Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

Ken’s publications

smart choice

Smart Choice is a four-level American English course published by Oxford University Press that has now racked up more than a million sales.

The following is a rather nice endorsement of Smart Choice from Maria Cristina Salinas Guzmán from Universidad de Guadalajara Mexico:

Let me tell you why Smart Choice is the best series I’ve used in my 15 years’ career. My students are so motivated to be in class because they can do the Smart Choice activities every day with success. After many years with my students just sitting there, I see them now making an effort to speak in class. So, you can see why I am feeling very good with my textbook. Smart Choice really works! And the really satisfying thing is that I’m feeling good with ME as a teacher because I’m having so much success in class.

I’m especially pleased with this review, because it’s written by a non-native speaker teacher. I really love it when non-NESTs feel good about using materials, regardless of who writes them.


A selection of covers of the FLTRP New Standard English books

One of the most extraordinary writing projects I’ve ever been involved with was New Standard English, the Macmillan ELT co-production with Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (FLTRP) in Beijing. The course runs from primary to college, and has so far sold more than 475 million copies. I co-authored the eleven-book Senior High books with Mary Tomalin and David Newbold. Co-editor-in-chief Simon Greenall has written about the NSE project in a guest blog on this site.





A five-level course whose original authors are Jeremy Harmer, Carol Lethaby and Ana Acevedo. I joined them for the Advanced level. The course was originally published by Marshall Cavendish, whose ELT list was acquired by Cengage in July 2009. www.cengage.com

A five-level course whose original authors were Jeremy Harmer, Carol Lethaby and Ana Acevedo. I joined them for the Advanced level. The course was originally published by Marshall Cavendish, whose ELT list was acquired by Cengage in July 2009. http://www.cengage.com

QSE is a three-level series of Trinity Exam coursebooks which can also be used as supplementary skills materials. I wrote the Intermediate level with Mary Tomalin. www.brookemead-elt.co.uk

QSE is a three-level series of Trinity Exam coursebooks which can also be used as supplementary skills materials. I wrote the Intermediate level with Mary Tomalin. http://www.brookemead-elt.co.uk.

Matura Masters Elementary, co-written with Marta Rosinska for Macmillan Poland

Move Ahead, the Macmillan series written initially for the Middle East. Levels 1-3 were written with Printha Ellis and James Taylor.

The top level of the Move Ahead series for Macmillan, written with Printha Ellis, Mary Tomalin and Deirdre Howard-Williams

Move Ahead Plus is the top level of the Move Ahead series, written with Mary Tomalin, James Taylor and Deirdre Howard-Williams. More information: http://www.macmillaneducation.com/

Prospects, six-level course for Central Europe. Bizarre photo of an Advanced Level copy that appears to have been rescued from a flooded basement!

Prospects, six-level course for Central Europe. Bizarre photo of an Advanced Level copy which I found online. It appears to have been rescued from a flooded basement! More information: http://www.macmillaneducation.com/

Extr@ English, the Channel 4 TV soap, loosely based on 'Friends'

Drama and Improvisation, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press in the Resource Books for Teachers series.

Drama and Improvisation, published in 2009 by Oxford University Press in the Resource Books for Teachers series. More information: http://www.oup.com/elt/

Reviews of Drama and Improvisation from HLT (Humanising Language Teaching)

The book is rooted in the work of the Comedy Store Players and the work of Viola Spolin. The author not only acknowledges their influence on his work but pays a true tribute to them.  The author himself has had an impact on the ELT drama world, through his involvement in the English Teaching Theatre.

In the foreword to the book Alan Maley, the series editor, puts in a nutshell the reasons why we should use drama in class. Drama offers: “playfulness”, “enjoyment”, “physical movement”, “affective engagement”, “effortless effort” and  “unpredictability”. The book offers activities which have all these features at their core.

The activities are grouped into five chapters which focus on icebreakers and gelling, interaction and improvisation, games, drama club, working with text and transcript. I cannot quite see why there is a special section devoted to organising and running a drama club. The activities contained there seem to belong to other chapters of the book.

