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The importance of content rich texts to learners and teachers

The importance of content rich texts to learners and teachers Texts have always played an integral part in classroom learning, for skills development and as contexts for language study. It has long been acknowledged that choosing texts that are interesting and motivating is key, but we also need to ensure rich and meaningful content. Katie Wood, teacher trainer and materials writer, suggests using four key questions to assess whether a text meets these criteria and discusses why it should.

Question 1: Does the text contain information that can be of use in the real world outside the classroom?

In today’s fast-moving and increasingly digital world students are less likely than ever before to read or listen to something solely because it’s good for them, or because it contains examples of a particular structure. They are likely to want to know which specific skills they’re working on, but also what information they can take from the text and make use of in their life outside the classroom. A good text needs to be engaging, but it also needs to contain information that remains relevant and useful to the student once the lesson is over. Texts need to provide take-away value both in terms of linguistic development and real-world knowledge.

Question 2: Does the content help students relate their experiences, situation and country to the world as a whole?

More than ever before, both students and teachers have access to information from a variety of truly international sources on a grand scale. Facebook, Twitter and the internet in general mean that students are communicating internationally both in terms of their career and social life. As a result the communications themselves have become more related to matters which cross boundaries and borders.

Question 3: Is the text generative and can productive tasks be tailored to students’ needs?

The challenge is to provide both students and teachers with texts that have universal appeal, that are relevant, yet are in some way not already worn out by digital media. Choosing texts which are content rich increases the likelihood that they will generate different responses and points of interests from different individuals, and this includes the teachers. Maintaining the enthusiasm of a teacher dealing with the material for perhaps the fifth or sixth time should not be underestimated. In addition, a large number of students learn English in a General English class, but increasingly they have a more defined purpose in learning than they did in the past. In one group for example, a teacher might find students who want to pass an exam, want to improve their English in a business environment, or want to focus more on social English. A genuinely generative text provides the opportunity to lead into productive work in more than just one of these areas.

Question 4: Is the content of the text authentic and does it lend itself to further research and exploration?

As previously mentioned, students want to feel that what they spend their time reading and listening to in the classroom, has real world application. A text that satisfies this criteria should ideally create a desire in readers or listeners to discover more. Consequently, texts need to be authentic and googleable, and this should be true for all levels. So, while a text chosen for elementary learners will need to be adapted in terms of language, we need the content to be real. A student can then go away and find out more for themselves.


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Headway Scholarship 2014 – Winners announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Headway Scholarship competition 2014, on behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation.

Headway Scholarship 2014 applicants map

Around 230 teachers from 54 countries took part in the competition, which was based on the theme of “Headway makes a difference”. Using short stories, blog posts, photo montages, presentations, videos or podcasts, and even some lesson plans and research papers, the teachers illustrated how Headway has made a difference to students, teachers, and the community. They drew on a wealth of experience, as between them they had taught more than 115,000 students over 1600 teaching years!

As well as showing what Headway means to them and their learners, the teachers had to show what difference winning the scholarship would make to their own professional development. The various tasks were judged and moderated by a team of specialists, including author Liz Soars herself, and we can now announce that the winners are:

Hanna Dudich Magdalena Dygala Olga Gurchak
Marianne Chavarría Hernández Irina Krestianinova Gloria Rossa

Exeter CollegeEach of these teachers has won a place on a 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford, including flights, accommodation and meals – a wonderful opportunity to share and develop best practice.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Headway Scholarship and, thanks to the generosity of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation, there are six first prize winners this year instead of four. To further celebrate this landmark, additional prizes have been awarded to 12 runners up, and so congratulations also go to:

Oksana Bondus Letizia Cinganotto Claudia Gambier
Catalina Iacobuta Kiomars Karami Maria Fernanda Montu
Elena Maximova Miglena Petrova Uliana Proshina
Magdalena Pedro Anna Savina Valeriya Tabarina

As a personal ‘Thank you’ to all the teachers who entered the competition, Liz Soars has recorded the below video, and everyone who applied will be receiving a Certificate of Acknowledgement.

Go to the Headway fourth edition page for more information, or the Winners Gallery to see all the winners.