coursebooks

Materials writing news and views, August 2019

It’s been a whole month since I’ve punned in a published resource! Crazy.

New releases

Tyson Seburn has a put together a sample unit of an ELT LGBTQIA2 inclusive coursebook unit, based on a normalisation approach. He’s done a great job of producing his own materials – as well as the inclusive approach to content, the overall design and flow of the resource is nice too. This is well worth reading about and hopefully will gain more recognition from publishers. See here for more details.

Express Publishing have released an interesting (?) new title – Brain Friendly Grammar. It’s written by Rachel Paling, a proponent of ‘Neurolanguage Coaching’. I initially thought this approach related to NLP but I’ve been informed otherwise. Anyway, this is a supplementary resource for grammar coaching, to be used alongside traditional grammar books. You can find out more about the book here, although there are no samples provided ☹

Update: I’ve been offered the chance to review this book so watch this space…

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Materials writing news and views, April 2019

April update has got a bit long, sorry. It’s mainly because of IATEFL and ELTONS.

 IATEFL talks

There were some interesting talks related to materials writing. Equality, diversity and inclusion was certainly a theme.

Two interesting points from John Gray’s talk, Gender and sexuality in ELT

  • Gray notes from his analysis of 10 top-selling ELT textbooks that there was ‘a blanket avoidance of any LGBT representation’
  • He promotes ‘… a collective effort on behalf of teachers, teacher trainers, materials writers, textbook reviewers, etc to come together to create learning environments that address gender and sexual diversity.’

View the talk here. (more…)

Webinar notes: What about principles for materials development? (Brian Tomlinson)

Here is Brian Tomlinson’s recent webinar in written form: ‘What about principles for materials development?’ The session was delivered as part of the MaWSIG ‘What about…? Webinar series. It was full of take home points so this post is pretty long! (more…)

I clearly love coursebooks

I always feel embarrassed when I speak up for coursebooks. I think I’m supposed to hate them. Everybody else seems to, so I guess that’s the right thing to do. According to Steve Brown’s latest post (well worth a read), even coursebook writers themselves are getting bold enough to criticise the practices of big publishers. Steve reckons that, in the grand scheme of things, such criticism is pointless. I say that the writers should keep doing it. The more they bite the hand that feeds, the more likely that publishers get annoyed and look for writers elsewhere. I’d love to get a message in my LinkedIn mailbox one day that reads: (more…)

How I plan with coursebooks

Coursebooks. Arrgh.

I write and read so many rants about them. Global coursebooks are too ‘catch-all’, they’re not aligned with what we know about second language acquisition, they’re a straightjacket, the images promote certain ideals, the content is too diluted, etc.

Like them or not, many teachers are bound to using a coursebook. Maybe a syllabus is coursebook-driven, the school demand it, the expectation from parents is that they’ve shelled out for the book so it must be completed cover-to-cover. Whatever. It happens. I can rant about it on my blog until the cows come home, but at the end of the day I’ve got to find a way to use it.

My school mostly use their own in-house materials, but we have a coursebook-driven syllabus for the teens (well, until next year). Here’s an example of some of the steps I go through when planning from the book. These are meant for less-experienced teachers. They are representative of my classroom practice but I can’t guarantee they’ll be effective (!). Every class is different.

Here we go. I have a copy of Beyond A2+ (Macmillan). I’m opening it at random… and we got…

Ew…

For my teens? COME ON! Can I start again? No? Right. Ok… (more…)

Problems with images in ELT materials

Images in ELT coursebooks are often ambiguous. What might seem a fairly obvious depiction of an act or concept to us may be perceived as something completely different to our learners.

In an interesting, small-scale study, Hewings (1991) asked a group of Vietnamese learners in England to interpret various illustrations found in Elementary level coursebooks. For most of the images correct interpretation would require some culturally-specific knowledge, and written text around the images was removed so the learners weren’t given any support.

Hewings found many types of image were interpreted differently from what was intended. One example was with illustrations portraying people in certain roles, where learners failed to recognise certain stereotypes (e.g. rich/poor). He found, understandably, that culturally-specific job roles (e.g. a priest) were misinterpreted, as were situational images.

Maps like this room plan were also confused…

taken from Hewings (1991)

Some learners thought this was a view of a house from top to bottom rather than a floor plan from above. Symbolic representations like thought bubbles were also misinterpreted, and images like the ones below were seen as something different – the first image being a children’s slide, a reception desk, and ‘information’.

taken from Hewings (1991)

Interpretation of graphs also seemed an issue, particularly dealing with keys.

Hewings made some clear points in conclusion (mostly quotes here):

  • ‘we inevitably see illustrations from a culturally based viewpoint…’
  • We assume that everyone perceives images in the same way
  • ‘We assume that students have the necessary skills to make sense of information presented in the form other than a text’
  • Interpretations are unpredictable
  • Images are a chance to make learners aware of visual representations of a cultural group/target language

(more…)