You’ll know Bernard Miles from his ‘English Express’ workbook and website. His latest resource, ‘My Busy Day’ , is also for beginners, and it’s all about different jobs. When I tried ‘The Barista’ in my Course in EAL class, it was a perfect level! While some words were completely new for learners (like customer, serve, wipe), they picked them up really quickly. I’m guessing they had immediate relevance. So I asked Bernard if he’d share a little about the project…
Bernard, describe ‘My Busy Day’ for us!
‘My Busy Day’ is a 162-page eBook for beginner learners of English. There are 36 short chapters. Learners read what people do in various jobs and in everyday life. The sentences are short and simple, and every sentence is accompanied by a picture. The eBook is ideal for learning verbs, developing reading skills, developing speaking skills and practising grammar.
You can do the chapters in any order, and you can pick certain chapters that fit in with your current topic. For example, if you are teaching the topic of ‘health’, you could use the chapters ‘Aged Care Nurse’, ‘Doctor’, ‘Paramedic’ or ‘Pharmacist’.
What made you decide to write for beginners again?
Originally, I had planned to put these lessons in my first eBook, the ‘Beginner Workbook’. But then the lessons kept expanding until it needed its own book. I love creating materials for beginner adult learners, so it probably won’t be the last beginner resource I create.
Hooray! I can see it would also be great for EAL 1, with the work on tenses… how would you expect a teacher to extend it?
Yes, the book can potentially cover higher levels too. On the final page of every chapter, there is a grammar exercise. It focuses on verb tense and subject-verb agreement. The activity is flexible and you can choose what grammar point you want to focus on.
For example, for beginners, you could practise present simple with the first person ‘I’ (I take orders from customers.). Or for higher-levels, you could practise present continuous with the third person (He is taking orders from customers.). You could also extend the activity and ask learners to create questions and negative sentences. So potentially each of these grammar pages could be used 10 times or more.
Very useful. What were your goals with this project, with the workplace focus?
The main goals were to teach vocabulary (particularly verbs), teach basic grammar and build confidence in reading and speaking. I found that the workplace focus provided a good range of scenarios and vocabulary that learners can relate to. Most learners would have come into contact with the occupations in the book, such as bus driver, doctor, receptionist and so on. There is a lot of real-life prior knowledge that for them to connect with.
The tasks look easy, but they’re both challenging and engaging for my learners…
There are a lot of activities you could do with each chapter. For example, you could cut up the images and sentences and ask learners to match them. You could ask learners to describe each image in more detail. You could ask learners to choose one of the images and create a role-play out of it. There are so many possibilities. I look forward to hearing some more ideas from teachers as well.
I want to go back to your philosophy for teaching beginners, which we talked about in our previous interview…
These are some of my thoughts on teaching beginners.
- Use lots of visuals. This makes the meaning clear to learners, so then they can focus more on the language. For ‘My Busy Day’, I decided to provide an image for every sentence that is presented. So in total, the book contains over 250 full colour photographic images.
- Do a lot of repetition and revision. As adults, we need repeated exposure to something over time. The introduction section of the book provides some tips on how to reinforce learning.
- Don’t avoid teaching something just because it might be too difficult. If it’s useful to learners, they will be motivated to learn it. For example, the book has some words that are quite difficult for beginners, such as ‘receptionist’ and ‘photocopy’. But these are useful words that they are likely to encounter in their everyday life.
I so agree! Plus the photos are so relatable – and I like the mix of text and handwriting fonts…
I used the handwriting font just for the writing activities, in case some learners are still developing their handwriting. But I decided not to use the handwriting font for the reading and grammar tasks, because it’s actually harder to read. Also, it’s good to expose learners to different fonts. (Note: The handwriting font is NSW Print and the other font is Mulish.)
I only just found the ‘extras’ – what do you expect to add to these?
I’m open to ideas! I have a page on my site where I plan to put some extra resources for ‘My Busy Day’. I guess I will add them when the ideas come to me, and when I have time. It could be some extra grammar exercises, additional chapters, or maybe even some videos or PowerPoints.
How did you choose the jobs? They’re very up to date with things like ‘online seller’ …
Originally, I had a list of about 16 jobs, covering a variety of different industries. Then, as I was trawling through the stock image sites, I got more ideas and it expanded to 30 jobs. I came across some images for more modern jobs such as ‘online seller’ and decided to include them as well. Towards the end of the project, I decided to also include six additional chapters: ‘Student’, ‘Mother’, ‘Father’, ‘Grandmother’, ‘Grandfather’ and ‘Retiree’.
That’s a lot! Is it all ‘just you’ or do you get support?
My wife is a teacher. She did a few trials and gave me a lot of feedback. And my kids also lent a hand. Sometimes I would show them an image and ask them what they see, just to make sure the image is not ambiguous.
Nice. That’s such an important factor. How has the feedback been for both resources? My learners love those English Express videos, by the way.
Very positive feedback so far. Teachers are enjoying the convenience of the eBook and online videos. Many teachers have asked their managers to obtain a team licence for their whole college, so I thank them for that! These resources can easily fit into any curriculum for beginner adults, whether it’s EAL, CSWE or any other program that teaches English for everyday life.
The final big question: what are you working on now?
For the past six months I’ve been contributing to an eLearning project for the AMEP. That has been a great experience for me. I’d love to get more into eLearning in the future. And I occasionally do some assessment writing for a vocational college, as well as administering an online placement test for international students. Basically, I’m a freelance learning designer at the moment. I look forward to starting a new English Express project when there’s an opening in my schedule.
Well, let’s hope that’s soon. Thanks so much, Bernard…
I should also mention that three free chapters (Aged Care Nurse, Barista and Builder) can be downloaded from the website. And for any teachers who’ve tried out the resources – do send your ‘This is how I deliver your resources’ feedback to Bernard. There’s an email link at the bottom of the page on the English Express website, or you could connect with him on LinkedIn.