Real Beauty? Free downloadable lesson

Real Beauty? Free downloadable lesson.

Nowadays, Dove’s advertisement – Dove Really Beauty Sketches– is very popular. The video shows  differences between how women view themselves and how others see them. Every time I check my facebook account,  this recent advertisement appears  on my newsfeed shared by my students and friends.

Having realized its popularity, I started to think how this video could be used in the classroom. As videos are meta materials -empty’ pedagogical procedures, teachers can decide on different activities depending on the level of the students.  This video  could be used while describing people or  teaching adjectives related to physical appearance. For low-level students, more simple words and adjectives like thin,fat, long,short ,blonde/straight/curly hair can be taught. On the other hand, the video is a valuable source to teach more upper level classes as there are a lot of advanced vocabulary in it. For example, When describing people collocations like prominent jaw/cheekbones, spiky hair, a heart-shaped face were used.

Rachael Roberts, a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer, created an amazing lesson regarding this video. Her lesson starts  by focusing on collocations to describe facial features, such as thick hair, full lips and so on. Students then watch the video and discuss some of the issues raised, including self -esteem, the role of the media,and differences between men and women. More language to describe physical appearance is ‘pulled out’ of the video, and the lesson ends with students writing detailed descriptions of themselves. (

Brilliant lesson Rachael Roberts created – elt-resourceful-real-beauty

I think  we don’t need to stick to a coursebook during the lesson. We can have  effective lessons with videos  if we apply appropriate activities to them.  At the university where I worked, we had to use coursebooks to standardize the education and  the duration of each lesson was 90 minutes which  could be considered as quite long.  In such cases, if we keep teaching  through the same material, it can be a coursebook or video, learners  will probably lose their attention. That’s why,  mixing things up can be a  good way to engage the  learners.


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Reflective Statement

This blog is part of an assessed portfolio for the module on materials design. With this blog, I tried to share my reflections and insights about materials used in English Language Teaching (ELT) and some aspects of their development and evaluation. I wrote my opinions about ELT materials, their design and evaluation process commenting on the class discussions, academic readings, webinars and talks I attended.

In the first few weeks, I wasn’t quite sure of the language and didn’t know how to write my posts in a formal or informal way and reference things. I think having written my third post, I found my own voice. My posts were tentative at first but then I realized that the more I wrote, the more my voice developed and the more confident I became.

This module helped me gain a different perspective on materials used in ELT.  Before taking the module, I always thought coursebooks were the primary source of teaching. Class discussions and readings I did made me aware of the importance of teacher-produced materials.  When I start teaching again, the first thing that I will probably consider is my learners’s needs. After analyzing them, I will decide whether to use  a coursebook or my own materials if I have a choice. Sometimes not using a coursebook cannot be an option to standardize the education in the institution. However, I am much more confident now and I can create my own materials or make some adaptations where necessary.

Thanks to fruitful discussions we had in the classroom, I now have an idea how to select,evaluate materials and which steps to follow while creating our own materials. Considering the Jolly and Bolitho’s materials writing framework, my friend and I created our worksheet. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this framework incorporates five stages. We first identified Turkish students’ needs and then explored them and decided to focus on grammar.  Third, as we  know the context well, we prepared the exercises considering their level. Exercises in our worksheet may seem easy for pre-intermediate learners but they aren’t actually (pedagogical realization). Finally, we took the last step – physical production- into consideration and added some cartoons, boxes and designed our layout.  When I looked back and considered the worksheets I had prepared and compared them with our worksheet , I could see that there is a huge difference. Jason Renshaw’s videos ( helped us a lot to design our worksheet. I learnt the importance of  headers and  footers, colours and visuals to make the materials we created more appealing and look professional.

