That magic…

Teach teachers how to create magic by Christopher Emdin

This is video is extremely inspirational – a must see!

So, what is teaching anyway?

Is it a job, a profession or a craft?

Just let me rephrase the question.

What is “good teaching” ?

It is –> MAGIC

Some teachers have the skills which enable them to engage learners in a magical way.

It can be hard to explain what it is that these special people have, thus it can be considered as some kind of magic.

C. Emdin argues that creating this magic can be taught.

I believe, we may be able to teach some skills which help addressing an audience in an effective way such as

  • adding humour to speech
  • using body language adequately
  • talking energetically
  • looking encouragingly
  • referring to previous comments
  • finding examples learners can relate to
  • responding to reactions

By trying to master these skills mentioned above, one may get better at grabbing attention.

However, it would not be enough and we need to be careful with many more things in the classroom.

The right “Attitude” may be the key to management issues and lack of motivation.

In my opinion, good teachers can be made, but great teachers are born.

It seems to me that personality traits, behaviour and attitude are all things that deeply affect the atmosphere the teacher contributes to creating in the classroom. Some ways can of course be taught. However, things like a sincere smile, the sweetness in the tone, a true welcoming approach and a creative nature are innate. These do not necessarily create engagement alone, but may affect motivation levels.

I believe students can sense it when a teacher is “faking it” such as when he/she is not so interested in what the student is telling, or when a smile is there, but only half-hearted. Therefore, it may be useful to pay attention to the following;

  • being polite
  • not commanding but asking for things
  • treating learners as individuals not as a group
  • making room for fun
  • being sincere
  • respecting learners
  • embedding technology
  • comforting learners after errors/mistakes
  • making honesty a classroom policy
  • embracing diversity
  • keeping promises
  • checking tasks/homework
  • paying attention to learners’ wellness

 

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Reflective Statement

  • My reflections on the MATERIALS module and MY MATERIALS BLOG

Becoming a Blogger has been an interesting journey and to be honest, I don’t think I would have done it if it wasn’t for the Materials Module I am taking as part of my master’s in TESOL. Taking advantage of the available internet tools and opening myself to the world as a young English teacher and a postgraduate student was probably my duty anyway. Making use of what is out there and keeping up to date with the latest improvements in technology should become part of our professional (if not personal) lives. Being a Blogger helps you look back, think, evaluate and reflect because writing is actually a really deep process, but it is not only the contributing that feeds you, it is being on this platform and looking at what others are doing, that makes the biggest difference because once you step into this world, you start exploring for real.

I have always been a believer in giving teachers responsibilities and as I have explained in my earlier posts, designing materials is  one of the greatest things that can make teachers more responsible and motivated. It can provide you with a sense of ownership and satisfaction in being a teacher. After all, one of the crucial things that I have learned thanks to this module is to pay great attention to learner needs and the context. As Holliday claims, language classes are small cultures, locally constituted, with local needs and concerns (in Thornbury, 2002). Therefore, we need to take our context and learners into consideration when planning and designing anything really.

I have tried to do this when designing the worksheet, producing Bubblr tasks, and shooting a video. In addition to the context and the learner needs, I have also tried to think of the procedure of using these materials in the classroom and when designing I was always pictured the lessons on my mind step by step. It is because I have realized the importance of having a purpose and doing something not just for the sake of having produced something, but to have created something that can serve a real purpose by being useful and addressing needs. With all the materials I have put up on this blog, I tried to explain in my posts why I chose to do these and how these can  be used  in my context. I also tried to include the production process in detail because I think it can be more helpful than the materials, to those who are reading. Jolly and Bolitho’s framework has been a useful source and it helped me see that the design process has to be handled with care.

Thanks to the input we received in the sessions, the reading we have done at home, and the discussions we had with our classmates who are from different parts of the world and teaching contexts, I have learnt so much about on what big names in ELT and other teachers like me think on materials. I have developed a critical eye and I think this was the biggest achievement. I have realized that before all this input and information, I was shallow and superficial on the matter. Now, I now how to look at both my work and at others’ work with a critical eye. I am aware that needs and what works can be different in each context. Therefore, we need to look closely, and evaluate things.

