is a freelance ELT/CLIL materials writer, based in Seville. He holds a B.A. in Classics, a B.Ed. in TESL, and an M.A. in Second Language Curriculum. Robert has worked in the field of ELT for more than twenty years, as a teacher, head of studies, research consultant and teacher-trainer. Robert’s publications for primary include Oxford Science Content for Primary 3 & 4 and several titles in the Oxford Read and Discover series of non-fiction readers. He is also co-author of levels 5 and 6 of Oxford’s Look and Think: Sciences for bilingual programmes in Spain. For secondary levels, Robert is author of Oxford’s Switch 1 & 2 for Spain and Your Turn 7 for Portugal. He is also co-author of the new edition of Engage 2, an international coursebook by Oxford.
In this issue, Rob shares his ideas on how to make the most of non-fiction readers in class.
How did you get into writing?
I had always enjoyed creating materials for my own classes and to prepare teacher-training sessions. Then I started working as an ELT consultant for OUP, doing research and commenting on new materials. After a while, I started co-writing on small projects, like photocopiable worksheets and resource materials. Finally, I decided to ‘take the plunge’ and start writing full-time.
What is the best part about your job?
I’d have to say it’s the variety that I love the most. I’ve been able to work on materials for primary and secondary levels, for ELT and CLIL programmes. I especially enjoy working on non-fiction readers because they deal with so many interesting topics. A friend of mine always says that ‘variety is the spice of life’ and I totally agree!
What is the most important benefit of using non-fiction readers?
I think the most important benefit is their flexibility. You can use easy readers to open up topics in an accessible way. You can use more challenging readers towards the end of a teaching unit to review concepts and extend topics in new ways. Readers are great for whole-class and pair-work activities, as well as independent reading. Some days you might choose to focus more on content, with trivia quizzes and discussions, while other days you might work on vocabulary development, grammar or skills work.
How can teachers encourage pupils to read more?
The key to encouraging pupils to read is to give them a clear purpose. If you want them to find out more about a topic, they need a chance to demonstrate what they’ve learned, with comprehension questions, projects or classroom presentations. If you want your pupils to read extensively, they need a wide variety of materials – fiction and non-fiction – that appeal to their interests. I think a classroom library is essential, with a clear system that helps pupils choose the appropriate level of reader. They should also keep a record of what they’ve read and share their reading experiences with classmates and family. Progress charts and book review posters are a great way to do this.
What was the graded reader you liked working on best?
It was probably ‘Food Around the World’, in the Oxford Read and Discover series. That was the first title that I wrote for the series, which makes it a special one for me. And of course the topic is great. Who doesn’t like food? Researching for the book was lots of fun too, but it always made me so hungry!