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Essentials for Effective Material Development in ELT

Mohammed Tausif ur Rahman


Assistant Professor of English
MM College Technology
Raipur 493441, CG
India
Dr A A Khan (Guide)
Professor& Head
Department of English
Govt. DT College UTAI 491107, Durg, CG
India)

Abstract
Teaching materials is an important part of most English teaching lessons. From
textbooks, videotapes, software, pictures and internet, teachers rely heavily on diverse range
of materials to support their teaching and their students learning. However, despite the
current rich array of English language teaching materials commercially available, many
teachers spend considerable time finding, selecting, evaluating, adapting and making
materials for classroom use.
Thus many English language teachers for many reasons construct their own teaching
materials to personalise the materials according to the learners and also to overcome the
lack of fit of the course book. This paper therefore discusses some of the advantages of
teacher-constructed materials and suggests some essentials that teachers should take into
account when designing or adapting materials for learners for effective learning and
teaching.
Keywords: Essentials of Material Development, Context and curriculum, learners,
personalisation and Timing.
Introduction
Why Teacher constructed Materials?

The teacher designed materials or adapted materials have more advantages than
disadvantages. Rather than focussing on course books, here this paper turns our focus to
teacher- constructed materials and considers that the disadvantages of course books can
become advantages for teacher-constructed materials.
Some of the key reasons why teacher-constructed materials work better nowadays
especially in ESL countries in general and our state, Chhattisgarh CSVTU affiliated technical
students in particular can be linked to four themes extracted from the recent literature of
material development in ELT (e.g., Block.1991; Harmer, 2001; Podromou, 2002).
One of the advantages of teacher-constructed materials is contextualisation (Block,
1991). It provides teachers a platform to take into account their particular learning
environment and to overcome the barriers and restrictions of the course books. Further, most
course books remain organised around grammar elements and PPP (presentation, practice,
production) model of teaching, often with an unrelenting format which can be deeply
unengaging (Harmer, 2001, p.6.). By taking more control over material production, teacher
can choose from the range of possibilities, including topics, situations, notions, functions,
skills etc., or a combination of these principles, as starting points to develop a variety of
materials that focus on the developing needs of their particular group of learners.
Personalisation is another advantage of teacher-constructed materials because modern
teaching methodology increasingly emphasises the importance of identifying and teaching to
the individual needs of learners. The eclectic approach here focuses on learners first
languages and cultures, their learning needs and their experiences. Podromou (2002) further
suggests that there is also greater choice, freedom and scope for spontaneity when teachers
develop their own materials.
Timing is also one of the advantages (Block, 1991) where teachers constructing their
own materials can respond to local and international events with up-to-date, relevant and high
interest topics and tasks. The teachable moment can be more readily gauged and thus avoids
the one-size-fits-all approach of most commercial materials.
Essentials for Effective Material Development in ELT

Teacher constructed materials comes in variety from single time use to extensive
courses where task and activities are either dependent on each other to create a coherent
progressions of skills, concepts and language items or at times completely independent to
focus intensively on skills based lessons or on language based lessons. The essentials
presented here might act as a useful framework for teachers as they navigate the range of
factors from learners needs, curriculum and the context, resources and facilities, personal
confidence and competence to timing as discussed earlier to construct materials for their own
teaching situations.
The essentials here are just as some steps to be considered not rules to be strictly
followed. The essentials to be mentioned here will not be relevant or applicable in all
materials design process but will definitely provide a coherent design and materials to
enhance the learning experience.
1. The teaching materials should be contextualised
Contextualisation is essential during the design stages that the objectives of the
curriculum and syllabus and thus the materials should be contextualised to the curriculum
they are intended to address (Nunan, 1998, pp.1-2). This does not mean that the materials
design should be completely determined by a list of specifications, but these are certainly
among the initial considerations.
The materials should connect with what the learners already know, to their first
languages and culture, and very importantly, should alert learners to any areas of significant
cultural differences and therefore the teaching materials should also be contextualised to the
experiences, realities and first languages of the learners. This brings awareness on the part
of the teacher-designer of the socio-cultural appropriacy (Jolly & Bolitho, 1998, p. 111) of
things such as the teachers own style of presenting materials, of arranging groups, and so on.
Last but not the least, the materials designed or constructed should be contextualised
to topics and themes that provide meaningful, purposeful uses for the target language.
The topics may well be very general ones and related to real life situations like family, house,
lifestyle, career, relations to name a few but it is the teachers role to find new angles on
those topics (Bell & Gower, 1998, p. 123) to develop activities which will ensure purposeful
production of the target language and skills.