Coursebooks have been important parts of my teaching so far and thanks to the materials module I have developed consciousness on this matter as well. Most importantly I now know that if I am ever the decision maker in choosing a coursebook, I can refer to frameworks and evaluate materials much more professionally based on solid ground. I am also aware that I should be objective and critical when it comes to the materials I have produced myself. Development is an endless process and each time you use your materials you can learn something new about them. Thus, I know that I should always aim to make things better by learning from my mistakes and by not being afraid to explore things and expand my teaching and designing repertoire by trial and error.

As I have explored technology more in depth for ELT and materials design purposes, I became aware that there is so much it can offer to both teachers and learners. I now believe that we must include students in the production and design process as well. I have tried something new by creating this blog and I have learned so much when doing this. Due to this experience I think putting learners in the centre by giving them a say can change so much. With each material and lesson we design, we can be examples and set tasks for learners which involves making them produce something.

There is so much out there that I think it is impossible to explore everything, but we can learn how to use the internet to find out about the tools that work best in the ELT classrooms and for designing materials. We can share our experiences, beliefs, problems, ideas and work. After all, what is the use of doing all these in isolation? Teaching is probably one of the most challenging jobs and I wrote about this in my posts. Thanks to the Language Teacher Education module I took, I have learned so much about the pitfalls and the risks this job includes, but I see professional development as a way to avoid all these and we need to take more responsibility and invest in ourselves to avoid all the bad stuff waiting ahead. If we choose to pursue a career in teaching, we need allies and why don’t we use the teachers all around the world to be on our side, to help us keep going?

person_mirror

Thornbury S. (2002), Don’t mention the war! Taboo topics and the alternative textbook, It’s for Teachers, Issue 3. February 2002, 35-37.

TED Talk – Salman Khan

  • an idea that can be applied to my teaching context

Following the video I have produced and wrote about on my previous post, I want to share this TED TALK by Salman Khan which is called “Lets use video to reinvent education”. I think the system he set up could be applied to my teaching context (which is English preparatory schools at universities in Turkey) as well. Here is a presentation I have prepared with a friend on our teaching context in Turkey. You can view it via SlideShare.

contexthttp://www.slideshare.net/zeynepsg/context-state-universities

And here is Salman Khan and his humorous TED TALK. Considering how much students love watching videos and how attention grabbing they are, I think this could make a great change in certain contexts like mine.

 

It would be great if students were able reach rich sources of data in the video format. Also the opportunities for practice would provide a great chance for self-study at home. Setting up a system of this kind in preparatory schools where there are hundreds of teachers and thousands of students would work well as education is standardized in institutions like these to make sure all the students get the same input because of the exams. Videos and exercises especially on the presentation and practice of grammar points would help students immensely.

My Materials – Video

  • My VIDEO for the ELT classroom

For the Easter Holiday, our mission was to shoot a video which can be used for ELT purposes. The first challenge was to decide on what to make. At first I thought of a video which was like those of FIFTY PEOPLE ONE QUESTION videos on YouTube. My original plan was to ask 4 or 5 different questions to 10 people. These questions would be like – What was the happiest day of your life? / – Where would you like to visit most? / – What was the worst day of your life? / – Who is the most important person in your life?

I thought of shooting only the replies people gave and separating them by writing “Question 1” and so on. In the ELT classroom, I would use this video to ask students what the questions were. Then, I would encourage them to reply these questions themselves. I think it could inspire them when they are thinking of replies and encourage them to use the language as these questions require personal replies which can be seen as interesting topics because we like talking about ourselves. Most importantly, a video like this can lead to a natural conversation among students which is based on sharing experiences and opinions. As they listen to each other, they can ask follow-up questions if they are interested in the reply their friend is giving.

However, after a final consideration and due to time limitations, I had to give up on this idea for the time being. Finding all these people, getting them to prepare their replies and answer by avoiding the question, needed too much preparation. Another issue was the setting. I needed a really quiet place with good lighting. In the end, I decided to do something much more practical for which I needed to rely only on myself.

The name of the video I shot is Strawberry Cottage (that is what the house is called as well). It is produced for ELT purposes and it is shot in a house in the UK. The focus is on the aspects of the house which are closely linked to life in the UK. I have pointed out some things which can be considered as different/unusual/strange by those who are from other countries. I think this video can be used in the EFL classroom to start up conversations based on cultures and life styles. 

