL Library to decide relevant topics to kick this series off, and I was pretty much given free rein regarding the approach taken. The only restrictions were that the activities I devised had to work on the ESL Library platform, plus there was clear guidance on the activities needed for the assessments. Apart from that, the content is pretty much mine – with support from some top-notch editors and a great illustrator!
So what’s it like to write for ESL Library?
From the moment I was contacted by ESL Library through to now, I can’t fault anything. Anyone I’ve communicated with has been laid back, personable, professional and really supportive. You’re very much a ‘collaborator’ rather than just another contractor – they will work with you, and even take their lead from you. The writer’s expertise is given precedence, they value the input and are willing to shape resources around a writer’s vision rather than expect conformity (I mean, within reason of course).
A bonus for me as a writer is that ESL Library use tools like Slack, so this was a good chance for me to do a bit of upskilling. They are more than willing to support writers in learning new skills – there are a few other tools they’ve introduced me to as well as Slack which will no doubt help me beyond the scope of ESL Library projects. That type of time investment in freelance writers is admirable. I can’t praise ESL Library highly enough on that front.
What else has come from it?
Aha! Well, there’s the upskilling, the freedom, those two are big! But something else. I was pretty sure before being approached by ESL Library that I ‘knew’ them. It was a popular site for teachers during my time in South Korea a while back. However, I hadn’t actually used the site for a long while, so having a free log in as a writer meant I was able to delve deeper into the available resources for my teaching role.
I’d say ESL Library is well worth the subscription. There’s so much available on the site and plenty that suits (or can be adapted for) my current learners. I really like their ‘Discussion Starter’ resources, three or four of which I’ve made good use of in class. Plenty of the environment discussions relate to the Sustainable Development Goals making them useful in my context:
The Grammar Stories resources are good for texts that repeat similar structures – they’ve also proved useful in my context. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface so far but I’ve been really impressed by the site content.
I lucked out with this one. It was great to get so much input into a project and to write what I hope are valuable materials. I kinda feel on the whole though that I’ve benefitted more from the project than ESL Library have! The chance to upskill, getting access to some great lesson content, feeling valued as a writer, it’s all been great actually. I’ve had a good run of it projects-wise this year and this one has probably been the highlight. If you’re ever approached by ESL Library to write resources then I’d jump at the chance.