Inspiration from an ESOL needs analysis lesson

Part 1 and Part 2 of this mini series  focused on two of the places I find teaching and writing inspiration. This part looks at how needs analysis lessons can also furnish teachers (and writers) with fresh ideas and new direction.

Needs analyses forms 2014 - 2015 (UK only)

Needs analyses forms 2014 – 2015 (UK only)

I am no stranger to the needs analysis lesson. Over my seventeen years of teaching, I have earnestly distributed questionnaires and collected in papers umpteen times. I’ve always had the very best of intentions to process this data and use it to plan a term’s worth of useful lessons which cater to the range of needs and abilities within my class.

Often though, my good intentions at the start of the year have remained just that – intentions. As term goes on, I have failed to revisit the needs analyses and check that we are on track with accomplishing what the learners wanted to do. Sometimes this is due to the actual information on the needs analyses being less than useful. For example, if I ask learners the question: “What do you want to improve this year?” they (quite reasonably) write “my English”.  It’s hard to use this data in any meaningful way.

This year, I decided that I would go about constructing my needs analyses lesson in a far more methodical fashion. I compiled a list of questions. Some were open ended questions and some were statements which learners had to mark with agree, disagree or don’t know.

I won’t include my whole range of questions here, but here are a few to give an idea:

  • Why do you come to this class?
  • Do you study English out of class? If so, what do you do?
  • Do you speak English much out of class? If so, who do you speak to?
  • Are you happy with your job? If not, what would you prefer to do?

I distributed the questionnaires and asked learners to work in pairs and interview each other. I encouraged as much discussion as possible. After some time, I opened this up into a class discussion. Learners were asked to report back on their partners’ ideas. The reason for doing this was simple. If learners hear each other’s ideas and needs, they are more likely to tolerate the odd lesson which is not directly geared towards their needs. For example, if a learner has requested lots of speaking practice they might be a bit hacked off if the next lesson focuses on CV writing. However, if they hear Pascal say how he is unhappy with his present job and how he really needs to learn about CV and cover letter writing they are more likely to tolerate a lesson which does not necessarily tie in with the needs they expressed.

Discussing the learners’ needs also meant that should I mislay the completed questionnaires at any point (quite a likely scenario as I am in the process of moving house at the moment) I would have some kind of memory of what learners are wanting and needing to do.

My next step is to shape the results of the needs analysis into personalised learning plans for each learner. These plans will be distributed to the learners and discussed in December (when I hope to conduct informal progress interviews).

So, what did I glean from the needs analyses lesson?

  • Your learners can always surprise you even if you feel you know them very well. I learned that a young factory worker in my class  dreams of opening up a bar in Lerwick. He wants help with researching the local market and writing a business plan. I think there’s scope here for a really interesting series of lessons.
  • Classic ESOL topics which I have tended to avoid (because I feel they are a little boring and patronising for learners of this level (strong intermediate) scored high on the list of my learners’ priorities. Topics which were mentioned included making appointments, going to the doctors and making small talk at work. Many of these topics have been a bit “done to death” and can make dull and dry course book fodder, making me wonder (and here I have my writer’s hat on!) if there is room for fresh angles on these.
  • Pronunciation is extremely important to my learners. The need to “blend in” seems important. One learner tells me that it is not enough to pronounce the words “correctly”  – he wants to mimic the local accent and sound like a real Scot, rhotic rs and all! While I’m not sure this is a realistic aim, I’m looking forward to devising some activities around it.
  • All of the learners said they wanted to tackle a few creative projects this year and are interested in making a film together. Great news!  I’m thinking about finding a way to link this with the pronunciation aim (see above).

For some excellent needs analysis ideas see this great blog post from Alex Case.

photo credit: <a href=”″>Southland Paper mill, Kraft (chemical) pulp used in making newsprint, Lufkin, Texas  (LOC)</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

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10 minute wonders (or what manspreading and bookshelfies have in common)

A surgeon once said to me: “I could never be a teacher.”

Of course, I asked her why.

She said “When I’ve finished an operation, I can go home. I don’t need to fart around in the patient’s innards for 10 more minutes, killing time before the bell rings.”


Of course, this surgeon was absolutely right. How often does a teaching activity come to a natural conclusion which does not coincide with the official lesson end time? We all have our favourite “filler” activities, but to tell you the truth some of mine are beginning to seem just a little tired and predictable.