With this module,  I have explored the importance of media, functionality and technology choice when selecting and evaluating materials. In my post ‘Graphic Novels’, I have suggested various activities with different tools as graphic novels can incorporate technology via online comic builders, webquests, and digital comics. Besides, I have looked at other tools like Bookr  to improve the worksheet I created by adding visuals ( I have also shot four videos and considered how they could be used as an ELT material. I will probably use them as ‘warmers’ or ‘coolers’ when I start teaching again. With this experience, I realized how simple shooting a video and uploading it to YouTube are (  Having looked at the media and different tools, I could say that they are visually appealing but most importantly, they have important affective features that will  increase the learners’ engagement in the language learning experience.

What this blog has done most of all is served to remind me the importance of teacher-produced materials, media and other tools that can be used in the classroom and how important affective factors are.  As a result of taking this module, I become  more confident and I  now have an idea how to select and evaluate materials.


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One-size-fits all?

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we need to produce our own materials to offer students more up-to-date data , reinforce their learning and most importantly, meet  their needs. There seems to be a mismatch between what coursebooks include and learners need. This probably results from globally designed coursebooks trying to cater for different needs in one book.  If we regard learners as customers and continue to publish books for market purposes , how can we expect them to be satisfied  with a ‘one size-fits all’  product?

one size fits all

This cartoon shows a man holding a tee-shirt with the slogan “One size fits all”. The man asks his three colleagues, “Will this do for you”. One colleague replies, “No-that won’t fit Me”. Another says, “We are ALL unique with individual needs and requirements”. Similarly, one coursebook doesn’t fit all as every class is unique and has a different cultural background, needs, interests and abilities.

Using teacher-produced materials makes a number of valid points because they are relevant to students’ needs that reflect local content, issues and concerns. I have observed in my classrooms that students don’t only struggle  to learn English but also to understand the culture.  Most of them even don’t know famous singers,actors and actresses in the world.  At this point, teachers can make some adaptations, modify the content according to the learners’ needs or bring their own materials to the classroom. Students will probably be more interested in talking  about the people they know. I am also aware of the fact that learning a language requires gaining its culture but sometimes these adaptations are necessary to engage the learners.

On the other hand, I am not against of using coursebooks as they also offer many advantages both teachers and learners. Some advantages Richards (2001:255) notes are as follows. They help standardize instruction which is very important to ensure that the students in different classes receive similar content. I worked at a university where 200 teachers were working and there were nearly 50 classes. In such a big institution, not using a coursebook cannot be an option as students are tested in the same way. Another advantage is that they maintain quality because if a well-developed textbook is used, students are exposed to materials that have been tried and tested.  However, they can be supplemented by teacher-produced materials. Coursebooks can also train teachers who have limited teaching experience.  For example,if they are new in the profession, a coursebook together with the teacher’s manual can serve as a medium of initial teacher training.

This argument may raise the question whether to use coursebooks or teacher-produced materials in the EFL classroom. The point is surely rather that using materials that can cater the needs of learners. These needs can be met by coursebooks or teacher-produced materials depending on the unique nature of the classroom. Sometimes you can use both to reinforce the learning. For example, the teacher can create his/her worksheet to supplement the coursebook when it lacks appropriate exercises At this point, the teacher should be a good observer to analyze  the needs of the learners. If a coursebook is designed for market purposes, isn’t culturally appropriate and  has bland topics then it would be much more appropriate to use teacher-produced materials. On the contrary; if teachers are in the early stages of their careers and students are tested in the same way, coursebooks should be the primary source for teaching and could be supplemented by teacher-produced materials. Last but not least, teachers should be aware of the fact that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ that’s why they should produce their own materials or make some adaptations where necessary regarding their learners’ needs.


Richards , J .C. (2001) Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Catherine Walter on the #ELTJ Debate at #IATEFL Liverpool

Oxford University Press

Catherine WalterThe ELT Journal debate at IATEFL Liverpool was a lively and well-attended affair. Thanks to the British Council, you can see the whole event online on the IATEFL Liverpool website. Here, Catherine Walter, who opposed the motion, gives her round up of the debate.

