TEC15 Day 2 | How to help teachers find, create, recycle and adapt good-quality teaching materials | A quick summary

How ever do the Sandy Milins and Lizzie Pinnards of the world manage to write detailed summaries while they are attending conferences and events? 🙂 I tried but I couldn’t do it. So here’s my attempt at playing catch-up


This talk was by Katherine Bilsborough and she started off by stating that while the downloading of illegally shared materials is a problem, there’s also a dire need for good quality materials because a lot of the stuff on the net is terribly dodgy. Additionally, there’s tremendous interest in materials writing because in a sense it is a form of professional development and requires Ts to bring together and apply a range of skills. IATEFL’s Materials Writing special interest group (MawSIG) is the newest but also the fastest growing SIG.

Katherine Bilsborough

8 principles for materials writing

1. Apply Krashen’s theory to pitch materials at the right level i.e., just above the learner’s level.

2. Use good English.

3. Ensure the materials are visually pleasing.

4. Cover useful language (from the learner’s perspective).

5. Consider PARSNIPs (politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, isms and pork). Although Katherine did go on to say that what’s important to her is whether Ts are comfortable teaching these topics (she didn’t mention Ss here). Interestingly, this directly contradicted what Dr. Todeva was talking about the previous day when she spoke about market forces and perceptions shaping publishers’ choices about content in course books.

6. Ensure accessibility of materials for all Ss including those who may have some form of visual impairment.

7. Provide clear rubrics. By rubrics, Katherine was referring to written instructions in activity sheets. The audience seemed a little puzzled at first because in India, the term usually refers to assessment rubrics.

8. Sequence tasks and activities logically. Provide Ts practice with this skill by giving them jumbled-up tasks from a course book and asking them to reorder it such as with the following example:

Complete the sentences. Use the words in the box.

What are you wearing today? Write.

Complete the sentences. Write one word.

Match the words and pictures.

Katherine then moved on to discussing how Ts could be encouraged to exploit authentic texts. For example, give them a photo of a menu and ask them to identify language or features they could get their Ss to notice. Just before she ended, Katherine spoke about ELTpics which hardly anyone in the room seemed to be familiar with. Her twist on the old ‘give ’em a picture with some questions’ was to give the Ss some answers related to a picture and ask them to write questions as in this example which elicits the present and past forms respectively.

Write questions for these answers:

1. Canada

2. Cold and windy

3. Two brothers

Write questions for these answers:

1. In 1984

2. Because they needed a secret meeting place

3. No, they didn’t

I know a lot of this seems really basic but from my conversation on the flight back home with one of the organizers, it appears that speakers at the Teacher Educator Conference are finally talking to the audience, instead of at them. Despite the proliferation of PhDs among English language educators in India, teaching as a professional practice is severely underdeveloped. Many of these teachers would never even have considered writing their own materials, let alone actually creating them. So, a basic set of principles seems a good place to start.


4 thoughts on “TEC15 Day 2 | How to help teachers find, create, recycle and adapt good-quality teaching materials | A quick summary

  1. Hi Adi,
    It made me laugh to see mine and Lizzie’s names at the start of this post 🙂 I think the summarising we do comes from lots of practise, and you’re definitely getting that :p Touch-typing helps too, as does way way too many hours on the computer!
    This is a really useful summary, and your final point is key: we need to share information because basic to one person is always new to another. We can’t assume everybody knows all of the same things as us. There’s also the idea that even if we know it, talks like can serve as a very useful reminder, and might just get us doing something again which we’ve neglected.


    • 😉 Thank you once again for sharing my posts on FB.

      I completely agree. Although I’ve been attending webinars and seminars for yonks, I find that it’s only in the recent past that I’ve truly been engaging with the ideas that are shared … and writing summaries, even if they’re not analytical, reflective or profound, helps me think through these ideas; incorporating them into my practice, reviewing them critically, and documenting them for future reference. Thank you for being a consistently great role model!


  2. Hi Adi, Sandy Millin just shared this post on FB so I wanted to say thank you. I was particularly interested in the ‘rubrics’ bit. I had no idea and nobody said anything. This was my first talk to ‘educators’ and ‘teacher trainers’ rather than ‘teachers’ and it was a very different experience for me. Maybe this is why, when referring to the parsnips, I mentioned teachers’ comfort but didn’t mention the students. If I did the talk again, I’d mention the students too. I am intrigued to know more about Dr Todeva’s talk after reading this. Did you write about that too? All the best, Katherine

    Liked by 1 person

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