On the whole the book is a good balance of classic drama activities and innovative ideas which will surely become classic. The book is very inspiring and refreshing. A must have.

Hania Kryszewska
Humanising Language Teaching
ISSN 1755-9715 (online)

The following is from English Teaching Professional, Issue 65, November 2009

They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and here’s a very good example of one that shouldn’t be so judged. Clad in a maroon and turquoise jacket redolent of the Scunthorpe United football kit, and with a poor quality photo of some out-of-focus students in what looks like a 1970s drama group engaged in who knows what on the front, this one wouldn’t have made it off the staffroom shelf and into my bag if it hadn’t been recommended by a friend.

It would certainly be a great shame if the unappealing exterior put people off, because this is actually a very good book. It is packed full of activities designed to bring English classes to life through drama and improvisation and to stimulate the students’ imagination and creativity. The activities are well laid-out and easy to follow, giving important information (such as level, the time needed to complete them, any preparation required and the aims) at the top so that a quick flick through is enough to enable teachers hunting for something to do with their classes to identify likely candidates. After the main instructions, there are suggestions for follow-up activities or ways in which they can be varied, together with comments and hints on getting things to run smoothly.

A brief but comprehensive ‘How to use this book’ section at the beginning will answer many questions that teachers have about doing activities such as these, and goes a long way towards tackling the ‘Yes, but what if..’ mentality which puts many of them off attempting drama in the classroom.

The activities themselves are chosen so that they cater for those who just want to add a little drama and improvisation to their classes as well as those who are ready to run a drama club or get their students working with full-length scripts. The last chapter has a number of humorous sketches that teachers can photo-copy and use with their classes. Full instructions for activities using these sketches are provided and some have additional worksheets.

A book full of entertaining but productive activities that will make learning enjoyable for students. What more could anyone want – apart from a more attractive cover?

And there’s more! In an interview on Alex Case’s Tefl.net website, Karenne (Kalinago English blog) Sylvester was asked if there were any recent books that she liked. She answered Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings and Drama and Improvisation by Ken Wilson.

She went on to say this:

Ken Wilson’s Drama and Improvisation is a brilliant book offering endless creative real-play (simulations) and role-play activities which can be easily incorporated within any lesson.

In my opinion it’s an important book to buy if you want to add personalization to your lessons and if you’re a teacher looking for a way of having fun while sticking to the learning objectives yet exiting the dullness of using a textbook from cover to cover.

Ideas and Issues, originally published by Chancerel, now part of the Klett group: www.klett-gruppe.de: book of really nice authentic reading and listening texts, all of which are on the CD

Ideas and Issues, a series originally published by Chancerel, now part of the Klett group http://www.klett-gruppe.de: I wrote the Upper-Intermediate level, full of really nice authentic reading and listening texts. Reading texts are on the CD, too.

Mister Monday, my first ELT song collection, published by Longman when I was 23.

Goodbye Rainbow, my second Longman album; cover designed by someone seriously under the influence of 60s psychedelia - or possibly something stronger!

Goodbye Rainbow, my second Longman album; cover designed by someone seriously under the influence of 60s psychedelia – or possibly something stronger!

Last but not least, I'm very proud to have been involved in the writing of Follow Me, the frankly bonkers BBC multi-media series that was, amongst other things,  the first foreign English teaching programme ever to be shown in China, where it regularly had a hundred million viewers. Imagine the Chinese watching Francis Matthews, at one time a possible future James Bond, asking people if they wanted a gin and tonic...

Comments on: "Ken’s publications" (65)

  1. Hello Ken,
    Congrats on entering the blogosphere! Actually, blogging around has been one of my favorite virtual pastimes in the last few months! Anyways, I’m looking forward to reading about your publications.

  2. Hi Ken –
    Great to see you blogging!!!! This is exciting!
    Congrats –

  3. I wish I had kept my original copies of Mr Monday and Goodbye Rainbow!

    It’s great to read all your stories, Ken. Brings back memories of my early years in the 1980s.

