MWIS Newsletter

MWIS News, Volume 19:1 (March 2006)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • News
    • Letter From the Cochairs
    • Letter From the Chair-Elect
    • Congratulations, Sandy Briggs!
  • Articles
    • The Material Writer’s Bookshelf

News Letter From the Cochairs

Dorothy Zemach,, and Carlos Islam,

Happy 2006 to all MWIS members!

We hope the past year has been productive and fruitful for everyone. In a few short weeks it will be time to leave our indoor desks and our (for some of us, at least) cold and rainy climates and head to TESOL in Tampa, March 15-18, where the warm weather will no doubt inspire us to network, learn new things, share what we know, and line up projects for the coming year. It’s easy as independent writers to become isolated, so we hope those of you who attend will take advantage of the opportunities for socializing with other MWIS members at TESOL: staff the MWIS booth or stop by to say hello, come to the annual business meeting on Wednesday (5:00-7:00 p.m., Convention Center, room 11), and attend the Friday evening networking party (6:00-8:00 p.m., Convention Center, room 22). Come to the conference armed with resumes, business cards, problems, successes, and stories.  Note that the online planner is already up on the TESOL site (, and that you can search by Interest Section, topic, day, time, presenter’s name, and so on. 

We had fewer slots available to us this year for sessions, partly a result of a small number of submissions and partly a result of a smaller convention center. For that reason, we hope that those members whose presentations were not accepted this year will consider resubmitting them next year. I know this is said all the time, seemingly, but it really was impossible to accept all of the deserving presentations submitted this year.

MWIS members have all benefited this year from the work of Tay Lesley, who organizes and puts together our newsletter; Bill Walker, who manages the e-list; and our chair-elect, Julie Vorholt-Alcorn (who was elected in San Antonio as Julie Vorholt, but got married in June—congratulations!). Julie’s been busy organizing the MWIS Academic Session and an InterSection and selecting and scheduling the Discussion Groups. Special thanks to Jan Van Zante and Alison James for organizing and facilitating the great MWIS networking party in San Antonio. We hope it will be as lively this year! Thanks too to all of our proposal readers, who successfully navigated a few computer glitches to get the work done in time.

Those who can’t get to Tampa this year can still take advantage of MWIS membership by getting together virtually with colleagues through the e-mail list.

We look forward to seeing you all in Tampa, online, or in print!

Letter From the Chair-Elect

Julie Vorholt-Alcorn,

Hello everyone,

The 2006 TESOL Convention is just around the corner! I’m looking forward to seeing you in warm, sunny Tampa and enjoying our Interest Section’s many presentations. I’ve organized two MWIS sessions: an Academic Session and an InterSection with the Elementary Education Interest Section.

The Academic Session, entitled “Writing L2 Reading Materials—Theory, Research, Practice,” brings together five panelists (Andrew Cohen, Marc Helgesen, Linda Jeffries, Bea Mikulecky, and Rob Waring) to present the latest information on this topic. The panel will examine extensive reading, writing graded readers, writing textbooks that raise learner’s consciousness of the many aspects of reading development, and taking corpus linguistics into account in a reading textbook. The session will be held on Thursday from 8:30 to 11:15 a.m.

The InterSection “Writing Elementary Materials that Incorporate TESOL’s Standards” brings together established materials writers, experienced elementary teachers, and a publisher. The participants are Tim Collins, Judie Haynes, Margo Gottlieb, Mona Scheraga, and Donald Wulbrecht from Pearson Longman. They will discuss how the standards have influenced their writing, the publishers’ expectations, and the submission of proposals. The session is scheduled for Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m.

MWIS Discussion Groups will also be held. Because of the smaller size of Tampa’s venue, the number of Discussion Groups assigned to each IS was reduced. We filled all 10 of our slots in Tampa. (We received 12 in San Antonio.) Some topics to be covered include permissions, technology, document design, and productive writer-editor relationships. The Discussion Groups often provide good opportunities for informal networking and support as well.

