English Teacher Article Getting published in TEFL Why, what, where, and how

Summary: Reasons why everyone in TEFL should publish at least something, then how to choose what to do and to go about doing it.

By: |Audience: Teachers|Category: Teaching English


As its title suggests, this article is structured as a set of questions about getting published in TEFL with some of the many possible answers. The first of those questions is probably “Why bother?”, and some of the reasons are:

- It helps you learn about the language and the writing process

- It more generally improves your teaching, e.g. by helping you brainstorm ideas for your classes

- It improves your CV/ helps you get better jobs

- It impresses students

- It’s motivating

- It helps put you in touch with like-minded people and useful people for your future career

- It helps you organise and remember your own ideas

- You can use it to publicise things such as your school or upcoming workshop

- It helps (at least some of) the people who read it

- It can help change things in ELT

- It can provide a supplementary income (in a way that is a nice change from just doing more teaching) or even an alternative career path

Perhaps even more important than all of those is the fact that there is no reason why not to get published in some way, because it is an incredibly easy thing to do. If you have doubts about that statement, it might depend on your definition of “getting published in TEFL”. I’m taking the most general possible definition: “Writing or recording something for language teachers or learners which is read, listened to or watched by more than one person who you don’t know”. It’s quite difficult to divide genre and place when looking at examples of what you can publish (Is a blog post a genre?), but we can avoid that for a bit by first looking at functions:

- Advice/ Tips/ Teaching ideas, e.g. on how to teach, where to teach, getting a job, taking qualifications, language learning, using technology, time management (on blogs, travel forums, TEFL forums, expat forums, EtP teaching tips page, Dave’s ESL Café teaching tips page)

- Humour (on blogs, occasionally some paper publications such as The Teacher Trainer, forums, Twitter, some sites)

- Manifestos (on blogs, some magazines and journals)

- Musings (on blogs, Facebook, Twitter)

- Self-reflection/ Getting something off your chest, e.g. reflecting on some feedback you received, looking back on something you used to do, discussing something you were told to do on a teacher training course (on your blog, other people’s blogs, forums – if you also include questions)

- Questions/ Calls for advice (on forums, your own blog, Twitter, LinkedIn groups)

- Trendspotting/ Predictions (on forums, as an article)

- Personal experiences/ Anecdotes, e.g. of working in a particular country, experiencing cultural differences, your own language learning (on forums, sometimes Onestopenglish and Guardian Weekly, blogs)

- Polemics (on blogs, some magazines and journals)

- Rants (on blogs, some forums, possibly some sites)

- Exposés/ Blacklisting, e.g. lists of lies from a TEFL course provider’s website or a review of a school you worked for (on blogs, wikis, some forums)

- Critiques/ Attacks on ideas or practices

- Metaphors

- Tributes/ Lavish praise/ Gushing

- Devil’s advocate arguments

- Setting up dilemmas/ unanswerable questions

- Classifications, e.g. of students, kinds of exercises, textbooks

- History

- Comparisons

- Pros and cons

- Theory

- Language analysis

Things which could be considered genres of TEFL writing include:

- Books, including e-books (with big publishers, smaller international publishers, local publishers, local parts of big publishers, on sites that distribute self-published books and e-books)

- Articles/ Essays/ Academic papers (in magazines and journals – including of local and international teaching associations, on websites, on blogs)

- Blog posts (on your own blog or as guest piece on other people’s)

- Brainstorms/ Mind maps (on blogs, mind map sites)

- Dialogues/ Debates (on blogs or polished up to be articles)

- Discussion questions (as a worksheet on worksheet sharing sites, on your own site or blog, as a Wiki)

- Graded reading materials

- Interviews, with you or with someone else (on blogs, maybe other sites if you submit it as an article)

- Lesson plans/ Worksheets/ Photocopiables (with Onestopenglish Lesson Share, Cambridge ESOL site, PearsonELT teacher materials, ESLprintables.com and similar TEFL materials sharing sites, general education sites, blogs)

