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How teachers help to rewrite coursebooks




Blonde woman taking notesHaving given us an insight into the daily lives of materials writers, English File authors, Christina Latham-Koenig and Clive Oxenden, share with us the importance of reader feedback when it comes to writing new editions.

In our last post we talked a bit about the way we work and how we look for interesting material to provide good lessons for our books. This time we thought we would talk a little about how readers’ feedback helps to shape the new versions of English File that we are currently writing.

The way it works is that we send the first draft to a number of readers all over the world. The readers are all experienced teachers, and they tend to all be teachers who have used New English File, because what we want to know is whether they prefer the new lessons to the old ones, and what still needs improving or tightening up in the  new lessons.

It’s always a slightly tense moment for us when the readers’ reports arrive. Normally we feel reasonably confident that readers are going to like most of the lessons, but you can never be totally sure! However, although positive comments are important to reassure us that we are on the right track (and sometimes just to boost our morale!), constructive negative comments really do help us to improve the material, and so we welcome both types of feedback. The feedback we received this time gave us just about the right mix, and it has been extremely helpful.

After reading through all the reports – a stage when the room we work in is almost knee deep in papers – we then have a meeting with our editors where we go through each lesson one by one and discuss all the readers’ comments (not to mention the editors’ comments) and decide how to improve on them. These meetings always seems to take longer than anticipated, but by the end of it we are really clear about what needs doing for each lesson. All that is left to do then is to go away and re-write them!

By the end of the report stage we often feel that we have really got to know our readers, even though we have never met most of them. We know the kind of topics they like or dislike, what aspects of grammar and pronunciation are important to them, even their sense of humour! For example, we once wrote a grammar practice sentence which said ‘England ___ Brazil 3-0 (defeat/beat/thrash) and one reader added the comment ‘In your dreams!’

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers from all over the world, past and present, whose comments have helped us so much in the writing of all the different levels English File. If you have any suggestions for improvements, we’d love to hear them.

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  1. Great comment from that student – “In your dreams”.

    This article not only reminds of how important it is for teachers to be actively involved in their lesson planning (opposed to passively following others examples) by creating solutions that really work for their group of students, but also how student are really able to affect the content, and create better learning materials for their younger counterparts by also involving themselves in the lessons as active learners.

    It’s really great to see how much care goes into creating lessons that students will love. Inspiring.


  2. I have read most of the coursebooks written by Clive Oxenden and I really enojyed them! I found some mistakes (printed mistakes may be) but I was not able to send and email to let you know about that. Anyway, your textbooks are really useful in our clases.

  3. It is stated on the blog that the third edition of NEF is due in 2012. Still, a plain announcement is nowhere near descriptive enough so can sb from the OUP team provide us with sample content of the two NEF levels (Elem and Pre-Int) that are being revised and updated?
    A complete sample unit, for both levels respectively, would be ideal for making comparison between the current edition and the new one. Alternatively, at least the contents pages would do, just to cast a glace at what has changed syllabus-wise.

    Thanks in advance.

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