How do you progress from being a teacher to a materials writer?
There is nothing quite like using materials that you have written yourself with the learners that you have written them for. Of course many teachers also go beyond writing materials for their own classes and start to produce them for a wider audience. Seeing your name in print is a proud moment for any aspiring writer. But how to get started with materials writing?
Here are 5 things you can do if you want to make the step from teacher to materials writer.
- Look at your course books with a critical eye: analyse the structure of the book as a whole, the sequence of activities within each section, the way in which grammar and vocabulary is presented and practiced. Can you identify the approach taken by the author(s)? Can you see the rationale behind a given sequencing of activities? How do the activities help learners to understand and use the target language? How are learners’ skills developed?
- Learn from the experts: there is a growing number of resources available to those who want to learn more about materials writing. The website www.eltteacher2writer.co.uk not only has a series of modules (http://www.eltteacher2writer.co.uk/modules/modules-available-now) available to download at a reasonable price from Amazon and Smashwords but also features a list of useful resources (http://www.eltteacher2writer.co.uk/writer-resources) for aspiring writers. You might also like to download (for free!) The No-Nonsense Guide to Materials Writing (http://hancockmcdonald.com/sites/hancockmcdonald.com/files/file-downloads/No%20Nonsense%20Guide%20to%20Writing%20Jan23.pdf) If you have access to a university library (or lots of spare cash!) there is a growing body of theoretical material relating to materials writing – search for names such as Brian Tomlinson and Nigel Harwood. If you are able, you could also attend sessions with a materials writing focus at conferences such as IATEFL’s annual one. MATSDA (The Materials Development Association)( https://www.matsda.org/) put on a small number of conferences each year with the specific focus of materials development in conjunction with different themes.
- Experiment: Armed with the knowledge you have gained from the first two steps, try making worksheets to use with your class. If you don’t feel confident enough to jump straight in and create, adapt activities or sequences from existing materials. Like any skill, the more you do it (and reflect on the outcomes, feeding that reflection into future efforts), the easier it will become.
- Network: If you want to go beyond writing materials for your class, then you might be wondering how to get your materials into the public domain. One way to do this is to network and find somebody to publish your work that way. The obvious way to network in the materials writing world is to join MaW SIG (http://mawsig.iatefl.org/about-mawsig/ ) . MaW SIG stands for Materials Writing Special Interest Group and it is one of the many special interest groups affiliated to IATEFL. MaW SIG organises events (one day conferences, pre-conference and SIG days at the IATEFL annual conference, meet-ups) which enable writers and editors to make contact. An active Twitter presence may also help you to keep an eye on any potential writing opportunities out there.
- Make yourself visible: As well as networking, it is helpful to find ways of showcasing your work to potential editors. This could be through a blog where you upload materials that you have made. If you have particular faith in a certain set of materials that you have made, then why not submit them to the annual ELTon award competition: there is a category specifically for unpublished authors, sponsored by Macmillan. You could also submit something to www.onestopenglish.com’s Lesson share competition (http://www.onestopenglish.com/lesson-share/ ).