Since an early age I have been fascinated by languages and how they open up new worlds and cultures to the language learner. Originally planning to become a translator, I studied French and Spanish to degree level, but found that I was often better translating into the other language than into English, which didn't bode well for a career in translating.
I was lucky enough to spend my third year abroad teaching as the Language Assistant at the Official State Language School in Cadiz. I thoroughly enjoyed my year and was encouraged to explore methodology in depth and to experiment by my colleague and friend Vicky Samaniego.
I returned to Leeds University enthused with the teaching of English and after graduating, enrolled in a CELTA course (or RSA CTEFLA as it was then known) at International House Newcastle. Little did I know it, but I was about to embark on a long and fruitful journey into ELT. Ih were then actively recruiting teachers for their Polish schools and I thought it would give me useful experience in knowing what my beginners' classes were going through. The weekly input sessions encouraged me to develop my teaching and over the years I went from being a trainee on the YL Extension and DELTA courses to becoming a CELTYL and CELTA tutor, supported all the while by my tutors Rachael Roberts and Jon Butt.
Back in the UK I worked in an FE college for a year, teaching mainly FCE and IELTS to adults , but then made a move into the world of publishing when I started work at Cambridge English as the Subject Officer for the Cambridge Young Learners English (YLE) Tests. I was part of the team that conducted the 2007 review of the tests, analysing popular course materials in an attempt to make the tests more relevant to the digital generation.
In 2008 I moved to Macmillan Publishers where I was the Commissioning Editor for Primary materials, first in the Spain group, then in the International Group. I learnt a huge amount about how to publish effective and attractive materials whilst at Macmillan and count Footprints, Way Ahead Tests, Grammar Goals and YLE Skills as my main achievements.
Since leaving Macmillan I have become a freelance ELT writer and editor of Primary and occasionally Secondary materials. I work for multiple clients such as CUP, Macmillan, Pearson and Young Digital Planet so every day is different. I have recently become the project lead on a project to produce can-do statements for Young learners and am enjoying the challenges it brings.
I am passionate about producing meaningful, motivating and enjoyable materials for children and teenagers learning English and hope to give you an insight into this through my blog. It's the first time I have written a blog so I am really excited to be doing this.
I have recently started a project where I have been asked to develop English, Maths and Science learning objectives for the approved curriculum in the client’s International Schools. It’s quite a head-shift for me, as in the International House schools I worked in, I didn’t do too much of what is now known as CLIL.
I’ve spent most of today drafting examples to go with content edited learning objectives for Year 3 Science students and teachers. It’s really interesting – working outside of my comfort zone, I find more questions come to mind such as how do I phrase an example to go with this biology learning objective: ‘Describe ways in which animals are suited to the environments in which they are found.’ ‘I’ve come up with: ‘Example: describe how a camel survives in the desert by carrying fat in its hump for times when there is little or no food or water.’ and am fairly happy with that one.
I’m less confident about my physics examples. Here’s an example for you: learning objective: ‘Understand that we need light in order to see things and that dark is the absence of light.’ My example: ‘understand that we can see things in daylight or with other sources of light, and that we can’t see things when it is dark at night or when we don’t use electric lights.’
I’m more or less in the middle with my chemistry ones. Feel free to suggest improvements that can be made to the following example for this learning objective: ‘Understand that temperature is a measure of how hot or cold something is and that it is measured in degrees Celsius (°C) using a thermometer.’ Here, my example is: understand that temperature varies and we use thermometers to measure how hot or cold something is.
Thanks for reading this and I look forward to receiving some comments or likes if you like this post.
IATEFL 2017 in the great city of Glasgow is finishing up after a busy, enjoyable and thought-provoking week for many in the ELT profession.
This year I really started to make use of my membership when unable to attend because of work and family commitments. I checked how the MaWSIG or Materials Writers Special Interest Group was getting on at their PCE on Monday and saw they’d had a great time. You can read about it here in Rachel Daw’s excellent post: Storify about the 2017 MaWSIG PCE.
Today, I have the task of rewriting some Secondary progress and end-of-year tests so the internet and Facebook are mainly switched off apart from research purposes. Come 4.00 pm GMT, I’ll be finishing off and either relaxing with a cuppa in the garden or heading into town for a well-deserved coffee.
The first session in my ten-week teacher training course for Young Learners’ teachers gets trainees to consider why children are different to adult learners. Trainees consider the suitability of some demonstrated activities for different age groups, then discuss differences between the children they teach and the adult learners they taught on their CELTA. The session then looks at published Young Learners course books and how their approach differs from course books for adult learners.
If you look at page 8 of the PDF, you can see how the learning objectives have been used to inform the lesson objectives and activities in Pearson’s Poptropica Primary course at Level 2. You can map the materials you use with your Primary learners to the learning objectives, so do have a go at seeing how these objectives can inform your teaching and let me know how you get on.
Teachers are invited to get involved with the project and Pearson welcomes feedback from teachers and ELT practitioners with experience of teaching children. You can send feedback at https://www.English.com/gse/contact
Since coming back after the break, I have been tasked with briefing some unit and progress tests for an A2 Lower Secondary course for 11-14 year olds. I’m currently writing the progress and end-of-year tests, so I am working with my Cambridge English KET Handbook close to hand. I am cheered by the news that I may have found a writer for our unit tests as we are asking for someone to start as soon as possible and our first choices were booked up.
It’s the second day back at my desk since the UK August bank holiday, when I treated myself to four whole days off including a very sunny Friday in the garden.
I’m now getting on with revising a sample Primary test in line with the client’s feedback. I know my stuff, or so it seems from the good overall feedback, but I have to be mindful of not writing too much especially as it is the first unit test. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Fortunately the client has given good suggestions on how to counter this, so I will be amending the activity types so less text can feature. And I will be sketching out the layout as this is a requirement.
Sometimes people think because there is so little on the page for children that it is a doddle to write for this age group. Wrong! I am inclined to think it takes more time as you have to get it right in terms of cognitive challenge, interest, physical ‘fit’, course book ‘fit’, motivation, engaging activities that children want to do and so on.
I am backtracking a little and posting session 7 of my 10-week YLs teacher training course. In it, I work on getting teachers to consider how they demonstrate to their young learners that they value them and have high expectations of them. The session is a blend of theory and of activities that ask trainees to consider their practice as teachers.
Please note, I am currently awaiting permission to reproduce one of the resources in this session. The Michael Rosen poem can be found here
As most UK and some overseas schools return after the winter half term break, here is the eighth session of my 10-week Teacher Training course for teachers of Young Learners.
Session 8 examines the different reasons that underlie activities in children’s and teenagers’ lessons. Trainees explore how the students’ motivation for doing an activity can vary widely from the teacher’s aim. They analyse recently published YL course materials or the course materials that they use with their YL classes to discover each side’s motivation for doing the activities.
I hope you find these materials useful and relevant to your teaching context. Do please let me know if you have any feedback or questions.