Monthly Archives: February 2013

Theresa Clementon’s materials session

I have attended Theresa Clementson’ s materials session and I would like to share some notes which I found useful and interesting. She  is a lecturer at Brighton University  and has been teaching more than 20 years. She is  also  a materials writer and  one of the authors of the coursebook “English Unlimited” published by Cambridge University Press. Although she is a coursebook writer, her talk was about teachers creating their own materials not producing  or designing coursebooks. She has encouraged teachers to design their own materials by talking about  the early stages of her career.  She started designing her own materials before a long time ago where there wasn’t a coursebook at the school she taught. She taught by using set of good materials that played a crucial role on producing  her own materials.  According to her, materials are lessons that implies they don’t have to be a coursebook, they could be anything that can go well in the classroom. If a piece of material works , it is a good lesson for her.

Her session was like a seminar discussion with few activities and talking about our own materials. She has started her session by addressing two questions:

  1. How often do you produce your own worksheets for a class? ( She has explained that worksheets could be anything, they could be  a text taken from a magazine or newspaper or they could be listening where you want to use authentic  material).
  2. Why do you produce your own materials or why don’t you? ( One of the reasons of producing own materials could be for example, when teachers want to teach Present Perfect and they don’t like the way it is done in their coursebooks).

Having discussed these questions  with our groups, we have  all agreed that we don’t  produce our own materials much as they  take too much time. One of the teachers in my group says that she doesn’t produce her own worksheets as it requires a great deal of effort, she would rather produce questions for discussion. However, we are all aware of the fact that we need to produce our own materials to offer students more up-to-date data and reinforce their learning.

There are also other reasons emerged from a class discussion. Teachers should produce their own materials because they are:

  • culturally appropriate
  • easier for students to use teacher-produced materials ( teachers can grade the questions and make them more simple).
  • flexible in lots of ways
  • personalized
  • authentic
  • localized

In the session, teachers agree that they  should create their own materials when they think a language point or skill cannot be achieved through a coursebook. Another reason of creating their own material is resulted from bland topics coursebooks have. They believe that there are topics that coursebooks do not touch because of their being global. The last reason of producing their own materials  is that coursebooks are sometimes stretching learners which means they could be too easy or difficult for learners. On the other hand, they also underline the importance of published materials because they save a massive amount of time , offer a syllabus and tend to recycle important points.

After discussing teacher-generated and published materials, she has talked about implementation  of materials –  lesson plan –  and emphasized some points whilst preparing a lesson plan which are listed below.

  • its aims
  • class profile
  • learner outcome ( what will learners be able to do at the end of the lesson?).
  • syllabus fit and lesson fit
  • interaction
  • timing

She then asked us to create two templates for worksheets which we  have produced  for a language point and skills lesson. The worksheet I have prepared with my friend focuses on a language point whereas my partner’s worksheet is based on a developing a listening skill. Therefore, we could have analyzed two templates. While creating our templates, we have  considered some teaching points like questions about specific info, language forms and use, guessing meaning from context, a gist task, speaking practice, a discussion task, visuals etc.

Worksheet – Yuksel & Sag – This is the worksheet I have produced with my friend which aims to teach non-gradable adjectives-.

Our template for this worksheet is:

  • guessing meaning from context
  • prediction of target vocabulary
  • discussion with their partners
  • matching exercise to reinforce the vocabulary
  • gap-filling exercise  (more challenging than  the matching exercise)
  • end-up activity (writing)

You can find our ideal templates for a language point and skills lesson below. (Activities can vary depending on learners’ needs).

Templates for a language point and skill worksheet

At the end of the session, some questions were posed to her. I found one of them really interesting that was “what is the future of materials?” and wanted to learn her opinions as a professional materials writer. What will be the students’ reactions to coursebooks in 2025? Will it be like in the picture below?

student reactions to books in 2025

Her feelings about this issue is that there will always be a place something in our hands. It may be less but coursebooks won’t die. According to her, the market place will probably change. Global coursebooks will have smaller market than locally produced materials in the future. There will be a lot more culturally appropriate materials. For example, a coursebook called Total English Fame is being designed for Chinese learners which will exactly look like a global coursebook but cater to the needs of Chinese context.