With this is mind, I am going to begin taking a note of any new and successful short “filler” activities I use in class and share them here.

Here’s one I used last week.

10 Minute Activity: Newly minted words

  • I wrote O.E.D. on the board and asked learners to tell me what this stood for (Oxford English Dictionary).
  • I then wrote down the following recent additions to the OED:

Mx (title)

Manspreading (noun)

Mansplain (verb)

Bookshelfie (noun)

Brainfart (noun)

  • I explained that the above words were all new additions to the OED. I then gave learners a minute or so to work in pairs to see if they could guess the meanings of these words. Listening in as I did this, I could hear one or two pretty good guesses! Overall though, learners were barking up the wrong tree.
  • After a minute, I dictated the following sentences for learners to write down.

Why are there only spaces for Mr, Mrs and Ms on this form? I’m Mx.

There’s a real issue with manspreading on the tube. I think these guys should pay for two tickets.

The mechanic helpfully mansplained the problem with my car.

Have you seen her latest profile pic? Nice bookshelfie!

Doh! I’ve just had a brainfart. What was your phone number again?

  • Learners then got back into pairs and used these sentences to help them refine their earlier guesses. This time they got a lot closer to defining the words accurately.
  • We then went through the sentences one by one, checking learners’ definitions against the definitions I’d found online. Many of these words yielded more than a little discussion and generated ever more language, e.g.: Did any of the learners have first-hand experience of having to deal with the issue of manspreading? (At this point I noticed a few of my male learners shuffle in their seats (they may have been discreetly closing their legs) while one learner remembered seeing posters on the New York subway advising men to “stop the spread”.  We also discussed what kind of people might take a bookshelfie. Academics? Writers? Posers? People who owned (but hadn’t necessarily read) the complete works of Proust?


At this stage in the proceedings, the clock struck eight. Home time. If it hadn’t, I might have asked my learners to  devise a simple story using as as many of these words as possible. I may then have asked them to mime their stories while the rest of the class watched, calling out the words as they occurred.

Watch this space over the coming weeks for more 10 minute wonders. And do feel free to share any of your own!

photo credit: <a href=”″>Maggie The Dentist ::: Tender little care</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

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Text appeal: finding online inspiration

In my last post I looked at how teachers and resource writers can find lesson inspiration from real life experiences.

What to do, however, when uneventful days and weeks pass? When nothing seems to happen, or at least nothing worthy of transforming into ELT gold happens? (Other people may experience a quite different problem. Their lives might be altogether too risky, colourful and edgy to pool workably safe resources from).

In either case, it is time to pay Mother Google a visit. Of course, the Internet is teeming with life: with texts, clips and images just crying out to be adapted to level and shaped into engaging and original activities.

Searching for ideas online is, however, fraught with danger: the greatest one being that we can get lost in all that glittering information and entertainment, only to come to our senses hours later with nothing at all to show for our wanderings (except for perhaps, a nice little frock purchased when we inadvertently stumbled upon a quirky online clothes retailer).

We need focus. The questions we need think about in order to do this are:

  • Where to start on our search?
  • What are we looking for?
  • What do we need to bear in mind?

The first two questions are relatively straightforward to answer.

Where to start on our search?

We start our search by finding all the articles we have bookmarked (either literally or virtually) over the past few months. We all do this, don’t we? I “favourite” tweets like mad, and then have splurges when I click on all these interesting sounding links, and begin the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. Often, the articles don’t live up to their promise, but I consider it a job well done if I can use one article in ten or twenty. The next step is to shape these articles into something teachable, but as this series of posts is about the sources of inspiration (rather than the blood, sweat and tears of building texts around lessons) I’ll leave this for a later post.

What are we looking for?

Have you ever worked in an office? Have you ever taken part in a round-the-water- cooler chat? These chats are part of office life and usually focus on what someone has read (usually on Facebook) or watched on TV. Such chats are designed to relieve the tedium of office life and are all the more delicious for being snatched, rather illicitly, on company time.

So you’ve found an interesting text. But is it workable? Not sure? Then subject it to the watercooler test. If a group of tired, oxygen starved, brow beaten employees could potentially get volubly excited about it, then you may just have hit EFL gold.

Don’t know what the heck I’m on about? Well, look at this nugget from the paper we all love to hate.

