Adapting and supplementing the coursebook – IATEFL Reflection #1


This is the first in a series of 3 posts reflecting on the 48th annual IATEFL conference in Harrogate earlier this month.

To our knowledge, no coursebook has yet been designed with ELF pronunciation in mind – and with good reason, given that ELF is more an emergent phenomenon and not a variety, which is problematic for a printed book with clearly delimited areas of focus.

This means that (as with other areas) teachers will need to adapt and supplement the coursebook to address the pronunciation needs of students using ELF.  So here’s what we learnt about adapting and supplementing a coursebook from various presentations at this year’s IATEFL conference.

More than just a worksheet: writing effective classroom materials

(From an IATEFL presentation by Rachael Roberts of
  • Think about the ‘flow’ of your materials.  There needs to be a clear path through the lesson.  You should also consider whether it contains something new or a new angle, and whether it has a cognitive challenge as well as linguistic.
  • When you’re choosing authentic audio or video, think about the ‘water cooler’ test: will the topic engage students enough that they want to tell their friends about what they learnt when they’re standing around the water cooler?
  • Tasks work better when there are concrete outcomes, so try and put constraints on an exercise.

In an ELF pronunciation context, this could mean asking students to ‘identify two features of the speaker’s pronunciation which are different to your own’, rather than just asking students a more open-ended question like ‘how is the speaker’s pronunciation different to your own’.

Integrating pronunciation into teaching writing skills through text analysis

(From an IATEFL presentation by Tatiana Skopintseva of New Economic School in Moscow)
  • Prepared speeches have more in common with writing than spontaneous speech, so they can be used to develop both students’ writing skills and pronunciation.
  • Tatiana uses speeches from which has MP3 files, video clips and transcriptions of speeches from movies and leaders.  (Note: This resource focuses on American speakers.  For speeches featuring non-native speakers, you could check out our other blog post on this topic.)
  • Focus on the ‘Four Ps’ of speech delivery: pause, pace, power and pitch.
  • Tatiana uses this traditional puzzle from 500 years ago to show how changing the pauses can affect meaning:
Every Lady in this Land
Hath 20 nails on each hand;
Five and twenty on hands and
And this is true, without deceit.
Every Lady in this Land
Hath 20 nails. On each hand,
Five; and twenty on hands and
And this is true, without deceit.
  • Students are then given a chance to try ‘chunking’ a text themselves, using ||| to mark a big pause, || for a smaller pause, and | for the shortest pause. Tatiana showed us an example using a graduation ceremony speech from Legally Blonde.
  • Encourage the students to analyse the text (to develop their writing) by considering questions like:
Who is the speech intended for?
What’s the main purpose of the speech?
What’s the central idea?
What is the key sentence of the text?
What is the purpose of the text links and how do they maintain the logical structure?
  • Link writing and pronunciation by drawing students’ attention to the fact that a thesis statement in writing would be highlighted when spoken by pronouncing it more slowly, more loudly and in a higher pitch.

She shows students the movie clip after they have tried to chunk it themselves, but Tatiana stresses to her students that there are usually different ways a text could be chunked.  She said:

“If they develop their own voice they will remember it better.”

What we particularly liked about Tatiana’s talk was this emphasis on students developing their own ‘voice’.  One of the central tenets of an ELF approach to pronunciation is the fact that a person’s identity and pronunciation are closely linked.  Pronunciation work in the classroom can easily accommodate this concept by allowing students to feel some sense of ownership of the language they are using and recognising that not everybody will sound exactly the same.

We also liked the fact that Tatiana’s activity encourages her students to consider whom speech is intended for.  This is another important aspect of ELF: that an ELF user’s conversation partners are other ELF users, rather than being assumed to be a native speaker (as is typical of much existing ELT material and classwork).


Materials design is a skill which is ranked as a ‘specialist’ skill within the British Council’s CPD framework, at the highest stage.  But ELT Teacher 2 Writer pointed out in their presentation that materials design is a skill that all teachers, regardless of experience, need to develop if they want to do anything beyond the coursebook.  If you’re looking for more detailed help to design your own materials, check out the ELT Teacher 2 Writer series of ebooks about topics such as writing worksheets and writing speaking activities, as well as the eltjam site.

If you do design your own materials, be sure to share them with others because, as Jeremy Day pointed out (quoting from the book Rework), teachers should follow the example of the most famous chefs.  The chefs we all know are the ones who give away their secrets by sharing their recipes on TV!


3 thoughts on “Adapting and supplementing the coursebook – IATEFL Reflection #1

  1. Pingback: Raising students’ awareness – IATEFL Reflection #2 | ELF Pronunciation

  2. Pingback: Inspirational speeches: authentic recordings | ELF Pronunciation

  3. Pingback: Introducing… IATEFL Reflections | ELF Pronunciation

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