materials writing

Why ELT coursebooks are great!

Late last year I read the Jordan and Gray/Hughes exchange on ELT coursebooks, which appeared in ELT Journal. It’s an interesting discussion if you haven’t read it yet. I generally agreed more with Hughes, but that’s to be expected; I write coursebook materials for publishers, I use coursebooks and generally value them as a classroom resource. I also tend to find more radical stances against coursebooks polarising and distant from classroom practice. A bit repetitive too. I’d like to see more research into learner perceptions of coursebooks, and direct engagement with publishers to explore the theoretical and pedagogical underpinning of these resources in more detail.

Anyhow, the exchange prompted me to consider my views on the use of coursebooks, I’m keen to write a few of these down so I can see how they evolve over time. There have been a few posts I’ve revisited on this blog that I felt were a good snapshot of my thinking at one moment in my career – thoughts that have since changed, developed, etc. There is only one post I’ve come to completely refute over time, my views on multiple intelligences. So much so that I deleted it! Nooooo! Never do that, it misses the point of a learning journey!

So, some of my current (10/01/2019) views on coursebooks. (more…)

Research in brief: reading disruption of a textbook

The research

Winter, C. (2018). Disrupting colonial discourses in the geography curriculum during the introduction of British Values policy in schools. Journal of Curriculum Studies50(4), 456-475.

Open access, click here.

Summary

The aim of the study was ‘to expose and disrupt discourses dominating global development in an English school geography textbook chapter.’ (2018:456)

Winter analyzed one chapter of an English Curriculum Geography textbook using a disruptive approach, a technique proposed by Jacques Derrida.   (more…)

How to annoy commissioning editors (and find work)

Another ‘how to become a materials writer’ article has popped up – Kirsten Holt’s article for ETPro  offers some more good advice for budding writers. Every time I read one of these posts I’m itching to chip in. I really want to help others get into materials writing. My advice is always the same:

  • It’s easier than you think.
  • As with most things, it requires effort at first (unless you’re lucky!).
  • There is something missing from lots of the advice already out there.

Read on, I’ll tell you what that is. (more…)

ELT materials writing – my year in review

It’s been quite a good year on the writing front. Balancing writing with full-time teaching is tough, but the rewards are great! It’s only three weeks until our xmas holidays so I’m calling this the end of my writing year. Here were my highs and lows.

My stats…

Contracts offered to me this year: 17

Contracts offered directly through LinkedIn: 6

Total contracts taken: 8 (more…)

More on developing meaning-building skills in reading

This post follows on from Rachael Roberts’ great article on developing meaning-building skills in reading. 

As Rachael says, comprehension questions have their place but they also have their limitations. Tasks that develop meaning-building skills, which you could use alongside/instead of comprehension questions, encourage learners to engage with a text in a deeper and more personalized way. They also give teachers a better insight into how their learners process information in a text. This can highlight learner strengths or areas for development, hence inform practice.

Part of my remit as the co-author of Startup Level 8 (Pearson) was to create the reading skills lessons for each unit. The publisher had prioritized these meaning-building tasks at higher levels (this was C1+). They still wanted comprehension questions, but meaning-building tasks were the main focus.

(more…)

Trends in the ELT materials market (?)

I don’t know what the trends are. No facts here. Just my opinion. I’m interested – do you agree/disagree/take offence/think these are pointlessly general statements/etc? Please comment!

  1. Key markets for most publishers seem to be China, Mexico, Turkey and Brazil.
  2. In most cases, print still rules…
  3. … apart from in China, where everyone is obsessed with adapting coursebooks for a ‘virtual market’.
  4. Primary publishers don’t seem to fully trust a CLIL-based approach (to be highly profitable, I mean). They like to cater for more traditional (grammar/typical vocab) approaches in their range too, and the success of CLIL-based resources hinges on teacher training, which may mean more investment for publishers.

Wait. Just thinking more about that last point… (more…)

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…)