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Remembering Ritsuko Nakata

Ritsuko NakataWe were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Ritsuko Nakata, co-author of the best-selling Let’s Go series and founder of the IIEEC Teacher Training Center. Ritsuko’s career was dedicated to the teaching of English to young learners.

Born and educated in the USA, Ritsuko moved to Japan early in her teaching career, where she began experimenting with more practical, effective ways to get children to learn English.  Her focus on getting students to ask questions as well as answer them and to thus be able to engage in more natural dialogue is a cornerstone of the Let’s Go approach.   The series was a pioneer when it was first published in 1992, setting the standard for many others that followed; now in its 5th edition, it remains a market leader. In fact, one of Ritsuko’s great pleasures was meeting English teachers who had studied with Let’s Go when they were children and who were now using the series in their own classrooms. She was a wonderful mentor and teacher trainer who could get roomfuls of teachers on their feet and practising her signature action-based routines. Always kind and always enthusiastic, she was especially skilled at inspiring new teachers, putting them at ease, and helping them to feel confident in their teaching.

 It’s no exaggeration to say that through her work, a lifetime of teaching, authoring, and training, Ritsuko has touched the lives of millions of primary teachers and students — in Japan where she lived, across Asia, and around the world. She leaves an amazing legacy and her loss will be keenly felt by the staff at OUP and all those who knew her.  Ritsuko touched so many lives here at OUP and in the world of ELT, and she will be missed by all who knew her. We send our deepest condolences to her husband and two daughters, as well as to her fellow Let’s Go authors.


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Remembering Kathy Gude, ELT Author

Kathy GudeWe were saddened to learn recently that Kathy Gude, one our most prolific authors of English language teaching materials and a great friend of OUP, passed away in early August, following a brave battle with a long illness.

Kathy made an enormous contribution to our English language publishing, working with us for more than 35 years as author/co-author of the Matrix series and other successful titles, including Success at First Certificate, Proficiency Masterclass, Fast Class, Kickstart, Countdown, Aspire, Advanced Masterclass CAE, Advanced Result, CAE Advanced Listening and Speaking, and Venture into First, which many thousands of teachers and students have enjoyed using over the years. Everyone at OUP who was fortunate enough to work with Kathy held her in the highest regard and loved working alongside her.

Across all her numerous projects with OUP, Kathy brought extensive teaching, teacher training, and assessment experience and expertise. She was a very creative author and a master at crafting engaging and valuable content which has stood the test of time in ELT classrooms all around the world. Her extensive assessment expertise, which she developed as an item writer and paper chair for UCLES/Cambridge ESOL exams (now Cambridge Assessment English), meant that students using her books could – and still can – be confident of being well prepared for their exams. Kathy loved new challenges too, and one of those was authoring OUP’s first online workbook in 2009 – a project she took on with great enthusiasm, and which paved the way for the ELT online learning products that followed.

Kathy always worked hard, including on the promotion of her OUP courses – travelling to give her popular author talks in towns and cities around Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe. She loved talking to teachers that she met at these and other ELT events, and it was clear that she was widely respected by many for her professionalism and wisdom, and loved for her warmth of character. Many teachers and colleagues will also fondly remember Kathy for her beautifully coordinated, colourful outfits.

Kathy was immensely caring, generous, supportive and thoughtful. She was also full of fun and found joy in life – even at times when life was not easy. Kathy was a great listener and took a keen interest in the lives of everyone she met, always making time for them however much else she had going on. She was devoted to her husband, Peter, their three sons, and their grandchildren – our thoughts are with them.

Kathy touched so many lives here at OUP and in the world of ELT, and she will be sorely missed by everyone that had the honour of knowing her. Her legacy will live on at OUP and in the ELT community for many years to come.


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The Jungle Book becomes our 100th Domino! | Alex Raynham

Jungle Book graded reader among other copies of the Jungle BookTo mark the publication of the 100th Dominoes graded reader − The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling − the author Alex Raynham talks about the challenges of adapting such a classic title and gives some advice about classroom use.

When Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Books (originally plural) in the mid-1890s, he was the most popular author in the English-speaking world, and his stories became an instant classic. The Jungle Books have stood the test of time, appealing to successive generations of readers and appearing in many print, movie, and theatrical adaptations. The characters of Mowgli, Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther, Kaa the snake and Shere Khan the villainous tiger have become part of popular culture. No wonder then that Oxford University Press has produced so many different versions over the years!

