Generally, this blog and materials module made me look at materials from a new perspective, a perspective that I personally had never experienced before. This module helped me to look at the diversity of materials that can be used in English language classrooms, and to consider some aspects of their development and evaluation. Knowing how to use different materials effectively in classrooms can help teachers to understand what is best for their learners’ needs in their context. In this blog I had the opportunity to write my opinions about ELT materials, their design principles and frameworks, and the evaluation process, after the fruitful discussions we had in the sessions.
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure what a blog was really about, and I found it difficult to distinguish between what a blog does and what an essay does. As you can see in my early posts, I almost tried to write in a formal way, and missed the main idea of a blog being writing as a journey, but with time I realised that I should start to record things, go back to my notes, and then discuss them here, and the more I wrote, the more confident I became.
The scenario in most EFL classrooms is that the teacher has nothing to do with the process of selecting coursebooks, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I hadn’t tried before to evaluate any coursebooks that I used. And before taking this module, I thought that this was ok, that I should just use the coursebook, and that it was not my job to evaluate it, but after class discussions and more reading, I realised the importance of evaluation. I realised that knowing how to evaluate is not about telling others that you are good or that you know more than the evaluators who chose the coursebook. The idea of evaluation is much deeper than this; evaluating materials can help us, teachers, to know the strengths and weaknesses of our coursebooks. And even if you find some weaknesses in a coursebook, it doesn’t mean that it is not good and that you can’t use it any more. What is weak in your context might be strength in another’s context. When I go back to Kuwait and start teaching again, I will try to evaluate my coursebooks (the Target English series), for example, according to Ansary and Babaii’s criteria, and to consider my learners’ needs. If I identify any weaknesses, I will try to create my own materials to bridge this gap.
From this module, with the class discussions and tasks, I think that now I have the confidence and ability to create my own materials, and I know the steps to follow when creating them. Considering Jolly and Bolitho’s materials writing framework, I created my Bookr. First, I identified my students’ needs and then I explored them and decided to focus on language functions (guessing, expressing their ideas, agreeing and disagreeing, etc…). After I got to know my context and my students’ level well, I prepared the exercises accordingly, and included pictures with suggested questions. Then I checked the exercises to make sure that they were appropriate (for pedagogical reasons). Finally, I came to the last stage, which is the physical production. I considered what might be interesting for my learners (flags). When I looked back at my book and compared it to our tutor’s photobook, I saw a big difference between the two. Later on, his discussion in the classroom helped us a lot and suggested new ideas about how to make your Bookr more appealing and more professional-looking.
Nowadays, the use of media and technology in classrooms is growing massively in the ELT world. In this module I had the opportunity to create my own materials by using technology, such as Bookr and a YouTube video. For this video, I shot short clips and combined them later into a video, and considered how it could be used as ELT material. I will use it as ‘warm-up’ when I start teaching again in my own country, because the topic may capture my students’ attention at the start of the lesson. Also, this experience made me realise how simple is to make a video and upload it to YouTube, even without using a computer or a laptop! All you need is your smartphone, as simple as that, and this is one of the ideas that I will encourage my students to use.
I have enjoyed my time so far as a blogger. I had heard a lot about blogs and bloggers, but I never thought of creating one. Now I have done so, I think it is a way that can keep me connected to other members in the ELT field and other teachers. Also, this is now my place to express my own views and ideas, and discuss my own context, maybe comparing it others’. To be honest I never imagined myself blogging one day, but here I am using this space to express my humble experience in the ELT field. As a novice of two years, this is a starting point for me. This module (and blog) has offered me the opportunity to express my opinions freely, and most importantly has shown me how to select and evaluate materials.
– Ansary, H. & Babaii, E. (2002) Universal Characteristics of EFL/ESL Textbooks: A Step Towards Systematic Textbook Evaluation. The Internet TESL Journal 8 (2): Available from: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Ansary-Textbooks/ [Accessed 30-June-2013].
– Jolly, D., & Bolitho, R, (2011) The Process of Material Writing. In Tomlinson, B. (Ed), Materials development in language teaching (pp. 90-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.