Too many ELT writers (in my ‘umble opinon) look to the Guardian for text inspiration.  This may well be because it is the paper beloved of us kind, liberal teachery types. It doesn’t always cut the mustard though, in terms of water cooler debate. Is “Buy Nothing Day” a good idea? Should we recycle things? Well, if you answer “no” to either of these questions you may as well buy yourself a pair of horns and/or prepare to be publically flogged.

But on the other hand, consider the question: should people who do immoral things be named and shamed? A fantastic water cooler experiment topic: ELT 24 carat gold.

What do we need to bear in mind when sourcing texts online?


In my recent course book review posts, I noted that humour iwas sadly lacking.

Some may counter this claim by saying that humour does not translate easily. This is only sometimes true. I think the course book generated humour which has gone down best in my class is visual humour (comic details in paintings and photographs), amusing stories (especially those with a funny twist in the tale) and hammily acted, over the top “dramatic” listening scripts. The teacher may cringe at these, but in my experience, learners love them.

We need humour. A class without laughs is a sad, sad place. Before I am told that humor should be down to the teacher, I think I should point out that most teachers have quite enough to do without dreaming up jokes to add to their lesson plans. Look for texts and clips which have the potential to make people laugh.

The curse of coolness

Teenage students don’t look to their ELT course books for “coolness” – they want to learn English. They want to have fun, sure, but an ELT course book which tries too hard to be cool is like a Dad dancing at a school disco.

How can I, a forty year old teacher living on a tiny Scottish island even hope to tune into the urban teenage zeitgeist? I can’t, so best not to try.

I think teenage students can learn without overly cool material. I think they can learn better when they are not distracted by having to cringe.

Future proofing

I think that if we are trying to future proof material, we need to think about questions of perennial relevance. Obviously, celebrity culture and current environmental issues do not have this kind of longevity. I would like to see more philosophy in ELT books: more art and more literature. This does not need to be at all heavy. For example, philosophical input could come in the shape of interesting “thought experiments”. 

These thought experiments are wonderful – short texts, language rich and very rich in potential for follow up tasks. In my experience, teenage learners (and adults) love them.

Any thoughts?

I would be really interested to hear where other teachers and writers find their online lesson inspiration! As ever, please feel free to agree, disagree or question any of the above.


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Teaching and writing inspiration – Part One: Real Life

Would you like to see some of my holiday snaps?


Now, before you go thinking that the summer heat has nuked my poor wee sun-starved Scottish brain, let me reassure you that this post does indeed have something to do with ELT teaching and writing.

It is, in fact, inspired by a question I was asked at the beginning of summer:

How do you approach finding unique resources?

Interesting question, this. For me, the key word here is “unique”. As us old-timers know too well, there is nothing new under the ELT sun. The internet is buckling under the weight of “innovative” content, while new ELT publications jostle to be original and fresh.

This can be challenging for a writer at times. Yet dreaming up fresh angles on old subjects is one of the real perks of the ELT writer’s job (it beats the hard slog of actually writing things down on paper any day).

So, where does this inspiration come from? Where do writers find their ideas for materials? Where can teachers find fresh new texts and activities to try out in class?

My next few posts will have a look at some of the places I get inspiration for creative teaching and writing ideas. My first port of call is real life experiences. We are all unique so where better to find inspiration than looking at our own lives with all their twists, turns, peaks and troughs?

Real life material

The gorgeous snaps above are of a distinctly unlovely holiday apartment in France which my family and I had the misfortune of booking online this year.

As you can see, it wasn’t just the cleanest place in the world. The cutlery was so begrimed with engrained filth that we had to eat our breakfast in shifts, there were sinister stains on the ripped mattress protector which covered the (broken) bed and there were life forms growing on the bathroom walls. A lot of the furniture was held together with sticky tape.

We stayed one night. As soon as dawn broke I began phoning around to find a cleaner apartment. New accommodation secured, it was time to break the news of our departure to the landlady and (more importantly) get our money back. I called the landlady and explained the situation. She seemed to be surprised by my dissatisfaction and, rather grudgingly, agreed to come round and see what I was talking about.

Show time

Getting into situations like this provides great inspiration for teaching and writing. As I geared up to make my complaint, I realised how nerve wracking it is to complain in a language which is not your mother tongue. If I was making a complaint in English I might mentally rehearse what I was going to say, but this process would be a brief, almost subconscious one. In French, however, the rehearsal process was much more deliberate.

First of all, our children helpfully made a list of all the things I needed to mention.


Next I had to be sure I knew how to say these things in French. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember how to say “mould”. This wasn’t too much of a problem, as there was plenty on display.