As Gary Motteram (in Tomlinson 2011) states, “Web 2.0 allows many more people to be creative with digital technologies” and he has a point. To shoot this video, I used my smartphone and to to edit it I used the YouTube video editor. Then, to share it with the whole world, I uploaded it on YouTube and now I am writing about this process on my WordPress blog. Although I was new to doing something like this, It was not so complicated and I believe that once you  do something like this, you can be much quicker the second time. There is also room for creativity as you can experiment with the new things technology offers.

To explain the process, in the making of this video I shot over 40 short clips and then, put them together to make one video. It took me around 3 hours to do the shooting at home. The editing process was harder because it was my first time on the YouTube video editor and that took  around 4 hours to complete. As this was my first project, it was a bit time consuming, but I think I will find it much easier the next time. In the end, this experience gave me confidence as I have produced something on my own which I can use in the EFL classroom with a sense of ownership.

I played this video in my master’s module and we had a discussion with my classmates. They all said that they could use this video in their classrooms as well. Considering the fact that they are teachers from different parts of the world, they teach in different contexts and I was pleased to hear that what I produced can be used as ELT materials with various learners. Thanks to master’s in TESOL, I am now aware of the importance of context when designing materials and making plans (literally for everything related to teaching).

To go back to the source of the idea for this video, I must write about my teaching experiences in Turkey. I used coursebooks to teach and I remember there were units which focused on houses in the UK. Mostly there were pictures of different house types such as detached, semi-detached, cottage, bungalow and so on. The focus on the coursebooks was on the exteriors and that is why I thought doing the shooting inside the house would help produce something that could be interesting for the students. I think homes are the hearts of cultures and showing one can be a great way of introducing the British culture. If it is a multicultural classroom, students can talk about the countries they come from. There may be discussions and comparison.

Another thing that can be done is to ask the students to shoot videos and share what they have produced in the classroom. As Motteram also suggests, technological developments put “the possibilities of the adaptation and creation of a broad range of language-learning materials directly into the hands of the teacher, but also into the hands of the learners.” Involving students in such a project can give them responsibility and may raise their interest and motivation levels.

To conclude, being encouraged to shoot a video turned out to be a valuable experience. Based on my previous experiences I know that students are always interested in watching videos in the classroom. When you play something, it grabs their attention magically and I saw examples of this when teaching in the CELTA course as well. Video has been in our lives for a long time and it is a popular tool in the EFL classroom as well. It has been a journey which started with video players connected to the TV and then we started using vcd and dvd players and the computers of course, but I think YouTube is a revolution on behalf of the whole video thing. Experimenting with shooting a video to be used as ELT materials was therefore a cool step towards being an up to date teacher on my behalf. 

//As Sercu (in Hall, 2011, 212) states, there have been changes in ELT materials due to changing conceptions of language competence and L2 learning, technological developments and evolving societal perspectives on education / thus, older materials are supplemented or supplanted by newer resources which may become marginalized / and this brings an element of fashion in materials development and use — as a result this gives teachers additional responsibilities such as perceiving both the strengths and weaknesses of available teaching aids, making well-considered judgements as to when-how-to what end these can most effectively be harnessed to particular learning or teaching tasks.// Therefore just like the other tools, using videos or YouTube in the classroom should of course have a purpose and especially when producing such a material, there are even more considerations and planning to be made.

This video that I have produced doesn’t include much speech on purpose because what I want to achieve with this video is to encourage students to talk about what they see in it. I want to use this video to point out some different aspects of a cottage in the UK and I would like to plan a lesson in which students “talk about these differences” and “they think of the reasons”. When I produce materials or plan activities I always try to include elements which can trigger thinking and talks based on that. I hope my short video can be of use to you and your EFL students as well.

Brian Tomlinsonhall

Chapter 11 – Planning and organizing L2 learning and teaching in Graham Hall’s (2011)  Exploring English Language Teaching

Chapter 12 – Developing language-learning materials with technology by Gary Motteram in Tomlinson’s (2011) Materials Development in Language Teaching were useful when writing this post.

Shaking Up Grammar – with Leslie Anne Hendra

  • 21 March 2013

I am happy to say that I have attended Leslie Anne Hendra’s “Shaking Up Grammar” session held in StudyGroup, Brighton as part of the SussexmELTs programme. Leslie Ann Hendra is a co-author of English Unlimited coursebooks  (Cambridge University Press).

http://www.cambridge.org/gb/elt/catalogue/subject/project/authors/item5629547/English-Unlimited-Authors/?site_locale=en_GB&currentSubjectID=382378

shaking up grammar

The focus of the workshop was on a goals and context based approach to teaching grammar. It is explained as follows by the StudyGroup;

Compare these sentences:

  • “If it rains, I’ll stay at home.”
  • “If you like sushi, you’ll love this restaurant.”