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Graphic Novels

002The first British Council Turkey Story  Sharing Web Conference was held on 9th and 10th February, 2013. From this webinar, I would like to share some notes from Samantha Lewis’s plenary “Using Graphic novels and Comics with Teens”. She divides her talk into three parts: What are graphic novels?, Why should we use them and How can we use them?

She first explains the difference between graphic novels and comics. Graphic novels tend to be stand alone stories and could be serious in tone, as well. On the other hand, comics could be daily or weekly installments often with the same characters. They are both being used in the UK and USA and they are becoming more prominent in ELT.

There are many reasons of using graphic novels in the classroom. First, they are fun both for students and teachers. Students enjoy the colours and pictures which get their attention. Teachers also enjoy these activities since they are creative and provide fun contexts to work. Moreover,  graphic novels are visual. The visuals aid comprehension and image rich texts help students remember the story which might build their memory skills. They can also provide extra support for lower level students and can be exploited through a wide range of  classroom activities. Third,  they are flexible in many ways. Teachers don’t have to use the whole story when they use graphic novels. They could use  short extracts from a film or TV series. If students are interested, they can take the whole story away. They are also flexible as they can be exploited through individual or group work. In terms of the methodology, they are flexible, too. They can be used with different ways of learning (e.g task-based learning, webquests or more traditional models). Besides, they are available in a variety of genres, from superhero comics to classic texts like Shakespeare, Charles Dickens etc., so they can appeal to many students. They can develop creativity and imagination. For example, teachers can ask students to end stories or write them from a different point of view. Finally, they can incorporate technology via online comic builders, webquests and digital comics. Students can build their own comics and read digital comics online.

Samantha Lewis offered a range of fun and practical activities before, while and after reading the story. Before reading the story, teachers can give a few  key words which might help students predict the characters, topic of the story and content. Here is an example prediction task of Spooky Skaters- The Grafitti Ghost which can be accessed at: http://maryglasgowplus.com/teacher_resources/47077

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Students can also make predictions by looking at the first panel of the story or pictures and teachers can ask them to  describe the characters. Teachers can also give all the panels without the text and students can predict what will happen in each of them. As most  ELT versions of graphic novels have audio files, teachers could play the audio before reading the text  and students can try to  jot down as much as they can. This activity will probably develop their skills, language and pronunciation.

While reading the story, they can confirm their predictions.Teachers can  give texts and visuals separate and ask students to match them and they can also  get students draw or mime them which students may find enjoyable. They can also ask students to put the events in the story into correct order. Turkish students will probably like this activity because putting the events into correct order is a common exam question. Because most Turkish students are exam-oriented, they can engage in this activity more than the others. With the help of this activity, students can learn to find clues while ordering a text. For example, clues are illustrated with  a star shape in the text below.

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After reading the story, students can act out the whole story and they can also carry out a roleplay based on the story.  Students can be asked to retell the story from a blank version in their own words. They can create or write an alternative ending, as well. Teachers can create various activities by using graphic novels with regard to their learners’ needs. For example, if learners have difficulties in using the past and past continuous tense, teachers can ask them to write the narrative version of the story.

Teachers can also focus on specific language areas, such as features of spoken language, discourse markers, description of characters or settings, narrative tenses and reported speech by using graphic novels. For example, they can get their students to write direct or indirect speech of comics or ask them to describe the characters to reinforce present simple and continuous. The example below shows how teachers can do reported speech activities by using graphic novels in the classroom.

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Overall, I found Samantha Lewis’s plenary very useful as she offered a wide range of practical activities that might help learners develop both their creativity and language work while having fun.