- News/ Topical pieces (in EL Gazette, blogs, some forums)

- Newsletters (through LinkedIn or Facebook, to subscribers to your blog)

- Presentation slides (on slide sharing sites, blog)

- Questions and comments during a live webcast (on publishers’ sites, IATEFL conference sites)

- Research results/ Statistics

- Responses to other people's writing (letters in magazines, blog comments, tweets, Facebook comments, forums)

- Reviews, e.g. of books, websites, apps, CD ROMs, teacher training, conferences (in magazines and journals, on websites – such as TEFL.net and TESL-EJ, on blogs, on Amazon, Twitter, on TEFL course review sites)

- Running commentary, e.g. of conferences (on Twitter)

- Selections from things by other people, e.g. quotes, links, lists of books (on Twitter, Facebook, your own blog, link sharing sites, Amazon)

- Surveys – for people reading to answer or sharing results

- Rankings/ Lists

- Games/ Activities

- Online exercises/ Online activities

Most of the above can also be done as videos or podcasts, or as software such as smartphone or tablet apps.

Where?

As mentioned above, many of the genres mentioned are also place-specific, e.g. Facebook posts and tweets. Other answers to “Where?” include:

- Publishers and their websites – Macmillan (including Onestopenglish and Macmillan Language House), CUP, OUP, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, National Geographic Learning/ Cengage, Collins ELT, Scholastic ELT, Wiley English as a Second Language, Kaplan Publishing, It’s Magazines, Pavilion Publishing, Richmond, Express Publishing, Helbling Languages, Garnet Education, theround (e-books only), ABAX, Delta Publishing, Multilingual Matters, TESOL Bookstore, Michigan English Language Teaching, Routledge English Language Learning, Taylor and Francis ESL and Applied Linguistics, Barrons, Apricot, Compass Publishing, RIC Publications

- Exam boards and their websites – Cambridge ESOL teacher resources

- Peer reviewed ELT and Applied Linguistics journals (paper-based, online, or both) - ELT Journal, TESOL Quarterly, TESOL Journal, TESL-EJ, The Reading Matrix, English Today, Language Learning and Technology, Language Testing, Applied Linguistics, Asian EFL Journal

- TEFL magazines - English Teaching Professional, Modern English Teacher, It’s for Teachers, Business Spotlight, The Teacher Trainer, IATEFL Issues, IATEFL SIG newsletters, magazines of local teaching associations

- Online TEFL magazines (meaning sites which have a monthly format) – Humanising Language Teaching

- (Independent) ELT websites – ones which ask for articles (TEFL.net, Englishclub.com, ESL Lounge, ESL Article.com, ESL Galaxy), ones which ask for worksheets, any others which give contact details

- Trade papers – EL Gazette

- More general language learning and teaching magazines and websites

- Forums – TEFL forums (ESLteachersboard, Usingenglish.com, TEFL.net Dave’s ESL Café,), local TEFL forums (Ajarnforum), expat forums (Gaijinpot, Ajarn forum), travel forums (Lonely Planet thorntree)

- Link sharing sites

- Newspapers and their websites - Guardian Weekly, Independent, Telegraph, your local newspaper back home

- Other people’s blogs – too many to mention, but see Onestopblogs, TEFL.net blogregator, random TEFL blog generator for examples

- Your own blog – on TEFL sites (TeachingEnglish) or general platforms (Wordpress, Blogger)

- Sites that distribute books and e-books – theround

- Sites that distribute podcasts - iTunes

- Sites that sell apps

- Sites which sell TEFL materials and allow comments/ reviews – Amazon

- Social networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter

- Wiki pages (your own or existing ones –Wikipedia, TEFL Wiki, Let’s Japan wiki)

- Your own website – Wordpress.org, Moodle

- School magazines/ newsletters – IH Journal or that of your own school

- School websites/ blogs

- Other people’s email newsletters

- TEFL course review sites

- Travel websites/ blogs

- General education sites

- (TEFL or general education) worksheet sharing sites

- (General) article sharing websites

- Slide sharing sites

- Video sharing sites – YouTube, Daily Motion

The next question is which of all the above is best, and this brings us back to what your motivation is.