The second is truly context-based and meets the CEF goal ‘give recommendations’. It has real-life application.

The aim of Leslie’s talk is to give you concrete ideas to use or adapt for your own classroom. She will examine ways to make grammar more meaningful and therefore easier for learners to understand, produce and retain.

Drawing on examples from different levels of English Unlimited, she will look at how to help learners achieve real-life, CEF-based goals by using this motivating goals- and contact-based approach.

I believe Ms Hendra has fulfilled these promises. The main emphasis was once again on the context. I have taught in two different institutions and I used coursebooks which also determined the syllabus. Mainly, the topics covered are similar in most coursebooks. Thanks to Hendra’s workshop, I got new ideas on how to present certain grammar points within useful contexts and this approach can also be applied to other grammar points. It is actually really simple, but makes so much sense.

Hendra’s approach focuses on giving a stronger feeling of purposeful, real-life usage. She points out the considerations for a grammar lesson (with a text approach) which suggest asking questions such as;

  1. Am I giving learners a clear idea of how they can use the structure in real-life situations?
  2. Is my context natural? Would the target structure naturally arise from it?
  3. Is there provision for re-contextualisation? (within the lesson, or in task repetition or revision)
  4. Can I think of more supportive ways to present certain structures?

At the end of the session, we were given handouts which were neatly prepared and included all the points Hendra had covered in her presentation. It is of great help to me when writing this post and it can be very handy for future references. With the help of the handout and by looking back at the session, I will write down Hendra’s examples of ‘grammar points’ and the ‘contexts’ that can be used to teach them in.

 

GOALS

CONTEXT

GRAMMAR

1 Talk on the phoneSay what you are doing just now (A1) Friends phoning each other to chat Present progressive
2 Say what you’ve never done Say what you’ve always wanted to do (A2) Things you’re happy you’ve never done Present perfect simple
3 Complain about goods and services (B1+) A customer complaint on the phone Present perfect simple and progressive
4a Talk about health, give advice (A2) Home remedies for simple ailments Real conditional
4b Make recommendations (B1) Getting sightseeing advice at a travel info office Real conditionals
5 Talk about homes and housing, describe imaginary situations (B1) Two people discussing housing adverts in an estate agent’s window Would
6 Talk about childhood beliefs (B1) Things I believed as a child Used to, would
7 Talk about food and eating, order a meal in a restaurant (B1) Ordering food in a restaurant Nouns with prepositional phrases
8 Describe important issues and priorities (B2) An interview on panda conservation in China -ing
9 Describe someone’s life and work (B2) Life and work of a locally famous person The passive

I think grammar can become a useful tool rather than being a nightmare if it is introduced in -meaningful contexts- which students can relate to (at least in understanding), and also find themselves in possibly similar situations in real life, and this can help them remember what was done in class easily later on.

In Hendra’s session, we only practised doing some of these points above. Number 2 was one of the examples we looked at. The grammar focus was Present Perfect Simple. The goal was to say what you’ve never done and say what you’ve always wanted to do (A2). Based on my own experience, this grammar point is usually introduced in contexts where asking questions with “Have you ever” is the key. However, in Hendra’s session what we did was different and much more interesting.

We looked at a reading text which consisted of web postings. The topic  was <things you are “happy” you have never done> when you think of it carefully it is  different to “things you’ve never done” because the word “happy” is involved. It is things that you are proud not to have done. This is of course a very personal topic, but as we know, mostly people love talking about themselves (I do as well). First of all, reading the posts can warm learners up to the topic and it can inspire them to talk. Most importantly, this exercise encourages thinking (I enjoyed this part of the session so much because it was very interesting to come up with things that I am happy I have never done, I had never thought of this specific list before).

When you come to think of it, we do use “I have never…” a lot in real life and it is not always to state our lack of experience with something, but it can also be to point out something we are proud of having not done. After reading the web postings and coming up with our own examples, we then focused on “I’ve always wanted to…” which is again thought triggering (not as unusual as the first one, but still personal and related to life itself).