Scott Thornbury claimed that Published course materials don’t reflect the lives or needs of learners. Surprisingly, he did not repeat what he’s been saying for years in his Dogme / Teaching Unplugged strand – that teachers should not bother with course materials. Instead, he started from the weaker premise that course materials need improvement. Scott began by showing images of early twentieth-century books – hardly germane to the discussion, as if the nutritional value of deep-fried Mars Bars gave a picture of the contemporary diet. He maintained that there is a prevalence of employed, white, heterosexual male middle class characters in current materials. This doesn’t…

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R is for Representation

An A-Z of ELT

In the debate sponsored by the ELT Journal at this week’s IATEFL Conference in Liverpool, I proposed the motion that published course materials do not reflect the lives nor the needs of the learners.

To challenge some of the assumptions inherent in much published teaching material, I used this mock-up of a coursebook page (see below). It wouldn’t have been ethical, or even legal, to have shown, and then criticized, pages from current coursebooks, but I think you’ll agree that the replica is a plausible one.  I used this to argue that the choices, both of images (more often than not taken from the same kinds of photo archives as the images used in advertising) and of the text accompanying the images, serve to ‘position’ the user to assume a certain kind of identity with respect to the language that they are learning.page1

The physically-attractive, ethnically-mixed, well-dressed and youthful characters…

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Exploring Visuals

For this session, we looked at some tools like Flickr, Bubblr and Bookr to create our own materials. I used Bookr to improve the worksheet I had prepared before. Bookr is a tool to share your own photobook by using Flickr images. Before looking at the material I created in Bookr, I want to give more information about Flickr. Flickr is a popular online photo-sharing service and is totally free. The best way to search for a photo is to insert a tag or a key word. You can easily create a group of photos for your class by placing them into different sets, tagging each one with the student who took the photo etc. and the best thing of Flickr is most of the images are in the public domain. The reason why I explained Flickr in detail is most coursebooks are lack of authentic, recent and relevant supplementary visuals to texts.  It is because ” they rely heavily on stock or archive photography banks known as visual content industry which is responsible for nearly 75 percent of the images we find in advertising, marketing and design. It is this that gives ELT materials that artificial, airbrushed feel” ( Ben Goldstein). So, why don’t you produce your own materials and make them visually appealing  by using Flickr or your  mobile phone, camera. The visuals you add will probably have more impact on learners than the ones in coursebooks as they are original, recent and relevant to texts.

Here is my Bookr and the worksheet my friend  and I created in Microsoft Word Worksheet – Yuksel & Sag

bookr     bookr2

bookr 3Bookr 4

The positive impact of visuals is  obvious when we compare them. Although the content in my Bookr and worksheet are same, they look completely different. The one in Bookr is like a unit in a coursebook, and looks professional.

As the graphic designer Alan Fletcher said:

Although words and pictures can signify the same thing, the effect they produce can be quite different. Writing ‘stars and stripes’ on a piece of cloth is not as effective as illustrating them. The words don’t provoke the same emotional charge.

All of my classmates and my tutor agreed that this improved version of the worksheet is better because there are visuals that will probably attract and engage learners. They also liked the number of visuals and how they are placed in my Bookr. While designing it, I tried to avoid using visuals in both pages which may be distractive. The only negative feedback I got was about the length of the text in each page. We all agreed that long texts may distract learners. Taking these comments into consideration, I edited  the worksheet and this is the latest version of my Bookr. However, there isn’t an activity section in the latest version. It is because I lost my work two times while trying to create my new Bookr and the last time I didn’t want to take any risks and published the material.  I think Bookr is good for adding visuals and writing 2 or 3 sentences about them not for  long texts as you don’t have any save option. For example; you can teach nationalities, countries, flags, jobs etc. through Bookr and Microsoft Office Publisher would be more appropriate while creating worksheets with long texts and visuals.

One of the principles for developing materials set by Tomlinson is engaging learners both affectively and cognitively in the language learning experience. Teachers can provide this affective engagement through Bookr as visuals are fun and appealing. Learners will probably enjoy visuals that get their attention and engage in the text more. Bookr may also provide the cognitive engagement as visuals aid comprehension. It  may also increase learners’ retention because image rich texts help students remember the story which might build their memory skills.

