Silvina Mascitti about creativity and writing teaching materials.

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Interview with English teacher about creativity and writing teaching materials

Today, we’re talking to the wonderful Silvina Mascitti – English teacher and author of many wonderful lessons and materials.

Silvina, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today!

So first of all, could you tell us a bit about what you do? Where can we find you online?

I’m Silvina, I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina but I’ve been living in Spain for 7 years. Currently, I teach adults online, I make lesson plans for my classes and then share them on my website As a freelancer, I collaborate with Fluentize and Nik Peachey and I make Business English materials for a language school located in Paris.

Your blog is fantastic! There are so many wonderful lessons. Could you tell us more about the process of writing a lesson? Where do you start? What’s involved? How long does it take you?

That’s very nice of you to say! 🙂 My starting points are either a topic my students are interested in or need to work on, or a resource I come across on the internet (an article, a video, an image, etc.). Once I choose the topic and the resource, I work on a blank Canva A4 document, planning what activities would work best for both the topic and the student I have in mind. I always look for task variety so I like exploring other colleagues’ materials to get some fresh ideas for my own materials. I’m not sure how long it takes me because it all depends on my inspiration, the amount of time I have for each material and so on, but I’d say that no less than 3 or 4 hours, especially if I write the Teacher’s notes.

What tips would you give teachers who make their own materials? Are there any do’s and don’ts of writing ELT materials?

First of all, we should be realistic about the target group we have in mind, their strengths and weaknesses, the time we have in class to cover certain topics: less is more. As teachers, we want to squeeze the resources but cognitive load is of paramount importance when planning a lesson and making materials. So if you really want to use every single word or grammar point of a text or video, perhaps you should devote more than one class, then go back, recycle, check understanding, etc. Or simply, evaluate what students really need for real-life communication in their own contexts and focus on that. Another important aspect to take into account is flow, materials should prepare students for a final goal, so when writing our lesson plan we need to have a clear objective in mind and then we should scaffold the steps and provide students with what they need to get to the final task confidently. There should be a thread, a connection and an aim in every exercise we include in the material. Lastly, we should put ourselves in our students’ shoes, is the material engaging for us? Would we be willing to use it if we were students? If the answer is no, then we should reflect on the points to improve. There’s always room for improvement so asking a colleague for feedback is always a good option.

You’re so creative. Do you ever run out of ideas? What do you do then?

Well, some ideas are not that creative or perhaps they sound really good in my head but then they don’t work that well in class! In my case, it’s mainly a matter of exposure, I mean, the more I read Linkedin posts or listen to my own students speak about their personal or professional lives, the more ideas I get for my own materials. If I don’t know what topic to choose, I have a look at some business articles on Forbes or the Harvard Business Review websites or BBC Ideas videos when it comes to General English and I get inspired to start working on a new lesson plan.

A lot of teachers say they’re not creative. Do you think it’s possible to train creativity? In what ways?

I think it’s all about motivating our students and finding out what they need and what they like and then, trying to use all that information to make engaging materials. Once teachers learn the basics about materials writing, they can start experimenting with different types of exercises, ask students for feedback, evaluate what works best in their lessons and so on. I think that teaching and learning go way beyond gap-filling exercises!. On the other hand, almost everything has already been invented, but customizing lessons, looking for original and engaging topics to explain grammar points, differentiating tasks and letting students make choices and decisions can definitely help teachers become more creative. If teachers have to use a coursebook and they feel kind of limited, then can provide students with short, fun tasks related to the topic from time to time.

What do you do for your professional development?

I attend lots of free webinars that I find on Linkedin or Facebook. There is a wide variety of online sessions, podcasts for teachers and articles available on the internet. I get a bit overwhelmed at times, but I choose the ones I think will help me improve my teaching and writing practices. Also, recently I’ve been buying some books on different topics and approaches I’d like to apply in my materials. For instance, helping students develop decoding listening skills.

And finally, a question we ask everyone: what do you do to relax? 🙂

I drink mate, an Argentinean hot infusion made of “yerba” leaves, with some sweet pastry either at home or at the beach, alone or with some friends. I listen to music, talk to my friends from Argentina and other parts of the world and I spend time with my 4-year-old boy, the latter is not that relaxing at times though…lol…

Silvina, thank you so much for this interview! It was a pleasure talking to you!

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