To conclude, I think SHAKING UP GRAMMAR was interesting, fun and useful. Hendra was very pleasant and I enjoyed listening to her. As a young teacher, experiences of this kind not only give me ideas, but they also give me hope. I know that teaching is a demanding job and it involves many risks which can result in losing your motivation. However, when I realize that there are so many things you can experiment with that can make learning/teaching fun for both yourself and your learners, I feel really encouraged and motivated (as if I can see the light).

Materials Session 6 – Exploring visuals

  • 18 March 2013

To prepare for this session, we explored using some tools on the internet to produce ELT materials. We looked at Flickr, Bubblr and Bookr. On my previous post I have stated the importance of using various materials in the classroom. I think especially videos and visuals are very effective when it comes to motivating students and engaging them. They have the power to communicate a lot in only a few seconds and they can be remembered easily.

With the latest developments, there are a lot of new tools that we can try. However, as Sercu (in Hall, 2011 – Part IV, Chapter 11) points out, teachers tend to use things which are familiar to them. I think it is important to be open to new things and to be willing to experiment with what technology offers us. As Lewis states, technology offers learning opportunities that are attractive to both learners and teachers, but this can be a means not an end and that is why technology should be a tool which learners and teachers manage, in that, they should not be managed by it.

As teachers, making decisions is an important part of what we do. If we are designing materials, there are an awful lot of decisions to be made, but we also need to choose from a lot of possibilities even when we are deciding on the tools we use in the EFL classroom. Sercu states that it is not possible to prove the effectiveness of one particular resource over another when  the complex situational, relational, educational, cognitive and affective variables which are closely related to learners are taken into consideration. Thus, Sercu notes that making recommendations which favour one media over another would be based on assumptions instead of being based on facts which are generalizable. This would suggest responsibility on teachers’ behalf as they have to observe their learners and identify their needs. Then, they would be able to make decisions regarding what would be more efficient that is based on their teaching contexts.

As there were lots of different tools I had never used before, after looking at some closely, I have made my mind and prepared materials using Bubblr. What I did is really simple and it is not time consuming. When using Bubblr, the only drawback was being limited to the pictures on Flickr, but if you have time, you can upload the pictures you want to use specifically.

When preparing these materials, the lesson on my mind was one on using the wish clause. It is a topic included in most syllabuses and coursebooks and it is something actually useful to teach. However this topic is presented with lots of clichés such as “I wish I were rich” and “I wish I were a fish (a student favourite-thanks to its sound)”. Instead of asking students to come up with a single answer that is obvious, I would rather encourage them to think.

Here are the 3 Bubblr produced materials I have made. When preparing for a lesson I would make more of these and I would try to include some interesting pictures/situations which would trigger diverse answers. Like in the first Bubblr picture students can also make comments such as “get well soon”.

bubblr1

With these materials my aim would be to create an environment where students try to come up with different comments. It can make them feel competitive as they try to find interesting things to say and therefore it could create genuine participation and language use. For example for this picture on the left “I wish I could go to school” is one of the simplest answers. There are other things that can be said such as “I wish I hadn’t eaten 10 packs of sweets”,or “I wish I didn’t have to go back to school”. Students can work in pairs to come up with answers and then they can share them with the whole class. The teacher can help them with the complicated ones and correct the mistakes.

bubblr2

The same can be done for the second Bubblr picture as well. When I was presenting these materials in my master’s course, I asked my classmates to come up with ideas and it worked fine. For this picture some of the sentences were “I wish I had met her first”, “I wish he loved me”, “I wish I were at the football game instead”.

bubblr3

The last Bubblr picture was chosen especially for my classmates. When it is something students can relate to they can come up with lots of things easily and something like this can provide opportunities for discussions in the classroom. After a lesson with these materials, asking students to produce their own Bubblr materials can be a good idea. They would go home, look at what they did in class, do some thinking, explore using Bubblr and prepare something of their own just like we did for this session.

Materials – with Theresa Clementson

  • 26 February 2013

We met Theresa Clementson, one of the writers of English Unlimited (a coursebook by Cambridge) and had a joint session with the TESOL diploma students. We talked about coursebooks and producing materials. We also used the materials we had produced for session 4 to do some tasks in groups. With my partner we used the worksheet I had designed (non-gradable adjectives – on the previous post) and we wrote a mini lesson plan which turned out to be the following.