Which

For your teaching career, e.g. to help get a university job

For university jobs, getting something published in peer review journals is the holy grail, and it is best to concentrate on this and get started as soon as possible, because it can easily take well over a year from sending something to getting it published – even when that is possible. What is even more common is having things sent to peer-reviewed journals rejected or even ignored, so it is also worth working on other things that you can put into the Publications section of your CV while you are waiting for feedback from sending research etc to journals.

One approach is to try and get other things in peer-reviewed journals, the two most obvious being letters in response to other people’s articles (when the journal has a Letters to the Editor section or similar) and book reviews, the latter being surprisingly easy to get published and meaning you can still put ELTJ, TESL-EJ etc on your CV. I’ve also seen journals such as TESL-EJ calling for people to peer review other people’s articles, which must be a good way of getting an idea of what they are looking for and just maybe meaning your own piece can jump the queue.

The other approach is to work your way down the list of things which rank below the most desirable peer reviewed journals. Those would probably be, in approximate order:

- Well-known TEFL magazines like English Teaching Professional, Modern English Teacher and EL Gazette

- Websites of big publishers and exam boards like Macmillan, Cambridge and Pearson (even when it is in a section of the website that is quite easy to write for like Onestopenglish Lesson Share)

- Other well-known websites like Humanising Language Teaching

- Sites and newsletters of other large organisations, e.g. the British Council’s TeachingEnglish or the International House magazine

- Newspapers

If you could publish some kind of book (even self-published), that would also of course impress.

For people who want to eventually publish a book

Although it very rarely leads to anyone commissioning the book, it is still worth working up a formal book proposal with two sample units, a description of the rest of the book etc, as it could be that which puts you in the frame for something similar that they are already planning.

Two more general tips are to get noticed by the publishers and to get stuff on your CV that will impress them whenever they take a look at it. More specifically, I would recommend you to specialise, get involved in pre-publication reviewing, publish reviews of ELT materials (perhaps sending copies to the publishers), chat to publishers at conferences, and give workshops at such conferences.

To impress students

The top thing has to be a book, for which see above. It can also impress them to see a copyright message at the bottom of your worksheet along with your own name.

For motivation/ inspiration

Reviews is also good for this one, especially if you get a good book but even if the book is nothing special, because critiquing something can help lead to your own ideas or even just make you feel better about your teaching.

For the money

For the vast majority of people, publishing is unlikely to ever pay more per hour than just doing overtime or concentrating on getting a better job would lead to. This includes:

- Articles and reviews in journals and magazines

- Online content for publishers and other sites

- Writing work for books that is paid as a lump sum rather than as a percentage of sales

- Putting videos on YouTube with ads

- Publishing your own material online with ads (organised yourself or through Google Ads)

- Publishing your own stuff online and charging a subscription

- Publishing your own stuff online and having a donate button

- Publishing your own stuff online and having a freemium model or selling something else through the site

Although these are by no means guaranteed either, the only two chances of hitting it big are probably through a royalty-based writing job and self-publishing books, both of which nowadays mean having to do a lot of the publicity tips below. It may also be possible to approach a teaching rate with the things mentioned above, and publishing provides both a nice change and all the benefits mentioned at the beginning of this article, so I’ve never regretted my own efforts even when it has meant a slight financial hit to make time to write.