How do you adapt a classic story?

The biggest challenge was how to adapt and simplify a story that has become such a well-known classic, whilst keeping it fresh and entertaining. The original Jungle Books are a diverse collection of stories over 300 pages long. In contrast, a Level 1 Dominoes cartoon-style reader has only 27 pages of story text and is about 3,000 words − so careful text selection was required. We decided to focus on the stories in The Jungle Books, which concern the adventures of Mowgli and his friends and exclude any stories unrelated to them. We then tried to focus on key events that moved the stories forward and contributed to our understanding of the main characters.

After that we made a detailed plan of each page of the story, deciding what artwork and text to include in each ‘frame’ on those pages. Each piece of text needed to be short enough to leave plenty of space for artwork, so the wording needed to be precise. Every sentence had to contribute to the overall story. In addition, each chapter needed to end with some kind of cliffhanger, motivating learners to read on and find out what happens next.

Staying true to Kipling’s vision

The original Jungle Books are witty, captivating and descriptively rich. Kipling sets the scene and paints the characters beautifully. So one big issue with the adaptation was how to stay true to the spirit of the original story when a Level 1 Dominoes reader only has A1 grammatical structures and a wordlist of just 400 headwords. One way to do this was to preserve Kipling’s ‘voice’ as much as possible. Using plenty of direct speech helps with this, and we’ve also kept some of Kipling’s original phrases: for example, ‘man cub’ − the way that Mowgli’s wolf family describe him as a child.

Why a comic strip?

A comic strip is ideal for many readers at A1 level − particularly titles which contain rich settings and many different characters, such as The Jungle Book. It helps to introduce new vocabulary, and descriptions of the characters and settings can be supported by the pictures, making them easier to visualise at this level. A comic strip also helps the teacher to use each chapter in a variety of ways in class. For example:

  • Illustrations help the teacher to pre-teach vocabulary or reinforce it after reading.
  • All or part of some speech bubbles can be blanked out, and learners can be asked to reconstruct or predict the dialogue.
  • The teacher can photocopy a page of the story and cut up the pictures, then rearrange and scan them, asking learners to put them in order. This can be done on the IWB as a pre-reading prediction activity, or as a post-reading story review.

Supporting learners’ reading without breaking the flow

It’s probably true to say that the less we intervene, the more learners get out of extended reading. We need to motivate learners by giving them a sense of achievement through being able to read and understand an extended narrative pretty much on their own. But we also want to make sure that learners are actually understanding the story and getting the most out of it. So we’re playing the role of facilitator– encouraging students and giving them space, but also directing them to the resources contained in the books.

The meaning of above-level vocabulary is given on the page in Dominoes titles, allowing the learner to read on without getting stuck. For example, in The Jungle Book, we gloss the word ‘cub’ so that learners can understand ‘man cub’. It’s important to direct them to these Glossary words when needed without interrupting their reading by focussing too much on them.

Using activities to support learning

The Activities after every chapter can be used to facilitate class discussion about the story and recycle new vocabulary, but we should avoid the temptation to check that learners remember every detail. Using the ‘Guess What’ predictive activities in these sections is a good way to get learners thinking about the plot and what might happen next without the pressure to get any answers right.

End-of-book Grammar Check activities are designed to support learners when reading each particular title. For example, in The Jungle Book, one focus is irregular plurals nouns like ‘deer’, ‘buffalo’ and ‘teeth’! Using the Projects at the back will also help learners to relate what they’ve read to their experiences and the wider world. For example, in The Jungle Book, they’re asked to write a profile of one of four animals in the story, based on a model: Bengal tiger, wolf, black panther or brown bear.

It’s easy for students to get to the end of a graded reader, then forget about it. But in L1, we talk about good books that we’ve read with friends and think about them long after we’ve turned the last page. So it’s vital to try and reflect this both inside and outside the classroom.

 

Looking for something new to support your learners’ reading skills? Try these ready-to-use activities from our brand new graded reader!

Download your sample of The Jungle Book

Download the Activity Pack

 


Alex Raynham grew up in New Zealand and the UK before graduating from Oxford University. He was an ELT teacher in Italy and Turkey and later became an editor with Oxford University Press. Today he is a freelance author, editor and ELT teacher trainer based in Turkey. He has written over 20 ELT titles, including more than ten graded readers for Oxford University Press, and spoken at conferences throughout Turkey and abroad.