  1. a discussion task / personalised Qs
  2. a gist task
  3. examples of language
  4. guessing meaning from context
  5. focus on language forms / use
  6. language rules, info or tips
  7. practice (speaking)
  8. practice (writing)

As Clementson pointed out, ‘materials are lessons’ and ‘a piece of material works if it produces a good lesson’. I totally agree with her as I had stated in previous posts, I believe in the power of materials. And lately (thanks to my experiences as a CELTA trainee and a TESOL master’s student) I have started to believe in the power of variety as well. Both content and format matters a lot when it comes to materials. There is a need for variety in the classrooms and it is needed to fight boredom and grab attention.

As I am back to being a student, I see that the same type of materials, no matter how good and efficient they are, can lose their touch after some time. Therefore, I think we should always keep in mind to include various kinds of materials when planning and designing. By this I mean making use of coursebooks, texts, visuals (photos, pictures, cards), cartons and strips of paper (yes, old school is still good), audio, realia (weird, but effective), presentations (not only PowerPoint, try Prezi, something different), smartphones (and apps) the internet (blogs, social networking websites) and last but not least, videos!!! A combination of different tools can create variety…Image

To go back to our session with Ms Clementson, we put our heads together and discussed the advantages of using coursebooks and producing our own materials. For using coursebooks, we came up with the following;

  • saves time (a classic)
  • can be the syllabus
  • includes recycling

However, for the advantages of producing our own materials, we came up with a longer list (surprised?).

  • personalization
  • culturally appropriate content
  • gradable / user friendly
  • flexibility
  • up-to-date
  • relevance
  • different topics
  • localization
  • authenticity

Seems we all have positive feelings toward designing our own materials, but I wonder how many of us would be willing to do it regularly in a real teaching setting (by which I mean not a training course where you are constantly willing to impress), without extra pay or without being asked/forced to do so. Just for the sake of our students, the responsibility we feel towards our profession, simply, to deliver a ‘good lesson’…

To focus on coursebooks, I must start by saying that these things cause a lot of discussion and controversy in the world of ELT. In Celmentson’s session, we came up with the benefits I have written above and if we look at what bigger names wrote we can get a better idea. As stated in Part IV, Chapter 11 in Hall (2011) Richards suggests that coursebooks are the primary source of teaching ideas and materials for many teachers around the world. Hall lists the following benefits; providing input and exposure for teachers and learners / providing interesting and motivating material, organized in an appealing and logical manner / providing a written record of what has been studied / allowing for revision and continued study beyond the classroom / reducing the amount of time teachers require for preparation.

To look at the drawbacks in Hall, coursebooks may create a ‘dependency culture’ / as Swan states, they can absolve teachers of responsibility by minimizing day-to-day decision making / Richards suggests that teachers may become ‘de-skilled’ if their teaching decisions are dependent on coursebooks because it would prevent critical thinking and working independently / Meddings and Thornbury think coursebooks fail to cater for individual needs which lead to lessons that are material centred classes instead of person centred ones, that constrain creativity / Hall adds more to the list by saying they are commercial products that are innately conservative – they focus on native speaker lives, lifestyles and language varieties – they are not neutral because they reflect a particular view of society.

When all of these are considered designing materials which would be fit for individual contexts seems like a good solution. However this attempt can raise questions as well. How should materials be designed, what is required, who can be responsible? Can all teachers develop their own materials? Would these materials be effective? As Hall writes, Allwright believes that there is a difference between professional materials writers and teachers due to having different and complementary areas of expertise and this is called the ‘difference view’. According to this point of view, using coursebooks that are well-presented and professionally published help free teachers of having to deal with practical and fundamental issues in the fostering of language learning. As a young teacher who has used coursebooks, but also attempted to design materials, I must say that those who believe in themselves, that have confidence in their knowledge and enjoy creating materials should not be afraid to do so. After all, we know our contexts and students better, but we must be aware that this is a  deep process which requires doing a lot of thinking and work.

hall

Materials Session 4 – Designing for Print

  • Designing materials – 25 February 2013

For the 4th session we designed materials. I worked with a classmate/friend who is from Turkey as well. As we had both worked at the same university before, we were familiar with the same teaching context. We designed a worksheet for pre-intermediate level students (in preparatory schools at universities). These students are first year university students who are mainly young adults or adults. For the majority of students, this is a one year compulsory study of just English before they can move on to their chosen departments. The main problems in these classes are the lack of motivation and interest.

