Materials Banks: an Alternative to Coursebooks

Originally posted on aplinglink:


Using a materials bank as an alternative to coursebooks doesn’t mean ripping off published materials. There is a wealth of materials available online which don’t infringe copyright laws. A few examples are listed below. I’m not endorsing  any of them,  except One Stop English,  just replying to the objection that if teachers don’t use a coursebook they risk breaking the law.

One Stop English

British Council

American English

ESL Gold


Using English 

I’m sure readers can suggest more and better sources than these. Any search on “Materials for teaching English as a second language” or something similar will give you dozens of websites to explore – as if you didn’t know!

Of course, this is just one way to find materials. You can also do searches for video and audio material, grammar stuff, reading  texts, case studies, simulations, games, quizzes, tests, etc.. too, and, respecting copyright laws, use them with learners, making worksheets where necessary. And there…

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Dellar Defends the Coursebook

Originally posted on aplinglink:


Following my post on Challenging the Coursebook, there was an exchange of tweets led by Hugh Dellar, who said the following

  • “the talk seems based on number of bold claims and misconceptions. doesn’t he realise teachers mediate coursebooks?”
  • “of course teachers influence coursebook design yes. And if they showed less enthusiasm for grammar it’d all change.”
  • “if teachers were to stop buying grammar-dominated books tomorrow, publishers would stop publishing them.”
  • “Talk to publishing folk & see how in thrall they are to teachers’ demands and expectations.”

The gist here seems to be that teachers like coursebooks and coursebooks are based on the presentation and practice of discrete bits of grammar because that’s what teachers want.

Dellar has elsewhere defended the use of coursebooks with such arguments as

  • People teaching in very poor parts of the world would just love to have coursebooks
  • Coursebooks are well-researched
  • Coursebooks help teachers do their…

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The Industry and the damage done

Taken from Google images -

Taken from Google images –

On Saturday morning, before attending the Innovate conference I tweeted this:

Would it be innovative to stop using the word ‘industry’ with ELT and start using the word ‘profession’?

While I’m well aware this is not particularly innovative, I still think it is a question worth investigation. In fact, it produced some interesting responses;

  1. as long as schools blindly respond to the demands of the market (tests) there is no better word than industry ;)

the fact many language schools are run by business people rather than educators doesn’t help either.

I’d never thought of the two being in opposition before.

Looking at how schools are run today, cuts in govt budgets & the discrepancies in policies, ‘industry’ sadly still suits it better

The word ‘industry‘ conjures up certain images in my mind. Workers churning out products to be sold to the masses, low paid workers and high paid owners, profit over working conditions and a top-down hierarchical structure. The connotation is a negative one and if you look carefully on the Macmillan dictionary website, one of the definitions states;

 an activity or business that has become very successful, especially one that you think makes an unfair profit or is not necessary (

While the ELT profession is necessary, the point of this post is not to call for a dismantling of the ‘industry‘ and the toppling of big name publishers in order to distribute the wealth. What I would simply advise is this; stop using the word ‘industry’ among ourselves. Stop using it in conversations, conferences, blog posts and books. Instead, replace it with the word, profession. Look at yourselves as professionals and as individuals who serve yourself and your students. If we want to be taken seriously, to be given the respect we deserve and be a part of more than just another ‘industry’, we must change how we are viewed. A change of mindset and vocabulary can do wonderful things.

a job that you need special skills and qualifications to do, especially one with high social status

 Definition of ‘Profession‘ taken from

Is there discourse against women in ELT?

Originally posted on Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis:

At this year’s IATEFL, Russ Mayne and I gave a talk called “Where are the women in ELT?”. It was attended by about 50 people, crammed into a 40 seater room, but has been talked about by twice that many people if the online debates are anything to go by. See Steve Brown’s post following the talk and Scott Thornbury’s reference to it. Healthy public debate was what we expected. Other conversations took place on social media and those were a bit different — at least the ones I saw. This post is about the one that surprised me the most and happened on Facebook after someone who was at the talk posted a photo and a positive comment about the talk.

Reasonable discussion of issues and implications followed, including both male and female commenters, and some suggestions were made of things that could be done to even…

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Successful Project work with Young Learners – BELTA day 2015

Last weekend I attended the excellent BELTA day 2015 conference. I was privileged to be one of the many speakers who attended the conference and the following post provides a link to the Prezi I used with embedded audio notes. You can view the Prezi by clicking on the following link –

When the link opens, make it full screen and click the play button in the bottom left hand corner. The audio and slides will play automatically.

Useful links and books

  • Teaching Young Language Learners – Annamaria Pinter (Oxford University Press)
  • Process and Experience in the Language Classroom – Michael Legutke and Howard Thomas (Longman)
  • Projects with Young Learners – Diane Phillips, Sarah Burwood and Helen Dunford. (Oxford University Press)
  • Project work in the Young Learner classroom – Martin Sketchley
  • Project work with Young learners – Diane Phillips

To finish, I would like to thank the wonderful organisers of the BELTA day conference. There are too many names to mention, but their hard work both organising the event and on the actual day itself was tireless. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brussels and I was very proud to be part of such an excellent event.

For those who wish to know more about BELTA and the excellent work they do, please click here.


Radical Happiness

Originally posted on aplinglink:


In an attempt to convey a more positive, upbeat, sunny view of things than I usually do, here’s a summary of an article from the 2014 Summer issue of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (ASR) on happiness.

There’s a new orientation within psychological research called positive psychology which studies well-being, happiness, and other positive aspects of people’s lives (see, for example, Keyes and Haidt, 2003 and Fredrickson, 2009). Happiness is a tricky construct for researchers to define; they tend to use terms like well-being, satisfaction and flourishing, and to examine experiences such as engaging in relationships, developing skills and contributing to society. There are a plethora of methodological issues in play here, but, in the spirit of the piece, I’ll keep my doubts to myself.

The article begins the review of findings by examining factors which have a low impact on happiness, the most notable being income and possessions. The best studies here…

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