    The “Drama and Improvisation” looks interesting. I’ll have a look through it when I go back to the UK.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Me too, Janet! I saw Goodbye Rainbow on eBay, and the asking price was US$280! I thought about stealing my mother-in-law’s copy (she hasn’t even got a record player).

      I did manage to transfer some of the trax to files, which is why i can up-load them here.

  4. Hi Ken

    I have stumbled (a happy accident!) across your blog whilst researching drama and language teaching. I teach MFL in both primary and secondary and am about to embark upon a project using drama and singing for a primary/secondary transition project here in Derby. I would be fascinated to learn from your ELT experience. Could you point me to the best samples of what you do, both songs and drama techniques? Any workshops you are involved with soon that I could possibly attend? Many thanks

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Mark,

      nice of you to drop by!

      The best of my drama work is all in the Drama and Improvisation book, which is mentioned above. It was published in 2008, and contains 75 of my favourite drama activities, and also quite a bit of my thinking on what constitutes achievable possibilities, and not just with top-ability students.

      I’ve written and recorded about 150 songs for English learners, despite the prevailing sentiment being that students prefer authentic ones. I’m sure they do – but at least they can understand all the words in mine🙂

      If you have any more specific questions, send me an email – kenwrite@btinternet.com

  5. María Esther Gil said:

    Ken Wilson, I want to thank you for creating those beautiful songs of Mr. Monday that I listened to in Argentina when I was a child. I think that it would be great to have new copies of Mr. Monday. I have the old cassette but it is worn out now. I enjoyed it in the past. And I like them now: the lyrics and the music. To conclude, I strongly believe that it would be a good material for a class, because it’s high quality material and therefore timeless.

    Thank you again.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      ¡Muchas gracias, María Esther!

      there are a couple of Mister Monday songs that you can download for free from box.net on the home page of this blog. I only have three or four of the original Mister Monday songs as computer files, but maybe I’ll try to organise the others, too.

      Check out the other songs on box.net. All free!

      Best wishes.

  6. Greetings from Argentina!

    I remember having learnt English with “Spotlight, Songs and Sketches for the Language Classroom”, and luckily I have found the Book, but the listenings are missing here!

    Have you got any idea of how can I get them?

    Thanks in advance!


    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Laura! thanks for dropping by.

      you’re right, there isn’t a cover picture from Spotlight because I couldn’t find one online. I’ll try to scan the cover.

      I’ll find some songs from Spotlight and make them available via the box.net widget on the home page of this blog. There are also some sketches there. I’ll try to write up the Spotlight ones too, when I have time.

  7. Greetings from in between Berlin and Shanghai!

    Only now took courage to write down and actually say amazing, my first classes after the uni and holding your Prospects books and a very, no, wrong emotions, super helpful Ideas & Issues, especially for teens classes (I think I got one copy from Titul Publishing) and then seeing you at ELTons 2010 awards ceremony. So sad we didnt win and I didnt have a chance to talk to you in person! Though actually not only to talk but take an autograph

    Yours non winning international category Small Stars girl in a blue dress from next table #3

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Elmira…

      what an extraordinary mix of references in the same note! Berlin, Shanghai, Prospects, Ideas & Issues, the Eltons…

      Are you working in Shanghai? And using Prospects?? Do explain.

      I’m so sorry that Small Stars didn’t win at the Eltons, and even more sorry that you didn’t ask me for an autograph. Email me your address and I’ll send you one!


      • Hi Ken,

        RE References: Trying as much as possible for proper and to the point tagging:)

        Now I work in Berlin but for Shanghai and travel a lot. My collegue from SH mentioned that he will actually be at the same conference with you in England next month.

        I was using first Ideas & Issues when I had my last year in my Uni. We had to do 2 years of teaching before we were allowed to go into the schools in Moscow, at least in my Uni. So Ideas & Issues were a really helpful tool I would say! I got the luck of getting High School students of 17 straight after I just turned 21. That was fun but the book really helped to motivate the students and focus them on the language and not myself.

        Prospects I was teaching at my second job at English First Moscow, also for teens and also was fun.