We worked in a state university and based on our experiences, most students had low level of English. In most classes we started the academic year with the elementary coursebook and then it was followed by the pre-intermediate one. Students had to learn lots of new things in a very quick pace. Therefore, when designing our worksheet, we took all these factors related to our context into consideration. As we had discussed how materials should be in the previous session (which is on the previous post) we were constantly reminded of the criteria we had listed.

We tried to come up with something that would interest young adults. We also tried to make it visually appealing to motivate our learners. We used headers and footers to make the worksheet look more organized. The focus of the worksheet was ‘non-gradable adjectives’. I wrote a short story to introduce 10 adjectives in a context. We then prepared exercises such as guessing the meaning from context, sentence completion, a matching activity and a vocabulary activity. Finally we included a writing task asking students to write a short story using these adjectives.

Here is the work we have produced.

ws 1

ws 2

ws 3

While designing this, I have realized that context had a great impact on my thinking process. Another thing which influenced my decisions was my CELTA training. When designing these materials I kept remembering how I did lesson planning and saw the worksheet as a lesson on its own. This way of thinking affected the way I staged the exercises on the worksheet.

First of all, the adjectives are presented in a context which guides students in relating these new words to something and in doing so, help them guess the meaning. To make the reading activity more meaningful, there is a missing part in the last sentence. This is to make students think and to provide a reason for communication. In pairs, they can tell each other what they think the ending is (which is actually a quite simple answer, but the aim is to encourage students to discuss the story). Then, they can compare their guesses by pointing out the hints.

In order to check their answers, they can do the matching activity on the second page. Then, there is a vocabulary activity which is to ensure the understanding of the adjectives. It consists of separate sentences instead of a story or a text in order to include more variety. Finally, students are asked to do a writing task, that is, writing a story using these adjectives and again, this can be done in pairs.

For this task of designing our own materials for a specific level in our context, we created everything ourselves. It is more time consuming, but I think it provides more autonomy. Creating materials can be challenging and I believe evaluation after using them in class can be a key point to consider because it can lead to improvement. It is also quite hard to be fully objective during the designing process and I think it can be of great use to ask others to critique it as well.

Jolly and Bolitho’s framework for materials writing was a great guide we used for these materials and we can always refer to this guide in the future when designing materials. The steps are as follows;

  • Identification of need
  • Exploration of language
  • Contextual realisation
  • Pedagogical realisation
  • Physical production
  • Use
  • Evaluation

We work with coursebooks in this context, learner needs which can be the things that stand out as students struggle or the things that would be really useful for the learners are the things we should focus on. Exploration of language is a step I always take carefully as I feel responsible towards my students and tend to check things even when I am sure and sometimes I do this to provide variety in examples. Presenting language in a related context is crucial as students need to make sense of these and remember them later on by logical associations. Variety in exercises and tasks is also important as knowing what will work better matters a lot and trying to offer learners different types of exercises and tasks is needed to include a bit of a challenge for stimulus and to fight routine. Production is both fun and hard at the same time. I am a bit of a perfectionist and sometimes I take too much time to produce something that I am comfortable with and proud of. I think the key to successful production requires objectivity, research, paying attention, working carefully and being prepared to spend time and energy. No matter how good the materials are, it is what we make of them in the classroom that matters. Therefore, their use in the classroom is important on a different level. It is also our opportunity to see it from a new angle so that we can be able to evaluate it and make the necessary changes.

For this session, we had help from Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching  by Ian McGrath,

Materials Development in Language Teaching – Brian Tomlinson (second edition) 107-134,

and Jason Renshaw’s videos on design http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pd4TUrcc2y4

ian mcgrath

Materials Session 3 – Materials should / shouldn’t…

  • What are we looking for in materials? – 18 February 2013
  • Principles and frameworks for materials design

Session 3 was really interesting. First of all, we did some thinking on what we are looking for in materials. Then, we wrote your ideas down individually and discussed them. We also had some help from Tomlinson, Hutchinson & Waters, Jolly & Bolitho, Richards, Cunnigsworth and Dudley-Evans & St. John on materials design principles. Finally, we gathered all these ideas and by deciding on what we think are the most important ones, we came up with a list.

The best things about this task were putting our ideas into words (which is challenging, but makes you realize what you prioritize) and collaborating; to discuss, eliminate and group these thoughts. We were really lucky because we had a mixed group of teachers in the room. I think it was extremely interesting to see what teachers from other parts of the world value most when it comes to materials.