Webinar recording can be accessed at:  https://britishcouncil.adobeconnect.com/_a917587435/p3d9oy1s4we?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

Here are some online resources and comic builders

www.makebeliefscomix.com

http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/

http://interactive.cambridge.org/index.php/students/comic-builder

http://www.teachingcomics.org/

www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/genre/com/Graphic-Novels

http://www.scholastic.com/graphix/

www.toondoo.com

www.interactive.cambridge.org

http://www.classicalcomics.com/previews

http://maryglasgowplus.com/teacher_resources/28425

www.grammarmancomic.com

www.franklinwatts.co.uk

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Language Learning Materials

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Most teachers and learners use various kinds of materials to facilitate the learning of a language. According to Tomlinson (2011), language learning materials could be anything that is “deliberately used to increase the learners’ knowledge and/or experience of the language” . That is to say; they can be coursebooks, workbooks photocopiable materials, online sources, CD-Roms, DVDs, readers, YouTube. They can also be photographs, live talks by invited native speakers, food packages and newspapers. Materials play a crucial role in language learning. Richards (2001) notes that “much of the language teaching that occurs throughout the world today could not take place without the extensive use of commercial materials”. He also explains a wide range of materials for language teaching and categorized them into three groups which are:

(a) printed materials such as books, workbooks, worksheets, or readers;
(b) nonprint materials such as cassette or audio materials, videos, or computer-based materials;
(c) materials that comprise both print and nonprint sources such as self-access materials and materials on the internet. Richards also underlines the importance of materials that are not designed for instructional use such as magazines,newspapers and TV.

It is probably commercial textbooks and their supplementary materials such as workbooks,CDs and teachers’ guides commonly used by teachers and learners to facilitate the language learning process. However, it should be kept in mind that using a textbook in the language classroom has both advantages and disadvantages. Both teachers and learners can benefit from textbooks as they provide structure and a syllabus for a program, a variety of learning resources that can help learners to reinforce their learning and save teachers’ time. On the other hand, textbooks can be disadvantageous depending on the contexts, what they include and how they are used. For instance, they might not meet the needs of learners who are taught English as a foreign language (EFL) because most textbooks are designed for global market. Therefore, Learners in EFL contexts do not only struggle with learning English but they may also need to put in more effort to adapt the target culture. I believe that learning a foreign language requires learning its culture but some texts and activities in textbooks can be culturally biased and do not match with some contexts. For example; in the coursebook I taught in Turkey, there was a unit about ‘speed-dating’ which I found it really difficult to explain and make some students engage in the lesson.  They are gaining the culture but not practising it. Thus, the activities in a coursebook should match with learner needs and wants and material developers should take the target context  into account whilst developing coursebooks. Moreover, coursebooks may have a negative impact on teachers as they can deskill teachers.  As Richards explains; if teachers use textbooks as the primary source of their teaching, their role can become reduced to that of a technician whose primary function is to present materials prepared by others. Therefore, it is very important for teachers to be able to create their own materials. Taking disadvantages of coursebooks into account, teachers should not rely heavily on them. However; in some contexts like Turkey, this might not be easy because of the institutional factors and compulsory language education with coursebooks but teachers can still use their own materials where necessary and give students extra activities with regard to their needs to reinforce their learning.

Having discussed language learning materials, their roles and the importance of teachers’ being able to create their own materials in our first session, my friend and I made a presentation. It was a summary of  “Materials for General English” by  Hitomi Masuhara and Brian Tomlinson . In our presentation I found it really surprising that major coursebooks seem to target two different kinds of teaching contexts. The first one is ‘General English’  in English-speaking countries such as the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the second one is EFL context. Although these  two contexts are not similar, most coursebooks try to cater for both contexts. Meeting the needs of them seems unrealistic as they have salient differences.  Thus, making their own materials for teachers is crucial because they are aware of their learners’ needs and learning context. They can analyze these needs and create appropriate resources for their context.

If you want to learn more about materials for General English, why don’t you look at our presentation below.

Materials for General English

References

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

Tomlinson, B. & Masuhara, H. (2008) Materials for General English. In: Tomlinson, B. (ed). English Language Learning Materials: A Critical Review. London: Continuum.

Tomlinson, B.  (ed). (2011)  Materials Development in Language Teaching. (2nd ed) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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