To view MWIS sessions (and, of course, any other sessions), you can browse the convention program at Save a list of presentations you’re attending and print it out or download it to a personal digital assistant (PDA).

Other MWIS events include the Interest Section Open Meeting on Wednesday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and the reception on Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., to which editors are invited. We cosponsor this social mixer with the Video and Digital Media IS. Bring your business cards.

See you in Tampa!

Congratulations, Sandy Briggs!

Julie Vorholt-Alcorn,

On behalf of the Materials Writers Interest Section, I would like to congratulate Sandy Briggs on being elected TESOL’s president-elect for 2006-07.

Sandy really has TESOL in her blood. She joined TESOL in 1975 and the MWIS at the 1987 TESOL Convention in Miami, just a year or two after the IS began. Clearly, TESOL and the MWIS have a special place in Sandy’s heart.

Soon after she joined the MWIS, Sandy volunteered to be the newsletter editor. Later, she served as MWIS chair (1990-91), worked as a TESOL board member (1997-2000), and participated on a variety of committees. From 2002 to 2004, she chaired the Task Force on Reconfiguring the TESOL Board of Directors. These experiences allowed her to meet many people within the organization. Sandy believes that “Everyone who is doing a volunteer job in TESOL helps make it a great organization.” Her volunteerism will continue as she steps into the role of president-elect this year (while Jun Liu serves as president) and then into the role of president next year.

In addition to her TESOL involvement, Sandy has a great deal of professional expertise. She retired in 2004 from the San Mateo Union High School District, where she served as the English Language Development Coordinator. However, Sandy says, “I’m not really retired. I’m still consulting, training teachers, and writing materials.” She trains mainstream teachers to work with second language students and also trains beginning ESL teachers.

Sandy’s TESOL experiences have enriched her life. Some of her best friends are in our IS. In fact, one of them, Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli, another former MWIS chair, was elected to the board of directors this year. He lives and works in Uruguay. “How else except through TESOL and especially MWIS would I have met such a wonderful friend from Uruguay and been able to work with him for many years?” asks Sandy.

Clearly, Sandy is very proud to be part of our IS. We also appreciate the involvement of Gabriel and other MWIS members who are representing us throughout the TESOL organization.

Articles The Material Writer’s Bookshelf

Daniel Droukis,

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this article appeared in the JALT Material Writers Newsletter, Summer Issue 2005.)

In this article I briefly review 10 texts that may be helpful for the teacher who is interested in materials development. There happen to be 10 but I wouldn't want to call this list the "top ten," just a list of resources that I feel would be helpful to members of this Interest Section.

1. Developing Materials for Language Teaching. Brian Tomlinson, editor. (Continuum, 2003). 534 pages. This is the latest book from Brian Tomlinson. This text, which provides a critical analysis of current classroom materials by well-known authors, helps to make up for what I believe is a lack of information on current trends in materials development. From reading the articles in this text, materials writers will better understand how the materials we use have been developed. They will also be able to use this information to evaluate the materials they use or to develop materials for their own use.

2. Materials Development in Language Teaching. Brian Tomlinson, editor (Cambridge University Press, 1998). 368 pages. Brian Tomlinson's first book gives a variety of insights from a number of authors in the fields of applied linguistics and TEFL. This book was published to further the work of MATSDA (the Materials Development Association), an organization dedicated to the development of quality language materials. Teachers who seek some background information on materials preparation and evaluation will want to take a look at this book. The text contains sections on data collection and materials development (what kinds of "language" should be-but frequently are not-included in teaching materials); the process of materials writing (how writers actually write, based on comments from a sample of authors); materials evaluation (principles and criteria); and ideas for material development (suggestions for new approaches).

3. Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching. Ian McGrath (Edinburgh University Press, 2002). 310 pages. In addition to offering an approach to evaluating materials, this book covers a number of pedagogical considerations including choosing, adapting, and supplementing coursebooks, using authentic materials, systematizing materials design, getting learners involved, and evaluating the effects of using particular materials. By his own admission McGrath has written a how-to book on materials development. However, feeling that this type of book is often met with skepticism in the EFL community, he suggests that the book also provides a way of thinking about materials that will give more meaning to the how-to label. Though the book seems to be more of a coursebook for those studying in the field, it can also be used as a resource guide for experienced language teachers and materials writers.