In our group there were teachers from the UK, Russia, Korea, Thailand, Kuwait and Turkey (where I’m from). We divided the final list (which we have managed to do after a long process of discussing and eliminating) into 3 parts in order of importance. I will write them down starting from the bottom of the list and moving towards the top.

Here is the bottom 6 (still very important! You should have seen the ones we had to give up).

bottom 6

  • Materials should be up to date.
  • Materials should allow learners to develop learning skills, and skills in learning.
  • Materials should encourage learners to learn more.
  • Materials should provide sufficient knowledge which learners need.
  • The learners’ attention should be drawn to linguistic features of input.
  • Materials should encourage learners to apply their developing skills to the world beyond the classroom.

And now we move on to the middle where we have another 6 criteria.

in the middle

  • Materials should help learners to develop confidence.
  • Materials should require and facilitate learner self-investment.
  • Materials must include various activities to appeal to different kinds of learners (visual etc.)
  • Materials should encourage students to talk and share with their peers.
  • Balance of approaches.
  • Materials should make people think.

We have finally reached the top of the list where we can see 7 lucky pieces of paper that managed to stay until the very end.

top 7

  • Materials should be engaging and motivating.
  • Materials do not have to be serious.
  • Materials must be challenging.
  • Materials should be clear and systematic but flexible enough to allow for creativity and variety.
  • Materials should provide the learners with opportunities to use the target language  to achieve communicative purpose.
  • The need for student-centredness.
  • The need for authenticity.

Now that I think of it, I am surprised that despite coming from different countries and having taught in quite different contexts, we all share similar ideas on how ELT materials should be. I also believe materials should engage both teachers and learners. In my opinion, being genuinely interested in something always makes a difference in the way you use it.

We had guidance from Brian Tomlinson thanks to his very useful ‘glossary of basic terms for materials development in language teaching’ and ‘introduction’ in this book.

Brian Tomlinson

Materials Session 2 – Evaluation

  • Materials Used in the UK – 11 February 2013

For the second session we were to choose a framework and evaluate the coursebook we were given according to that. We worked as a group and read Tomlinson and Masuhara’s “Materials Used in the UK” (which is Chapter 9 in the book English Language Learning Materials – A Critical Review).

Our group was of 3 people and when preparing the slides we used A, B and C instead of our names. I was person C and you can access our presentation on

http://www.slideshare.net/zeynepsg/materials-used-in-the-uk

We looked at Unit 2 – Good Communication – in English Unlimited (Intermediate).

There were 12 criteria in the framework we chose (Tomlinson and Masuhara – pages 171-173).

To be honest, I didn’t feel really comfortable when scoring these criteria and this kind of evaluation should probably be left to experts such as Tomlinson and Masuhara. The first thing is, I have never taught in the UK and being not so familiar with this context may have limited my perspective. Secondly, using numbers on a scale of 1 to 10 was quite challenging without guidance. Finally, we came to see that all three of us had different results in our hands and this helped us realize how subjective evaluation can be. I think one of the main factors affecting this process was ‘experience’. Our experience in the classroom; teaching, using a coursebook and this of course is closely related to context and learner need.

If I were to have a say in the process of choosing a coursebook, I would value teachers’ opinions highly. After all, they are the ones who will use this tool and they can be good at identifying the needs of the learners and having ideas on what might work well in the classroom and what may not do so fine. Most importantly, teachers can also consider their own strengths and weaknesses when evaluating coursebooks. It is what they make out of these materials that matters. Of course I do not suggest avoiding what may be challenging. I suggest thinking and reflecting and trying to come up with solutions.

One point to consider might be the lack of knowledge on second language acquisition and materials evaluation. As evaluation is an important matter, I believe it requires in depth understanding and knowledge on the subject. A possible solution can be to have training sessions for teachers which could guide them through this process. I think teachers and institutions can benefit from this alike. Having more people to contribute can be enriching.

doorsAlso a successful evaluation process can be an on-going one consisting of pre-use, in-use and post-use stages. Based on my own experience as a teacher in a preparatory school, a coursebook can be the determiner of the syllabus, the exams and the supplementary materials. As a result, this choice can affect thousands of people in a single institution. What’s more, the fact that most institutions tend to employ a coursebook for more than a couple of years, increases the significance of both the evaluation process and the outcome which is the decision to be made.

For this session we used the following books as our sources.

unlimited English Language Learning Materials - A Critical Review