City Maps

I have spent ridiculous amounts of time searching for city or town maps lately for my ESL activities. I’ve been doing a lot of activities that practice directions in English, and a lot of city or town vocabulary. So I decided to sit down this morning and make a series of maps. And I also thought I would share them for other teachers or writers to use. I do ask that you give me full credit with a link if you are using them online. Do not try to pass these off as your own please. I also ask that you not add these to another resource bank–use them for activities or games or tests, but if people want to download the raw maps, I prefer they be directed to my site. But do feel free to add to or adapt these maps in any way you see fit, commercial or non-commercial.

The first one is a basic grid. The second one adds some apartments or stores giving you four times the locations and vocab like the second door or the first door or around the corner.

The last one is a little more complex and beautiful. This might evoke a nice neighborhood, but it also allows for more complex directions!

Basic City Map

City Map with Divisions

Complex City Map
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These works by Walton Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Resource Pages

I’ve added a couple of new pages to the blog including links for places to look for writing jobs or professional development opportunities. I’ve included databases of jobs, sites that have job listings and professional organizations as well.

My favorite, page though is the  tools and sources of inspiration while writing. When writing I find it helpful to have lists of fictional company names, information on international names, even anagram makers for when my creative juices run dry. I am trying to add to this every time I find a useful page. That page also has links to information on leveling texts, analyzing texts, vocab lists and other useful stuff.

Writing Inspiration

Materials Writing does have a creative side, believe it or not. You do have to come up with stories and topics and fake names and website addresses. I’ve been slowly accumulating places where I like to go to find fake names or topics or sample dialogues to follow.

  • Fictional Universities and Colleges Just a fun list of famous fictional universities and colleges. Easily changeable by adding a North, South or New to the end.
  • Anagram Maker A fun way to take a well-known word or brand and turn it into something new. PS My name anagrams to Laws Burnt On!
  • List of Names and Meanings A place to find names.
  • Foreign Names on A google search that takes you to sites on different foreign names in case you need a typical Chinese or Muslim or French name.
  • University of British Columbia student news on Youtube Great source of student friendly topics.
  • Shaun Roundy on Youtube An English professor with a good source of student friendly writing advice and actually a couple of recorded classes for authentic conversation and interaction.

How to Write for ELT Magazines

This is a wonderful video that presents a very clear outline of how to write an article that can get published in a magazine like Voices or TESOL Connections, written by the editor of IATEFL Voices, Alison Schwetlick.

I really like the outline that she lays out and I’ve used it for every article I’ve written since then–and both of those got published. Which doesn’t sound very encouraging until I tell you that I’d never had any articles published before. Her template is as follows in case you haven’t got time to read the article:

  1. Lay out the context–why did you come up with this idea? What need did you have to make this lesson plan or activity? Why did you want to do this research?
  2. Tell what others have said–link it to the research or pre-existing ideas and practices.
  3. Show how it works, how it applies to the classroom, which is easy for a lesson plan or activity.
  4. Link it to a wider context–where else could this idea be used? How could it be adapted? What are the limitations? What’s the next step?

How to write for IATEFL Voices and other English teaching magazines with Alison Schwetlick

The Importance of Intonation

I was consulting the Michigan Academic Speech Corpus recently and discovered this passage that does wonders for demonstrating the purpose of intonation:

SU-f: where’s Jerry? he was here

SU-f: oh no

S13: okay, um, approval, of the agenda why don’t you guys take a second to look over

SU-m: who needs the agenda?

S13: the agenda?

SU-m: okay;cc=micase;view=transcript;id=MTG999SU043

I first read this as Where’s Jerry. He was here. Oh No! (meaning “Something horrible must have happened to Jerry”, as opposed to “Oh, I must have been wrong about him being here because I just saw the guy I thought was Jerry before, but now I clearly see that it’s in fact Ali”)
…Who needs the agenda (meaning, “No one needs an agenda, guys. Serious in 2014 we still have agendas?” as opposed to, “I have in my hands more than one copy of the agenda and I will give said copies to people who do not have agendas because we expect that everyone will have a copy of the agenda and read it”)

Reading transcripts of spoken English is also a wonderful way to dispel the myth that spoken English follows the rules of English or even makes the slightest bit of sense out of context.

Materials Writer Blog

Hey, just a quick note that I have become the semi-self appointed moderator of the blog of the Materials Writing Interest Section of TESOL. You can check out the blog here: I will be posting events and news and resources over there. It’s also open to guest articles and resource sharing, so feel free to check it out.

Also, anyone is welcome to jump in with moderating and administering. I am open to any and all suggestions on anything from the color scheme to features. And especially open to offers of help!


More Mysteries

As my loyal fans will know, I am a huge fan of mysteries and I love using them in the classroom. Mysteries are fun for students. You can bring up fun topics like murder and mayhen in an acceptable way. They teach logic , inference, and connection-making. And they lend themselves to practicing speculation, modals of certainty, not to mention mixed verb tenses.

So I was excited, if confused to see a post about teaching argument writing with mysteries on the English Companion Ning. It included a link to this school textbook on Argument Writing (No idea how legal this link is, but it is hosted by the publisher so click at your own risk) by Heinemann that starts out with a mystery(And also a fencing metaphor so this is pretty much the perfect textbook for me)!

I had never thought about it, but solving mysteries also involves marshaling relevant evidence and sorting opinion from fact, important skills for writing an argument or opinion essay! This seems like the most brilliant idea in the world and if anyone wants to hire me or join me writing a textbook on using mysteries in the ESL classroom, I would be ecstatic!

A Cool Web Resource for Mysteries

In the course of looking up some of the resources referred to on the Ning site, I stumbled on: 5 Minute Mystery which has short mysteries that can indeed be solved in 5 minutes or so. It also has a points and ranking system which makes it fun for students–you can even set up a league. But what I really like is the scoring system that gives you points for not only solving the mystery, but also identifying clues that incriminate or exonerate suspects. Sort of a high-tech version of my Mystery Solving Worksheet from my own mystery unit.

I like warming students up to mysteries by writing Whodunit on the board and having students guess what it means. It’s also fun to discuss the bad grammar of the target phrase (Who done it?) and the reason for it; I don’t actually know but it sounds like it targets readers of pulp crime fiction who may not be incredibly well-educated and are anxious to get to the solution, in other words the people who read detective stories for fun. Which is what we want our students to do, right? Read for fun?