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Writing your own materials – plusses and pitfalls PowerPoint Presentation
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Writing your own materials – plusses and pitfalls

Writing your own materials – plusses and pitfalls

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Writing your own materials – plusses and pitfalls

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  1. Writing your own materials – plusses and pitfalls Lucy Palmer ELT Editor IATEFL Glasgow Thursday 22nd March 2012 © 2012

  2. Why write your own materials? • The materials will be tailored to my student(s) in terms of: • level • topic • context • learning objectives • revision needs. • I enjoy writing my own materials. but … • It’s very time-consuming! © 2012

  3. Points to consider 1. How easy did you find the task? 2. How interesting did you find it? 3. What are the good points of the task? 4. What are the weaknesses? How could you improve on them? 5. Is there anything missing? © 2012

  4. Group A: Task 1 Vocabulary Strengths • Weaknesses • No real lead-in – nothing to get students thinking about the topic • No context – definitions are hard to guess without reading the text • Problematic definitions • - words with several meanings, e.g. rail • - no collocations, e.g. rail against • - definitions are harder than target words, e.g. do away with =dispense with • No space to write the answers • Focuses on failure – unknown words • Vocabulary– one of the main barriers to understanding a text • Matching – cognitively quite easy • Learning styles – could be done with cut-out cards © 2012

  5. Group A: Task 1 Vocabulary Suggested improvements • Use picturesto get learners thinking about the topic and make the worksheet engaging. • Task 2 – do the vocabulary-matching task after a first reading. • Cut the words and definitions into cards for learners to match. • Do it as a ‘jigsaw’ – split learners into three groups for reading and vocabulary-matching. Reworked version of task © 2012

  6. Group B: Task 1 Quiz Strengths • Weaknesses • Competitive element may discourage • learners if they don’t know the • answers • Only introduces certain aspects of the text – doesn’t check learners’ • knowledge about Christianity • Visual– makes it engaging • Leads in to topic – gets learners • thinking about the topic of the • text • Competitive element makes it motivating • Gives support for reading – learners scan to identify key words from quiz and skim to understand gist of sections Suggested improvements Use more pictures and ask learners to work out the connection. © 2012

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  8. Group C: Task 1 Speaking Strengths • Weaknesses • Controversial – learners may not want to discuss religion, particularly with colleagues • All the same nationality – intercultural element won’t generate much discussion • Personalisation – makes it relevant • Leads in to topic – scientists • more likely to need help with • religious concepts and vocabulary than with scientific ones • Suggested improvements • Either: deal with the religious concepts in the vocabulary-matching task, not as a discussion • or: add a factual question about Genesis to the quiz • or: just use the four pictures as a lead-in. © 2012

  9. A checklist • Planning • What are the learners’ needs and objectives? Will my lesson idea further them? • Which vocabulary is needed to understand the text? • Which vocabulary is useful in other contexts and is therefore worth learningto use ? • Does the text illustrate the language point you’re using it to teach? • Testing • Are the activities engaging? • Are they varied enough? • How long do they take? • Do the instructions make sense? • Can you answer the questions?! And finally … Some quotes to discuss Get your materials published • Checking • Are all the facts correct? • Are there any spelling mistakes? © 2012

  10. All groups: What next? Suggestions 1. Get learners to write their own questions about parts of the text that they don’t understand. 2. Write gapped sentences using words from the text which could be useful in a business context, and have learners fill in the gaps. 3. Have learners do internet research on ‘intelligent design’ then prepare and hold a debate: ‘The theory of intelligent design should be taught in schools, as well as the theory of evolution.’ © 2012

  11. On reading ‘every act of comprehension involves one’s knowledge of the world as well’ – R.C. Anderson et al. (1977, p. 369) ‘a linguistic threshold exists which must be crossed before first-language reading ability can transfer to the second-language reading context’ – J.C. Alderson (2000, pp. 38-9) … and vocabulary ‘The proportion of difficult words in text is the single most powerful predictor of text difficulty, and a reader’s general vocabulary knowledge is the single best predictor of how well that reader can understand text’ – W. Nagy (2003, p. 1), summarising R.C. Anderson & P. Freebody (1981) © 2012

  12. On vocabulary ‘if you are choosing which words to work on in class, or highlighting words in passages, you should think about focusing on the high-frequency words first’ – A. Coxhead (2006, p. 3) ‘collocation is the most powerful force in the … comprehension of all naturally-occurring text’ – J. Hill, in M. Lewis (2000, p. 49) ‘most vocabulary is learned from context’, but ‘what that claim does not imply is that teaching specific vocabulary using context is the most effective … way of teaching that vocabulary’ – J.S. Sternberg (1987, p. 89) © 2012

  13. On writing ‘Usually the writer has to imagine a reader, but co-operative writing provides each writer with a reader and makes the writing task more realistic and more interactive’ – L. Hamp-Lyons & B. Heasley (1987, pp. 2-3) ‘models can be useful to learners, but only if they are used in association with a critical framework which informs students what genre a particular text is a model of, and what features are distinctive of that genre’ – C. Tribble (1996, p. 78) © 2012

  14. On quotation ‘Sentences in Scripture, like hair in horsetails, concur in one root of beauty and strength; but being plucked out one by one, serve only for springes and snares.’ – J. Donne, in I.A. Richards (1936, p.75) © 2012

  15. References Alderson, J.C. (2000). Assessing Reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Anderson, R.C., Reynolds, R.E., Schallert, D.L. & Goetz, E.T. (1997). Frameworks for comprehending discourse. American Educational Research Journal, 41, 367-381. Anderson, R.C. & Freebody, P. (1981). Vocabulary knowledge. In J. Guthrie (Ed.) Comprehension and teaching: research reviews, pp.77-117. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Coxhead, A. (2006). Essentials of Teaching Academic Vocabulary. Boston, MA: Thomson Heinle. Gairns, R. & Redman, S. (1986). Working with Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hamp-Lyons, L. & Heasley, B. (1987). Study Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hill, J. (2000). Revisiting priorities: from grammatical failure to collocational success. In Lewis, M. (Ed.) Teaching collocation: further developments in the lexical approach. Hove: Thomson Heinle. Nagy, W. (2003). Teaching vocabulary to improve reading comprehension. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Richards, I.A. (1936). The Philosophy of Rhetoric. London & New York: Oxford University Press. Sternberg, J.S. (1997). Most vocabulary is learned from context. In M.C. McKeown and M.E. Curtis (Eds.) The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition, pp.89-105. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Thornbury, S. (2002). How to Teach Vocabulary. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Longman. Tribble, C. (1996). Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  16. Get your materials published Teachitworld ( publishes EFL resources made by teachers for teachers. Contribute, and you could earn free membership and royalty payments in return. Sign up online at or email me at • The following journals also publish teachers’ own materials and/or ideas: • Humanising Language Teaching( • English Teaching Professional ( © 2012