Where are you from and how did you end up living in northern Spain?
Kath: Steve’s from Accrington in the north of England. I’m from South Wales. When we got together we decided to leave the UK and live in a place that was new for both of us. We did TEFL courses and started looking for teaching jobs. Steve found one in Madrid so we went there first and stayed for five years. We loved Madrid but by that time we had two small children and decided to move somewhere quieter. An opportunity came up for Steve to work at the British Council, Bilbao … and we moved to Vizcaya. We’ve been living up here for about twenty years now.
P.S (Steve): Also, the food here is ten times better than the food in the UK!
What are some of the challenges you think teachers face today?
Steve: These days teachers are very busy – they have got more things to think about than ever before. Things change so quickly these days and sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with technological and methodological changes. I think it’s important for materials to help teachers along with these changes.
Are there classroom resources you ‘can’t live without’?
Kath: The students! It might sound a bit strange coming from an author but the best classes I’ve taught have been with minimum resources but motivated students.
Can you think of any funny classroom anecdotes?
Steve: Funny for who? My pupils laugh at me every time I try to write on the IWB with one of those electronic pens. My handwriting looks like that of a (sloppy) six-year-old child. I’ve taken to using the keyboard.
What’s the best part about writing a text book?
Kath: Being able to work at home in my pyjamas! Seriously, it’s something I’ve been working towards for about fifteen years. It’s a real achievement for me!
Many teachers are concerned about making sure their students learn correct grammar. How does ACE! approach grammar?
Steve: Ace! uses stories and songs to present language points, and then uses games and fun communicative activities to practice them. The focus for the learner is listening to and acting out stories, singing songs, playing games and doing fun activities – the grammar ‘seeps’ in through these. There are also, of course, exercises to practice language points in a more explicit way in the Activity book.
ACE! contains some very interesting cross-curricular pages. Do you feel students respond well to learning about ‘other subjects’ in English?
Kath: Young learners are naturally curious and usually respond well to anything ‘a bit different’. The nice thing about including ‘subjects’ is that those students who might not be so good at English are sometimes given an opportunity to excel because they do know something about the ‘subject’; maths, science … or whatever.
Why do you think it is important for students to read and know about other cultures?
Steve: Languages can’t exist outside culture – only dead languages and invented languages. All languages have important cultural aspects to them. The great thing about the English language is that there are so many different cultures to draw on, and because of the advances in technology it’s getting easier and easier to bring these cultures into the classroom.
Do you think that using audio-visual material is something that teachers should take advantage of? What does ACE! offer?
Kath: For anyone learning a language it’s important to have good models to imitate. By including audio-visuals we are making sure that they get these models. There’s also the variety factor of course; every student is unique. The more contexts of English they are exposed to, the more learning takes place. But the variety factor affects teachers too. Some teachers will take advantage of everything on offer, others might – for whatever reason – be less adventurous.