For the publicity

This is difficult to tell, because who knows how many people actually type in the names or urls given at the end of articles or reviews in paper-based magazines and journals or click on links in emails? Online it is also difficult to choose the most effective way of getting publicity, but these have all lead to a reasonable number of clicks for me:

- Forum posts in which you have given a link to something you wrote (an on-topic one, obviously), in which signatures with a link are allowed, or very occasionally from sites in which you are only allowed to give a link on your profile page

- Blog comments in which you have given a link to something you’ve written, or in which clicking on your name links to your blog or site (the latter is almost universal but much more rarely leads to clicks)

- Online articles and reviews where you are allowed to give a link to your blog or site at the bottom

- Giving links in Yahoo groups and LinkedIn groups, or generally just taking part and so getting your name known

- Submitting a link to your blog to Onestopblogs, expat blog lists, etc

- Giving links to suitable materials on your site for your students, e.g. to students who missed the lesson

- Other people mentioning things you have published for them , e.g. guest pieces on your blog, on their blogs, or on social media such as Twitter

- Guest pieces on other people’s blogs

Things which I have no experience of but would also help:

- Leaving Facebook comments

- Twitter, including taking part in ELT Chat

- Submitting blog posts to an ELT blog carnival

- Submitting your own blog to a list of education blogs of the year and then trying to drum up votes

- Sending your ideas to someone famous, e.g. Krashen, who might champion them or at least give you a quote

- Offering your book, subscription website etc for review

To change the (TEFL) world

The self-publicity tips above are probably the most important thing when it comes to having a real impact, but it is also worth bearing in mind that online articles are rarely referenced in paper-based publications.

To help you learn about the language and the writing process

The most important thing is to be edited, which rarely happens online.

To improve your teaching

Perhaps my greatest tip on this is to write about something related to your present classes. For example, I often write articles about how to teach the next point in the book as a way of brainstorming and motivating myself to find new ideas for that point. You can also choose books to review in the same way. It is also a good tip to also write about things you are weak on, if only as a blog post and/ or after lots of research.

For people who need deadlines, someone nagging them etc to get something finished

I can say from experience of being on both sides of the interaction that the best for this is almost certainly reviews, as once you have the book there is something concrete for the editor to nag you about, as well as something on your desk looking up at your disapprovingly.

To put you in touch with useful and like-minded people

Try LinkedIn groups, blogging (often commenting on and linking to other people’s blogs) and Twitter (especially ELT Chat) – and almost certainly not forums.

For people just getting started

As it has lead to over 400 other published pieces of various kinds, I think that it is fair to start with my own experience of this. The main ways I got started are:

- Writing teaching tips for EtP

- Writing something responding to an article in IATEFL Issues and then sending it to them

- Sending lesson plans, some with worksheets, to the Onestopenglish Lesson Share competition

- Googling “submit TEFL article” and sending short articles to virtually all the sites that came up

- Signing up to review for MET and TESL-EJ

- Starting with something that I had already written, e.g. polished up Cambridge Delta essays to Developingteachers.com, expanding forum posts to make blog posts, publishing a polished up job application essay on a TEFL site, turning teacher training workshop notes into articles

- Writing more essay-like forum posts, e.g. a guide to teaching in Spain

Similarly easy would be:

- Starting your own blog on a free platform like Wordpress or Blogger

- Reading and commenting on other TEFL blogs, perhaps by starting subscriptions to some RSS feeds or regularly looking at a TEFL blog aggregator

- Subscribing to other people’s Twitter feeds and replying whenever you feel ready

- Joining TEFL groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and commenting

After a couple of years of that, I also sent my CV and book proposals round the publishers with an offer to do anything they might have for me.

How

This has been dealt with a bit above and I will also be writing separate articles on how to go about writing reviews, articles, worksheets etc, as each one is quite different. These, however, are the general stages, in many possible orders:

- Read a lot (especially where and what you are thinking about publishing) and maybe analyse what you read

- Decide what to write

- Get ideas/ Plan

- Try out/ Discuss any new ideas you come up with or come across

- Write

- Edit

- Get help

- Decide where to publish

- Contact the people who you want to publish with

- Publish

The main differences in the order above are:

- Contacting the people who you want to publish with first, e.g. contacting the editor of a TEFL magazine to ask what kinds of pieces are really needed

- Deciding what to write by where you want to publish it

It also changes somewhat if you start with something you have already written for another purpose, e.g. a workshop plan or guide for teachers in your school.

Copyright © 2013

Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com