I had to rehearse what I was going to say under my breath (in French, bien sûr!). I told my family what I was going to say (in English) so they could suggest any additions/modifications.

A knock on the door signalled the time had come. I launched into my prepared speech. While I was talking, I became aware that my mannerisms, facial expressions and very essence became altogether more Gallic. Being my phlegmatic, rather meek British self was not going to cut the mustard. It was not enough to speak French: if I wanted a satisfactory resolution to the problem I had to BE French. (We were, eventually refunded our money and deposit, so I think this must have worked.)

So, what does all this have to do with teaching and writing?

The experience made me realise how challenging such situations are for foreign language learners. I was very aware of the distinct process I had gone through: recalling the language I needed and then rehearsing it. Getting the intonation right was important, as was non-verbal communication (such as hand gestures).

Reflecting on the process I went through, I automatically began designing a lesson around it. Experiences like this can be a real gift for both ELT teaching and writing, as they provide a nice lesson shape on which to build content.

So in this case:

  • The images above (or images like them) can be used as a stimulus to generate language.
  • Certain phrases are also needed at an early stage of the process. It isn’t enough to know the word for “mould” or “urine stain”: standard complaint phrases need to be learned as well, for example: This is not acceptable, I want you to refund me my money etc.
  • It is not enough to teach the phrases and then let the learners loose on the situation (or even role-play). Learners need the opportunity to rehearse phrases too: paying particular attention to word and sentence stress, intonation and body language.
  • In any lesson on making a spoken complaint, role play would be a key part. Of course, the partner who is listening to the complaint should not be passive or overly helpful. They should be (as my landlady was) indignant, adamant that no one else has ever had reason to complain and quick to tell you that you are neurotic.

Looking to your own life for inspiration

What other real life situations have I used in the past to inspire lessons I’ve taught and lessons I’ve written?

What all these situations have in common is that the stakes are high. No one ever died from sending  a badly written postcard, or not being able to talk about their favourite food. But if you look at the situations above, there is a lot to be lost or gained which is what makes them worth teaching.

My next post will look at finding writing inspiration from online sources.

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My guest post on the MaWSIG blog

I’m back to work after a long summer break with lots of ideas for future posts (which I hope to have the time to write up very soon).

In the meantime, here’s a link to the MaWSIG blog. I’ve always found this a fantastic place for materials writing inspiration and information so I’m delighted to have a guest blog on the site (all about my experience of writing ELT materials for a Chinese publisher).

There’s lots of really useful stuff on the MaWSIG blog, so do check it out (if you haven’t already)!

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Lessons learned from the great ELT coursebook trawl

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been busy reviewing and road testing coursebooks over the past few weeks in a bid to get to the nitty-gritty of “What makes a good ‘un?”


I’ve been pondering this all week. As both ESOL teacher and materials writer I’ve been considering the question from two slightly different yet overlapping points of view.

These are:

  • Which coursebook best fits the needs of my multi-lingual ESOL learners? How can I adapt this material to make it work even better for them?
  • What has this coursebook-crawl taught me about materials writing?

Today, I’m going to focus on the second of these two questions. My blog’s strapline is, after all, “Ideas for ELT teaching and writing” and a glance at the previous posts reveals precious little on the latter theme.

So, what have I gleaned from all this reading and reviewing? In true internet flotsam style, here’s a list of 5 lessons I’ve learned. There are more, but summer is finally here and I have a tan to work on. *


1. Clickbait is Queen.

I came off Facebook recently. I am chronically weak-willed and waste far too much time being baited by articles containing interesting lists that I just have to read (5 ways to be more productive, anyone?).

I therefore hate clickbait with the dull anger of someone who has lost hours of their life to perusing it.

However, it works well for coursebooks. Why?

It’s accessible in terms of language and content, often funny and (crucially) it’s short. Clickbait reading text fodder needs to be a bit more than readable to work in an ELT course book though. The teacher needs to be able to link it to learners’ own experience. The topic of the text should also offer opportunities for further discussion and research. Finally, there has to be some payback for the learners: having made the effort to read the text, they should come away knowing something they didn’t know before (not always the case with some of the books I’ve been working with recently)


2. Worthy is not always worthwhile

ELT course book writers have worked hard to shrug off their “celebrity and consumer culture obsessed” image. After all, no one wants to read “Hello” style interviews with an ersatz version of Posh n’ Becks. Do they? Probably not…

Having said that, I do wonder if course books might be in danger of becoming a little too worthy. I was chuffed with myself for including an activity on Buy Nothing Day in a course book I penned last year (to be published later this autumn). Pretty original, eh?  I thought, patting myself firmly on the back. Then, last month, I opened up OUP’s new Navigate course to find a reading exercise on the very same topic.