4. Choosing Your Coursebook. Alan Cunningsworth (Heinemann English Language Teaching, 1995). 153 pages. The sequel to the next item on this list, this book provides basic guidelines for selecting a textbook. Though the book is intended to be practical in nature, it also provides some material on the underlying principles of materials evaluation and adaptation. Abundant examples highlight the principles being put forth. This book may not go into the detail that some may want, but for those who prefer a quick guide to follow, this book may be more useful than the more theoretical books noted earlier.

5. Evaluating and Selecting EFL Teaching Materials. Alan Cunningsworth (Heinemann Educational Books, 1984). 105 pages. his text discusses topics such as the objectives of textbooks and their implementation, the language content of texts, and the adaptation and evaluation of materials. Examples from selected textbooks support the analysis in the book. The unit on motivation and the learner may provide some food for thought in this area. 

6. Material Writer's Guide. Patricia Byrd, editor (Heinle & Heinle, 1995). 234 pages. Written by members of the TESOL Material Writers Interest Section, this book covers a wide range of issues involved in getting a book published, including sociocultural considerations, writing materials for specific purposes, copyright law, working with publishers, coauthoring, and revising materials for a new edition. At first this book gave me the impression that writing materials must be an impossible task, but after completing it I was reassured that such advice is available and that potential pitfalls in materials writing can be overcome.

7. Materials and Methods in ELT. Jo McDonough and Christopher Shaw (Blackwell, 1993). 318 pages. By looking at materials design as it relates to classroom methods, the authors of this book provide a link between principle and practice. Materials development, they claim, cannot be separated from teaching methods. As a result, the final chapters of this book focus on what is actually done in the classroom. This book enables the reader to make judgments on the most appropriate classroom practices as they relate to the use of the textbook. 

8. Making the Most of Your Textbook. Neville Grant (Longman, 1987). 128 pages. This book is more about how to teach English using available materials than an actual comparison or evaluation of language materials. Those who are new to the profession may find this book more useful than would the veteran teacher who has probably experienced many of the situations explored in the book. The book proclaims that it offers "sound down-to-earth" advice on basic techniques and approaches in the classroom. The author does provide information on teaching different skill areas as well on various learning styles. The final unit of the text includes a questionnaire that may be useful as a guide for evaluating and choosing texts.

9. Course Design. Fraida Dubin and Elite Olshtain (Cambridge University Press, 1986). 194 pages. This book relates course design to the materials chosen for a particular course. It focuses on areas such as social-cultural appropriateness, the realization of objectives, and the development of a communicative syllabus. The final chapter, "Creating Materials: The Link Between Syllabus and Audience," may be of particular interest to material writers. The chapter discusses basic assumptions about materials that need to be addressed by those who are writing materials for their own classrooms or are producing published materials. In preparing their materials, writers need to be clear about the basic concept and to make appropriate decisions regarding content including grammatical structures, themes, topics, functions, and lexis in light of the stated objectives. Questions about the shape and design of the materials are also answered in detail. The book gives a final checklist that enables users to put the issues of the book into their own working situations, making it a helpful book for both teacher and writer.

10. Adaptation in Language Teaching. Harold S. Madsen and J. Donald Bowen (Newbury House, 1978). 237 pages. At some point, every teacher faces the problem of having to use a book that doesn't seem to be working out well. This book offers practical advice while providing a variety of examples that show how to adapt a textbook in different situations. A teacher may adapt a text to accomplish one of three purposes: (1) to individualize the materials to the particular teaching situation; (2) to modify the text for purposes not intended or anticipated by the author; or (3) to compensate for any defects in the book. For example, in Situation #3, a text may be outdated yet provide a good review of essential structures that the teacher would like to focus on. In this case, the teacher can make up for this lack simply by updating the information.