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5 minutes with Sarah Rogerson, Director of Assessment for the Oxford Test of English

Oxford Test of English

A new job and new products

I started at Oxford University Press as Director of Assessment for ELT on January 2nd this year. I remember at my interview being asked about what my priorities would be within the first 3 months of the job. I said one of my main priorities would be to fall in love with the OUP assessment products. Somethings you say at interviews because you have to, but this is something I genuinely meant. I need to feel passionate about what I do and see the value in what I do – I need to fall in love with what I do. So this blog is a love story! It’s a love story about me and the Oxford Test of English.

Where to begin… how about an exotic location!

In my 3rd week at OUP, I visited the OUP España offices in Madrid. I wanted to meet customers, I wanted to know about their problems, I wanted to know their thoughts about the Oxford Test of English, I wanted to know from them what my priorities should be. And so, my colleagues arranged for me to meet 3 very different types of customer in and around Madrid. I was overwhelmed by the positivity of these customers towards a new English language assessment in what is a very competitive market. Some key things that came out of this were that the Oxford Test of English is fit for purpose, friendly and flexible. They loved the fact that the exam can’t be failed, that it’s fully online, that it’s modular, and that it’s on demand. As a newcomer, this was fantastic to hear.

“I arranged to sit the test like an actual student”


As soon I got back to the UK, I arranged to sit the test as an actual student, and so my love was ignited! A 4 skill test, 3 CEFR levels, and it can be completed in 2 hours; it solves so many customer pain points. It had me hooked.

The assessment capability at OUP is strong. The Oxford Test of English is really impressive, and our placement test is also a winner! We’ll be revealing a new product in April 2020 and I’m really happy in my new role.

I’m thoroughly excited about the future and building the OUP assessment brand. If you want to know more, check out the Oxford Test of English website, or if you’re coming to the IATEFL conference this year in Liverpool, don’t miss our launch event!


Sarah Rogerson is Director of Assessment at Oxford University Press. She has worked in English language teaching and assessment for 20 years and is passionate about education for all and digital innovation in ELT. As a relative newcomer to OUP, Sarah is really excited about the Oxford Test of English and how well it caters to the 21st-century student.


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Let’s celebrate 70 years of ELT Journal

Birmingham LogoThis year Oxford University Press is excited to join IATEFL in the effort to bring more teachers to the 50th annual IATEFL conference in Birmingham through the Scholarship scheme. Sponsoring a scholarship seemed to be the most natural way to celebrate our own anniversary – the 70 years of ELT Journal, a quarterly publication for all those involved in English Language Teaching (ELT), whether as a second, additional, or foreign language, or as an international Lingua Franca. The ELT Journal has long had strong links with IATEFL, and the ELT J Debate has become an eagerly anticipated fixture in the IATEFL conference programme.

We hope that through this scholarship practising teachers will get a chance to take advantage of the IATEFL conference as a professional development opportunity – both in terms of ideas and theory shared at the talks and workshops, but also as a great time to network with fellow teachers from around the world.

The IATEFL annual meeting gives a truly global overview of contexts, experiences and practices, and to many delegates that is most valuable aspect of the conference.

It is not necessary to be a member of IATEFL to apply, and the applications must be submitted to IATEFL by 23 July 2015.

The award consists of:

  • Registration for the Pre-Conference event of the winner’s choice
  • Registration for the IATEFL Annual Conference
  • A year’s IATEFL membership
  • GBP 1500 towards conference related costs, including travel, accommodation, and visa costs
  • An annual individual subscription to ELT Journal online
  • An Oxford Teachers’ Academy online course of the winner’s choice

To qualify you must:

  • Be a practising teacher in primary, secondary, tertiary or adult education, state or private
  • Be interested in continuous professional development
  • Agree to submit a blog post about your conference experience by June 2016, to be published on the OUP blog: oupeltglobalblog.com
  • Agree to be interviewed (on video) by OUP about your conference experience, to be published on the OUP ELT global YouTube channel

To be considered for this scholarship you must submit a statement between 400 and 500 words in which you:

  • Outline your teaching context, including a brief description of your teaching community and the part you play in it.
  • Outline the professional development opportunities available to you in your context.
  • Identify key professional challenges NOT addressed by the professional development opportunities available to you in your context.
  • Outline an action plan for how you intend to take the learning gained during the conference to your teaching community.