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5 things I have learned as a materials writer

Have you ever thought about becoming a materials writer? I had never considered this possibility until 2019. Up until then, I’d worked as a teacher, teacher trainer, and coordinator in different contexts. However, when I started a new job as an academic consultant that year, I suddenly found myself running a project which involved writing and editing lesson plans for teachers across Brazil. In other words, I suddenly found myself working as a materials writer.

After almost three years, I can safely say that I quite enjoy writing different types of materials: lesson plans, coursebooks, teacher’s books, among others. Don’t get me wrong: I still revel in teaching and helping other teachers develop professionally. What is fascinating about writing materials from scratch, though, is that it allows you to use your creativity, develop your language awareness, and learn about topics ranging from electricity to global warming.

If you consider becoming a materials writer in the future, then, let me share five things that I have learned – from experience and formal training – so far:

  1. Proofreading is never too much
    Although mistakes happen and it is quite challenging to spot all of them by ourselves, we should try to avoid them as much as possible. For this reason, proofreading our work more than once is paramount. Focus on a different aspect each time: check for misspellings first, then look out for punctuation mistakes, and so on. You run the risk of focusing on nothing if you try to focus on everything at once.

  2. Don’t go with your gut
    Assuming that something is correct because it sounds or looks right is not enough. We need to be sure. How can we do that? By doing lots of research. We can use online dictionaries, corpora, and other websites to look up collocations, the CEFR levels of words, whether a lexical item is more common in a specific variety of English or not, among many other possibilities.

  3. Put yourself in students’ shoes
    This one has become a sort of mantra for me. Whenever you’re writing an activity, reading text, audio script, etc. some questions you can ask yourself are: will students find this engaging? Will it be too easy or too difficult? What problems may arise? Considering your target students’ level, age, profile, and interests is instrumental in finding the answers.

  4. Ask for help
    Even though you may be working alone, you don’t have to figure everything out by yourself. I’ve often found myself in tricky spots, not knowing exactly how to go about a specific activity or which images to use in order to illustrate a certain topic. In these cases, picking your editor’s brain or even exchanging short messages with a colleague might help you solve the problem in a few minutes, thus saving you time and avoiding a lot of frustration.

  5. It’s not about you
    This is related to number three, but I find it important enough to deserve its own spot. Similarly to what happens when we plan our lessons, we may find ourselves going for the same type of activities in our materials because of our personal taste. However, as you might be aware, we have different learning preferences and sticking to what we like may prevent us from exploring new and interesting possibilities in our materials and, most importantly, from doing what is best for learners. After all, it’s all about them, right?

About author

Lygia Leite has a degree in Social Sciences (USP) and is a CELTA, ICELT and DELTA - Module 1 holder. She’s been working as an ELT professional for over 10 years and has acted as a teacher in a range of contexts and as a teacher trainer. She is now an academic consultant at Troika.
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