As most of the  today’s youth population is visually literate, the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer than before. Therefore, try to use visuals as much as possible to develop visual literacy, engage learners, illustrate language,increase retention  of new language items and so on.

This post  is 711 words. Perhaps I should have drawn half a picture instead? 🙂


Goldstein, B. (2008) Working with Images: A Resource Book for the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Images in Language Teaching

Images – as visual aids- have long played an important role in language teaching. “It would be hard to imagine a language-teaching context without the presence of flashcards, wallcharts, coursebook images, downloaded photos, time lines, board drawings, learner-produced art-work, and so on” (Goldstein 2008:1). The reason why images have become an indispensable part of language teaching could be the benefits that they offer both learners and teachers. Some of them are as follows.

 Images can

  •  be used at all levels.
  •  introduce ‘outside world’ artefacts into class.
  • provide prompts for language production (e.g describe and draw).
  • make linguistic concepts easier to grasp.
  • act as speech cues in exams.
  • play a part in many classroom activities, e.g information gap tasks, etc.

ELT teachers should use images actively in class to

  • stimulate language use
  • illustrate language
  • engage students on an imaginative-level
  • reflect our world’s ever-increasing dependence on the visual image
  • develop visual literacy.

According to Goldstein, we can also look from the frame and

  • explore the cultural significance of images and related social issues.
  • consider images as communicating open-ended messages (rather than taking them at face value).
  • analyse the formal composition of images and their relationship to text (multimodality).
  • develop learner’s skills in interpreting images and creating their own.

The role of images in ELT  & some classroom activities

A image can be used as a decoration, visual aid,  complement to text, subject  for analysis, signs,symbols or icons and a form of subversion. We can use images with different activities like describing images, interpreting images etc… The images below (illustrations and signs) are  taken from the book “Working with Images” by Ben Goldstein.


Different activities can be done through images. I want to share some practical ideas that can be applied in a language classroom. With this image, Goldstein suggested an activity that aims to practise various lexical fields: materials,function etc. Adverbs: sometimes,often,usually, etc. and their position in the sentence. In this activity, students create a mental image of an object, describing it in the first person to others who have to guess what it is. The activity is called I am… and this personification of objects is something students enjoy because it allows them to conjure up a number of different and unexpected images. Teachers can prepare their own flashcards based on lexical sets they want to revise, e.g. furniture, animals, buildings, food, everyday objects etc. To make the activity more clear, the teacher may read the text below as an example and ask students listen and guess the object.

I’m sometimes made of plastic. I’m usually round. I have many different shapes. But I’m often quite small. I have numbers. I often sit next to bed. You usually use me during the week. You need me but you don’t like me.  Answer: Alarm clock


The picture above includes different signs which can be used as an ELT material, as well. Goldstein suggests another activity by using these different signs. The main focus of the activity is to teach  functional language in sign language and different registers (formal/informal). The activity is simple but seems engaging. First, distribute different signs to the students in pairs or small groups and make sure that they know the following different sign types: ‘warning’, ‘security’, ‘advertising’, ‘request’, ‘road safety’, and their concepts and present the class with the following questions:

– What kind of sign is each and where would you find it?

– How could you communicate the message of each in one simple sentence? e.g. Sign 1: Don’t even think of parking here –  It is illegal to park here.

As a second activity, students choose adjectives from the list (polite, threatening, humorous, insistent, friendly, official) and identify the style of each sign. Activities can be expanded. These questions can also be addressed to students.

In what ways are these signs unconventional or original?

What would a conventional equivalent look like, in each case?

Why could signs C and E be considered the odd ones out?

As it is clear from the examples, images can be used at all levels. The first exercise can be  done in elementary or pre-intermediate classes whereas in the second one the target level could be intermediate, upper-intermediate or advanced. I think the best thing about images is you don’t need any other materials, just an  appropriate image. If you still haven’t tried teaching only with  images , why don’t you leave all the materials aside for a day and listen to them in the class as the expression says  ‘Images Speak Louder than Words’.


Goldstein, B. (2008) Working with Images: A Resource Book for the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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