To make matters worse, my learners didn’t seem very interested in the ethics of shopping at all. In fact, out of all the Navigate lessons I’ve taught, the one on ethical shopping seemed just a bit ‘preachy’. It seems a little as if the international thought police are now patrolling the streets of ELT. Where will all this lead?

Perhaps in a few years teachers and learners will be crying out for a return to a wee bit of glamour and conspicuous consumption.


3.Keep listening short, light and full of laughs

Listening texts work best when played multiple times. This just doesn’t work with longer texts – learners start to fidget and it’s hard to occupy the ones who feel they “got it” during the first listen.

Also (note to self and fellow materials writers) there is nothing like a humorous listening script – the coursebooks I reviewed were a little light on laughs. Learners feel proud when they get the humour in a script – it relaxes them and this helps them to listen more effectively.

When listening texts are airy, the tasks can be even more solid with plenty of opportunities for both repetition and the development of top down and bottom up processing.


4. A well- designed video lesson is worth its weight in ELT gold

Sounds like I’m stating the bloomin’ obvious here, but it has to be said. We all know learners enjoy watching videos. But a well designed lesson (rather than a hastily sourced YouTube clip with some discussion questions scrawled on the back of an envelope**) with a variety of comprehension and vocabulary tasks on an interesting subject really is a joy to teach.  Added to that, recent SLA research has shown the benefits of learners’ listening and reading subtitles simultaneously – possible with videos.

Hats off to the Life team for their great video lessons!


5. What is ‘real life’?

Looking back over my reviews, I see that I was frequently critical of the writing lessons. I have a thing for teaching writing, particularly “real – life” writing. On reflection though, what is ‘real life’ to my learners (CVs, council housing application forms, job application forms) might not be real, or useful, for yours.

However, it did strike me that the writing skill was, overall, a little underrepresented in all three coursebooks. GIven that we all spend so much of our time writing (texting, emailing, tweeting, messaging) I’m not quite sure why this is.

Well, that brings me to the end of the list. I realise this post has not even begun to navigate through the tangled undergrowth of second language acquisition, let alone tussle with grammar syllabi and lexical chunks. Perhaps next time…

The blog will be having a holiday until mid-August. Have a lovely summer everyone!

*Not so much work on a tan as make a vain effort to turn my poor lilac sun- starved Scottish skin a warmer shade of pink.

** I have NEVER done this, obvs.

Photo credits:

photo credit: N08/8689623437″>Crappie via photopin (license)

photo credit: N00/5162093700″>DSC07935 via photopin (license)

photo credit: N00/5286741251″>Op Art Holiday Card for Jeff Mahoney via photopin (license)

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Open Mind (B1+) Review


 Title: Open Mind

 Level: B1 +, Intermediate

 Authors: Mickey Rogers, Joanne Taylore-Knowles and Steve Taylore Knowles

 Published by: Macmillan

What they say on the cover:

“Open Mind is a ground-breaking six level general English course for adults which targets their language needs and provides them with the professional, academic and personal skills they need for success in the 21st century.”

Open Mind at a glance:

At first glance, Open Mind seems just a little ‘younger’ than both Navigate and Life. Some of this is down to the layout and illustrations (a bright n’ busy photo montage opens each unit) but the content also seems aimed at older teenage learners with reading texts on school-leaving proms, Brat camps and the challenges of leaving home.

The contents page is divided into four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) plus pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and life skills (Life skills foci include self and society, study and learning and work and career). Units are a fairly lengthy twelve pages. The book starts with a Grammar review, which set the stage for a fairly strong grammar focus throughout.


Appeal to (this) teacher

There’s a light-hearted feel to this course book which I think would go down well in a general English class or summer school. Unit openers include cartoon strips, newspaper headlines and pop quizzes: all of which I can see working nicely in these afore mentioned teaching contexts.

