Materials writing news and views, September 2019

September already? It’ll soon be Xmas…

New releases

Deborah Hobbs (author) mentioned the release of ‘Open World’ (CUP). This is from the Cambridge English website:

Open World is an exciting new course from Cambridge which takes you further. Embark on a journey beyond the traditional boundaries between exam preparation and real-world language.

The book looks a bit Life-y based on that front cover.

Paul Ashe announced the release of New Hello! for the market in Egypt. If you’re interested about the context that this book will be used in then here’s a summary of ELT in Egypt from the British Council.

There are inspection copies out for C21 from Garnet Education. If I manage to get a copy I’ll review it. There’s an uber-positive review on their site about it, which was published in the EL Gazette.

Every publisher seems to be marketing books as developing ‘21st Century Skills’ these days. I’ve just googled a list of core ‘21st Century Skills’… eeek. I’m a crap leader, fairly unproductive, sometimes inflexible and not that creative. Send me the book Garnet, I can learn from it…

Emily Bryson has just written ’50 Ways to Teach Life Skills’ for Wayzgoose Press.

MaWSIG webinar(s)

Don’t forget this IATEFL MaWSIG webinar on Friday. I’ll be at work but hopefully I’ll get it on catch-up…

There’s another talk on 11th October with the authors of Raise Up, which I’ve mentioned before. Link to MaWSIG upcoming events here.

Good reads

‘A five-minute history of script writing in ELT materials’ – a post from 2016 by John Hughes.

Book review: Activities for task-based learning (the two Neils) – review by Allison Lewis.

The Quizlet Quest – a good example of how to introduce a new tech tool to learners, from Katherine Martinkevich. Publishers should include stuff like this to orientate learners to their digital resources.

I’ve been dipping in and out of ‘Creativity and Innovations in ELT Materials Development’ (edited by Dat Bao, 2018). Most of the book is available on Google Books as a preview, NICE!

I know, I’m always harping on about Tomlinson. But…

What I really like about the guy is, as you’ll see in his chapter on ‘making typical coursebook activities more beneficial for the learner’, he never shirks giving clear, practical examples. Here’s some basic suggestions for how to tweak closed questions to make them more challenging and personalized:

Every time I read Tomlinson’s words I feel like I’m reading a real practitioner’s words. I don’t always agree, but I really value his voice in the industry.


There’s a new online community at Freeed for ELT teachers. Freeed is a platform for sharing resources, collaborating, and discussing ELT-related topics. It’s just taking off. You need a login. There’s a giveaway on the platform this month of Sandy Millin’s ELT Playbook.


The jobspots on ELT Publishing Professionals are getting more frequent. There is an excellent role available RIGHT NOW if you’re looking for your first materials writing gig. It’s with Wall Street English, and it will be live for another 2 days, so sign up and apply!!!

Other than that, standard stuff. Integra always seem to be after people. York Press Freelancers have just put a call out for a content editor. See Facebook group for details. I haven’t had many alerts from the big publishers this month about things like Development Editor roles.

This month I’ve mostly been…

  • celebrating! The coursebook will be out late October, and my other work is going really well.
  • worrying! There’s an editorial change on a project I’m working on. Will the new editor hate me?!
  • joking around! Here’s one of my imaginary materials writing conversations, which some of you have been positive about.
  • reviewing… new materials for an in-house product. I cannot believe it – I’ve not come across one pun in the materials yet. Rubbish.

If you only read one materials writing related thing this month…

The next course of TASK-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING (TBLT): FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE from SLB Co-op is starting on November 8th. There’s an early bird price for now.

Lesson Share Winner!

I don’t often win things – just like the football team I support! However, I was lucky enough to be the Onestopenglish Lesson Share winner for February. Woohoo! Check out the competition here.

What was the lesson?

Resources based on my own short story called ‘Instant Coffee’. The resources should last around 2.5 hours of class time. They follow a text-driven approach (see my lesson here). B2 Level +.

The short story in 10 words…

Popular social media foodographer gets ‘eye camera implant’. It malfunctions.

I was really chuffed that Onestopenglish chose to edit and share my lesson. Some reasons why… (more…)

Coursebook activities and SLA theory – do they match?

According to Tomlinson (2013:12-15), ‘it is generally accepted that [Second Language Acquisition] is facilitated by:

  • a rich and meaningful exposure to language in use
  • affective and cognitive engagement
  • making use of mental resources typically used in L1 communication
  • noticing how the L2 is used
  • giving opportunities for contextualised and purposeful communication in the L2
  • being encouraged to interact
  • being allowed to focus on meaning’

Plus, Tomlinson cites research that suggests language learning is facilitated by motivation, having individual needs catered for, making use of non-linguistic communication and being relaxed (among other things). (more…)

Lesson idea: Tomlinson’s text-driven approach

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)

click on the picture to enlarge

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… (more…)