2. The teaching materials should be learner centred and stimulate various


interaction patters
Language teaching materials should provide situations where learners need to interact
with each other regularly in a manner that reflects various interaction patterns they will
engage in outside the classroom. Hall (1995 p.9) mentions three pointers he believes are
necessary to stimulate real communication: these are the need to have something we want to
communicate, someone to communicate with, and most importantly, some interest in the
outcome of communication.
Nunan (1998 p.8)) refers to this as learning by doing philosophy, and suggests
procedures such as information gap and information transfer activities, which can be used to
ensure that interaction is necessary.
Materials designers should ensure their materials allow sufficient scope for the
learners to extend their practice patterns from controlled practice to free practice and to
transfer the language learnt to various real life situations to build on from what is provided to
generate new language constructions, and to progress beyond surface fluency to in depth
proficiency and confidence.
3. The teaching materials should focus on form, function as well as skills
Materials designed can provide valuable information for self- evaluation by providing
the necessary metalanguage and activities to assess their own learning and development in
the form of language and skill both.
The aim of this essential is to develop active, independent language learners, to help
them meet this goal, materials also need to encourage learners to take an analytical approach
to form and test their own hypotheses about how language works (Nunan, 1998).
Thus, well designed materials should have focus on providing opportunity to the
learners to make their concepts with respect to meaning, pronunciation and form for language
building and should have enough activities for regulated practice in addition to independent
and creative expression.

4. The teaching materials should be interesting and attractive


The teaching materials and the exercises designed should be interesting and
attractive. Some of the aspects which the materials designers should keep in mind are
physical appearance, user-friendliness, durability, authenticity and ability to be reproduced.
Some of the factors to consider include the text on the page, the type size and
consistency of the layout. In order to make the materials more interesting and attractive
enough gaps should be there to fill the gaps with appropriate response.
All in all, the materials designers can make materials more attractive, interesting and
authentic if they have reference to the look and the feel of the product (see, for example,
Harmer, 1998; Nunan 1991).
5. The teaching materials should be flexible and have appropriate instructions
The materials designed should have appropriate instructions in order to have effective
learning. The instructions written on materials should be written in language that is
appropriate for the target learners, and the use of correct met language can help with making
instructions more concise and efficient.
The materials should also have a room for flexibility in approach, methodology,
logistics, technology, teaching style, evaluation procedure and expected outcomes. Malay
acknowledges the benefits of diversity in the areas of the content, roles and procedures and
concludes this challenge for material designers: Those involved could greatly extend and
diversify the range of what is offered to students with relatively little effort. Will they make
that effort?(p.7)
Conclusion
The teachers must introspect and evaluate the benefits and costs of designing their own
materials and make their own decision as to whether it is worth the time and effort. There
will be numerous constraints on any materials designer and compromises are necessary. But
on the whole, materials that satisfy the essentials proposed, could make a difference because

there are not enough materials available especially in Indian context, could make a difference
between a classes of diverse learners in an excited state of expectancy (Malay, 2003, p.2).

References
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Block, D. (1991). Some thoughts on DIY materials Design. ELT Journal, 45 (3), 211217.
Hall, D. (1995). Materials production: Theory and practice. In A. C. Hidalgo, D. Hall,
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