The humorous touch is particularly evident in a unit on the rather well-worn theme of jobs. Learners begin by matching the pictures of unusual jobs to their titles and descriptions. (Do you know what a snake milker does?* I didn’t. )  Learners then read adverts for unusual jobs, role play a workplace conversation, read about a job swap and listen to a (rather amusing) unsuccessful job interview before comparing this with a good job interview. It all feels fresh and fun, which is an achievement for such an elderly ELT topic.

It’s not all jolly japes though – there is, for example, a unit called “Taking Care of Business” which includes some useful input on business start-ups – a topic which is becoming increasingly relevant to the world of work today.

Appeal to (my) learners:

In yet another crushing blow for those who rail against claims of course book homogenity my learners thought this looked “the same” as both Navigate and Life (although to be fair, it soon transpired that they meant “similar”). One learner said  it appealed to her less than the other two books, although she wasn’t sure why.

Focus on skills:


There appears to be a rather traditional approach to reading throughout. Despite widely documented SLA research findings that learners of English need to learn more lexis before they can begin to ‘skim’ and ‘scan’ text, this course teaches “reading for the main idea” and “speed reading” in four out of twelve units.

Some of the reading texts are interesting and could definitely yield further discussion. The first text, for example, explores the dreaded “intermediate plateau” learners of this level are likely to experience. Texts about language learning are always likely to appeal to learners of English in my experience.

Other reading texts (and I believe I touched on this my review of Life) use a lot of words to say very little. So we have an article entitled “Is Doing Sport Good for the mind?” (Spoiler alert: yes, it is!) and “Is Gossip Good?” (Ditto).

The listening texts are more appealing. There is a good variety of text types here. Some of them seemed a little long at first glance, but the learners are given plenty to do and are often required to listen to the longer recordings in stages. A greater emphasis on bottom up processing skills would have made these sections even stronger.

The speaking skill is well supported in this course. Activities include well-written model dialogues. Every second unit focuses on a communication strategy such as asking for clarification or politely insisting. Alternate units contain speaking workshops with functional language such as agreeing and disagreeing.

Although I am a fan of creative writing activities in the classroom, I expect course books to offer greater input on real life writing situations. In Open Mind we have tasks such as writing a story, writing a diary and writing descriptions. In fact with the exception of “writing a persuasive email” I found all of the writing tasks a little far removed from the kind of writing my learners actually need to do. Some of the writing tasks did not seem to offer much in the way of support: for example, I can imagine many learners struggling to come up with ideas when faced with the direction to “write a short one paragraph news article”. A couple of newspaper headlines would have worked well as stimuli here.

Having said that,  the course provides good model texts and language/structuring support.  Self assessment boxes “How are you doing?” in the writing workshops are a useful  feature.

Focus on lexis and grammar:

 The grammar sections are clearly laid out. They provide context for the grammar (often in the form of a conversation) followed by analysis of function and form.

In the section on reported speech I was interested to see that no mention was made of the word “like” as a reporting structure. As this structure is now ubiquitous in British and American English,   I think it should be addressed (or at least acknowledged) in course books.


The vocabulary presented is relevant, and follow-up activities allow learners the opportunity to personalise the new lexis. However, it would have been good to see more collocations and chunks rather than single words.

Opportunities for localisation and personalisation:

The topics included are universal enough to provide ample opportunities for personalisation. Learners are encouraged to talk about childhood memories, discuss dilemmas and speak about their ideal jobs. Units on business and employment lend themselves well to looking at local job opportunities, while a task in the entertainment section asks learners to review a live event they have seen recently.



The unit ‘Taking Care of  Business’ inspired project ideas as I flicked through its pages. The Life Skills section at the end of the unit asks learners to develop and present a business idea to the rest of the class. This seemed like a good opportunity to spend time on developing presentation skills. Perhaps learners could watch some successful business pitches (sourced from The Dragon’s Den) and decide what makes a convincing business pitch. Or maybe learners could interview successful entrepreneurs.

The communicative strategies sections in the speaking section could easily be expanded upon. Learners could go on to create their own role plays based on experiences they have had, using the strategies they have learned to achieve positive outcomes.


Open Mind is an appealing course book which I think learners and teachers will enjoy using together.  It falls a little short on teaching reading and writing (in my opinion) and is stronger on speaking and listening.  You can download a sample unit here if you want to see for yourself.

Phew. Having reviewed three books in the space of a couple of weeks I may now be suffering from course book fatigue. Time to mull over my thoughts on this exercise before returning in a few days with my last words on the subject. Then I’ll shut up about it and talk about something different. Promise.

*Extracts venom from snakes

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