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Reasons to write TEFL reviews

Many nervous types think they could never write a review

In my erstwhile role as editor of Teflnet Reviews, I have helped many people write their first ever reviews and I’ve had many nervous types who thought they couldn’t do it but no one who actually found they weren’t able to or that it wasn’t worthwhile. In fact, most people volunteer to do more. Here are 15 reasons why you might want to give it a try too:

1. Free books
Most of the places that review TEFL books supply you with a free copy of the book you are going to write about, usually with all the extras such as CDs and DVDs. You can usually choose which title you want, and this includes the very latest titles and ones that are not available in the country you are in.

2. Cash
Even if the magazine your review will appear in doesn’t pay (I don’t think websites ever pay), there can be other financial payoffs such as saving yourself or school money on buying books, being able to sell the review copy or writing reviews leading onto paid work (see below).

3. Makes you try something new
Being given a new book of photocopiable materials, for example, that you have to use is a great way of forcing you to try something new that can even result in your teaching being permanently changed for the better.

4. Good on your CV
Having a “publications” part of your CV with reviews on it shows a prospective employer that you are serious about your teaching, have access to new materials, can talk about teaching in a logical way, have used a variety of materials, and that you read the kinds of teaching magazines and websites.

5. Learn how to analyse materials
Writing down what you think about a book and why you have that opinion makes you much more constructively critical about all the other materials you use and helps you learn how to quickly select good books and other supplementary resources for your classes.

6. Learn how to discuss materials
Discussing which is the best book for a class or even the whole school is notoriously difficult, but writing down your ideas about ELT materials in a way that other people can understand is great practice for getting involved in such decisions.

7. Be listened to by your school
If you know about a new book before your boss does, have a review copy of a nice new title you’d like them to order you can show them, have contacts at the publishers or have a point of view that a well-known magazine or website is happy to publish, your boss should take your views on such matters as choosing the set texts for next year more seriously.

8. Helps you when you write your own materials
This is true if you just write the occasional worksheet, and even more so if you want to write published materials such as textbooks. This is because you will have thought more deeply about what makes good materials, and simply because you will have seen more materials and looked at them more carefully.

9. Easy way to start writing
Writing reviews is not just an easy way of getting published, but also an easy way to get used to putting your ideas down on paper. Starting with reviews and making sure they have paragraphs with clear topics, interesting introductions, content of interest to a wide range of readers etc is great practice for other kinds of writing such as articles of teaching ideas. It is particularly good practice for writing pre-publication reviews (see below).

10. Get noticed by publishers
Several people from the major publishers have contacted me through seeing my published reviews to ask me to submit proposals for other kinds of writing work or to offer pre-publication reviewing work, including ones who didn’t know I was already doing work for other parts of their own company or that my CV was probably already sitting at the bottom of their in tray!

11. Influence people’s buying decisions
Perhaps the most selfless motivation for writing reviews is that you will have a chance to influence which books people buy and use all round the world, even if you are in the situation where you don’t have such influence in your own school!

12. Influence future titles
There are also almost certainly even more important people reading your reviews- the publishers. There is therefore a chance that the next series of books from that publisher will be better because of something you pointed out.

13. Use it as a way of spreading your ideas
Another way you can influence other people through a review is to use it as a platform to talk about your own ideas of teaching, for example by criticising the PPP approach of the book.

14. Get your name of the internet
This means future employers etc putting your name into Google will see a list of books you have reviewed and TEFL-related places you have been published (rather than your Facebook page).

15. Link to your other stuff on the internet
Most places that publish reviews also give you the chance to mention other publications of yours, e.g. your own blog or a list of publications on it.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net
July 2008 | Filed under Materials
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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