… or Something Else or Elsewhere
I’ve published well over a hundred TEFL articles on sites like Humanising Language Teaching, Onestopenglish, Developing Teachers, TEFL.net, and in magazines like English Teaching Professional and Modern English Teacher, plus several hundred book reviews and worksheets, including my latest review in ELT Journal in October- something that I long thought was beyond me but turned out to be a surprisingly easy and pleasant experience. Might even be ready to try for “third time lucky” with ITESLJ next!
The secret of my “success” in getting published is… willingness! That’s right, websites and magazines are crying out for content of all kinds and all you need to do get an article (or a hundred articles), book review, teaching tip or photocopiable worksheet on teaching English published is to get them down on paper and send them off. If you don’t believe me, here are some things you probably thought you’d need that you most certainly do not:
You don’t need to:
Write in “house style”
A few publications do have some rules, but they’ll generally give you a chance to redo it or edit it their way for you. Alternatively, you can just send it to someone else who wants it your way
Write a lot
The internationally famous IATEFL magazine Voices is presently calling for pieces of 400 to 800 words of length, which is little more than the length of a lesson plan
Give lots of references
Again, some magazines and a website or two do ask for this (or at least assume you’ll write this way), but you can easily add them by reading a book or two on the topic and some recent TEFL magazines. Alternatively, you can just send the article to one of the places that don’t need them
Be an expert
There will almost certainly lots of people reading that have little or no experience of the kind of teaching you are doing, and even those with more experience than you will be interested to see another perspective on it, to see what they have been thinking written down or even to take disagreeing with you as a prompt to get their own thoughts on the matter together. Even if you write about things that didn’t work especially well, some of the people writing will be able to make them work better or use your article to help them come up with their own ideas
Be definitive or scientific
The present fashion in TEFL articles even by the “experts” is to admit how little we know about how students learn and so how we should teach, especially when we take into account what different circumstances English is taught in, and so to talk through options rather than give answers. Going together with this has been an acceptance of teaching as more of an art than a science. There is therefore an acceptance of what has always been true in teaching, that talking people through your struggles to understand or cope can be at least as valuable as telling people what you think they should do.
Be especially original
Collections of well known activities or summaries of research and what other books say are always welcome, if only to remind teachers of activities that they had forgotten about or to find all the information in one place. Often seen articles that take little if any inspiration include Variations on…, A Re-examination of… and attempts to revive reviled or almost forgotten techniques like dictation or (in the most recent Modern English Teacher) reading aloud.
Produce impeccable work
Editors like editing! Ones who find time constraints stop them doing that as much as they would like are more than happy to send some tips for how to rewrite something.
Be a native speaker
The vast majority of the English teachers in the world are non-native English speakers, and yet most of the time they are being told how to teach by native speakers, often ones without much experience of learning languages! Not only are most teachers interested in hearing from non native speaking teachers who are in their situation, many native speakers are interested in learning about how others see the profession. If you are worried about making English grammar mistakes in your writing, see above.
Know who you are writing for
While knowing that you are writing something for English Teaching Professional and what kinds of teachers read it could help you write something suitable for them, it is probably better just to write what you want how you want and then see which place that article matches best. You can then do whatever rewriting is needed to make it really match, or just send it off how it is and the editors will tell what needs doing (if anything).
Some of the more academic magazines/ journals do seem to publish reviews of books two or three years after they come out and so I guess they probably would make you wait a while, especially as these are the kinds of publications that universities want their professors to get published in. With more practical TEFL magazines like ETP and MET, you sometimes have to wait a while but it depends on which section you have written for and you could ask the editor which section they most need content for. On the internet, on the other hand, you could submit it today and have it up by next week.
In fact, the type of writer editors are most looking for is “the next big thing” rather than “the last big thing”
How to do it
If I’ve persuaded you to give it a go, here are the details on how to write for some of the publications that are desperately waiting for you, in approximate order of how easy they are to write for:
If you don’t feel ready to write an article yet, here are some even easier ways of getting published:
You can develop your ideas there until you reach a point where you’d like to write about it in more detail or more systematically.
Blog guest pieces
Warmer and game ideas
TEFL news articles
Other articles by me on getting published: