09 MAY 2016
Cambridge Global English - A topic-based approach
The biggest challenge for any writer is facing the blank page. As writers of language teaching materials, you not only have to think about the content but also methodology, grammar, vocabulary and progression. Your overriding concern, however, is to make the material interesting for both students and teachers. Where do you start?
We were very fortunate, when we were planning Stages 7, 8 and 9 of Cambridge Global English, in having two key documents to get us started: the Cambridge Secondary 1 English as a Second Language Curriculum Framework and the Cambridge ESOL Curriculum Schemes of Work. The Framework specifies what students at each stage should be able to do in Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening and Speaking. In Stage 7, this ranges, for example, from 'Understanding the main points in texts' to 'Beginning to recognise inconsistencies in argument in short texts'. The Schemes of Work suggest topics that are appropriate at each stage. For each of Stages 7, 8 and 9 there are eighteen suggested topics.
We found both documents invaluable in writing Cambridge Global English Stages 7 to 9. The more we looked at the Schemes of Work, the more we realised how much thought had gone into them and how valuable they would be in terms of structuring our books. For each topic in the Schemes of Work, the suggestions for exercises and activities are linked to the learning objectives of the Framework. For example, in the unit on 'Right and wrong', the Scheme of Work suggests the idea of 'talking about a moral dilemma - telling another student what you would do in different situations' as a means of fulfilling the learning objective 'Explain and justify their own and others' point of view on a range of general and curricular topics'. In our coursebook, this became a page on which teenagers had posted examples of moral dilemmas they had confronted. Students have to comment on what the teenagers wrote in the posts and to say what they themselves would have done in the same situation.
The topics in the Schemes of Work cover a vast range of areas of experience. There are topics based on personal experience, such as 'Family ties' and 'Moods and feelings', as well as those which are related to other areas of the school curriculum, such as 'Population and resources' and 'Design and shape'. The advantage, for both students and teachers, is that the material is relevant to their lives personally and educationally. For us as writers, having this range of topics to work with has meant that we have been able to incorporate a great variety of material, much of it from authentic sources.
And we didn't have to spend long facing the blank page!
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