Practical tools and tricks of the trade: sharing our expertise

Organised by the Materials Writing SIG

  • Date and time: Friday 17 April 2020, 10.00-17.00
  • Location: Manchester Central, Windmill St, Manchester, M2 3GX, UK
  • Cost for IATEFL members: Early bird rate: £57, Standard rate: £73  (price does not include lunch)
  • Cost for non-members: Early bird rate £70, Standard rate: £86  (price does not include lunch)


For this year’s PCE we’re organising a day packed with practical advice from experts in all areas of ELT materials writing.

Most materials writers, whether new or experienced, writing full-time or producing materials to supplement a coursebook, are continually developing skills and discovering new tools and innovative ways of working. But this is usually done in isolation with few, if any, opportunities for sharing what we know. Imagine how useful it would be to get a bunch of us together with other colleagues from the field – editors, illustrators, designers and project managers – to talk about how we do things and to share the tricks and tools that help us do things better. That might involve talking about how to write a really good artwork brief, discussing the best ways of liaising with a team of co-writers, sharing ideas for how to improve efficiency using digital tools or learning how to ensure quality in the materials we create.

This year’s PCE will do exactly that. We are setting up an opportunity for members to tap into expertise, learn from people who know things they don’t, share and discuss ideas, compare ways of working, ask and answer questions, and create together a rewarding learning experience for all. Through a combination of practical presentations and workshops, break-out discussions and a Q&A spot, participants will go away with ideas for updating their personal ‘toolkit’ and a clear vision of how to do their job more efficiently and effectively.

Here are the abstracts for the seven sessions:

Frances Amrani: Scope and sequence design: A top-down or grassroots approach?
How can we reflect the real world in our teaching materials in a prescriptive industry? This session explores two approaches to scope and sequence design:
1. traditional top-down mapping to existing references and expectations
2. grassroots exploitation of real-world material and linking to student needs.

Jill Hadfield: Covert syllabuses: How to avoid them, how to include them
Covert syllabuses – the unintentional messages that materials contain – usually have  negative associations. However, positive covert syllabuses can also be created within an overt language learning syllabus. We will look at both negative and positive covert syllabuses and consider some procedures for ensuring that negative syllabuses are eliminated and positive ones included.

Helen Holwill & Jemma Hillyer: Rejuvenate your manuscript submission toolkit
As an author, producing and submitting a solid, effectively presented manuscript is crucial to both your reputation and your efficiency. In this fast-moving and practical presentation, we will help you to hand over clear, complete, efficiently presented manuscripts. We will also help you to avoid unnecessary work!

John Hughes: 50 ways to avoid gap-fill fatigue
A gap-fill is the first exercise a teacher ever learns to write. And as writers, we fill our materials with them. But why do we write them? Can we write them more effectively? And how do we avoid gap-fill fatigue? I’ll share some answers, plus 50 alternative ways to fill the gap.

Colin Morton: Bring your ideas to life using mood boards
A mood board is a quick and easy way to find inspiration, explore themes and organise ideas. In this session we’ll find out how to create one, helping you visualise your ideas for a project, spark new ones, or resolve a creative block.

Rachael Roberts: Strategies to survive overwhelm
Plenty of work is a nice problem to have, but not if you’re stressed out of your head. In this talk I will help you deal with stress by changing your mindset, and by giving practical tips that can help you to be more productive without sacrificing your personal life.

Robert Campbell & Ben Goldstein: Starting with an image
As materials writers, we often start with an idea and then try to find the right artwork or photo to enhance it. However, whether it’s an image to accompany an exercise or a ‘high impact’ visual, using the image as a starting point can take us in new, unexpected directions. Practical tips will be offered on how to do this.

Log in to your dashboard to book your place

Please note: If you don't have a user login then select 'login' and then 'create new account'. It's easy and free to do.