        I will write you an e-mail with my address and looking forward for my autograph!

        p.s. We will win next time with our new course😉 I promise.

  8. hi mr Ken Wilson, I am Ali from Iran.
    how can i download extr@ shows?

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Ali – I think you will need to contact Channel 4 TV about Extr@ English. They will be able to tell you if the programmes are available in DVD format.

  9. Hi ken. It was amazing discover this blog, cause I was looking for a sample copy of “Fastlane”, and I simply discover this commnunity. Really, was a nice and empowering surprise.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Let me know if you find a copy of Fastlane. I don’t have one any more!🙂

      • Perhaps I can send you my copies of Fastlane 1…Fastlane 2 is missing…I´m sorry but I´ll be delighted.

  10. Hey Ken!!!! you’re amazing. Extr@ was a great way for me not to forget english!!I it was so funny!!!!!
    Are there more movies like Extr@!!!! I mean with British accent?

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Mahsa –

      well, I’m glad you liked Extr@, but I’m afraid when Channel 4 finished it, they decided not to do any more ELT comedy shows.🙂

  11. Hi, Ken. Always it´s a pleasure reading your blog. At the moment we´re evaluating materials for schools,but nothing “nos convence plenamente”. We´re looking for something like the series you wrote with Judy and Michael for Anaya, but all the series and components have dissapeared…even at amazon….

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Blimey! The Move series with Judy (and Simon Greenall) must be about 15 years old – and I agree, a great course, nicely produced. Sadly, the BBC closed its ELT publishing department.

  12. I know ´The Move series is 15 years old… We´re are looking for a coursebook like this: clear, well build and easy to use with large classes…Aren´t you working on any project for “betweenagers”?

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Thanks for the commendation, Juan🙂

      At the moment, I’m working on an American English course for OUP called Smart Choice and a primary course for Indonesia. May be working on a bachillerato course for Spain next year…

  13. Great! Please don´t hesitate to keep us informed about this projects…and let me suggest or collaborate with you with my impressions. Haven´t you a questionnaire?, so we could give you our feedback. I think something similar to Fastlane with the CEF and curricular recommendations, and the updated or feedback you may have. Here in uruguay we are doing some research, it could be of your interest…so, my mentor, it could be of your interest…Send me a questionnarie and I provide you my profesional feedback. I´m very interested on your work I find if fresh, powerful and contundent. (como decimos los uruguayos: “dicho esto en la mejor”…)

  14. hi,could you help me plz,i want to buy one of your books,extra@-english,when i type the title,(buying on line),no search,i’m so interested to watch and listen these DVD,I can’t speak english well,I WANT TO IMPROVE IT,plz help & guide me,thank a million,

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi, if you follow this link, you can find free (dubious) downloads of the Extr@ English episodes. I’m not sure they are the best way to learn English, to be honest…

    • Maany said:

      Im learning more of watching extr@,my speaking,listening is growing more & more,,,
      I have full episodes Extr@ with their workbook and manuals all of them,
      If you want to have them full please send a message..

      Has anyone tv series like EXTR@ in his/her mind to introduce?

  15. sabrina said:

    Hi Ken
    I really enjoyed the talk you gave last weekend in Kaohsiung.
    Would you please send a copy of the ppt you used for your talk in Taiwan, Kaohsiung to my email address.
    I found it very interesting and useful. Thank you.


    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Sabrina,

      thank you for your kind words.

      And now can you send me your email address, so I can send you the notes?🙂

  16. Melinda Whalon said:

    Dear Ken,

    Just a quick “Thank you!” for your keynote address at the TESOL-France Conference last weekend. Your energy and good humour were contagious, to say the least. I especially appreciated the imaginativeness and sense of fun in the examples you shared. I actually learned a few history facts from your Lincoln and Kennedy ready exercise. Imagine that!

    Would it be possible to get a copy of your notes from that session?

    Thanks a lot.

    Melinda Whalon

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Melinda – thank you for your kind words – much appreciated.

      You can find the notes via box.net on the home page of this blog – or you can email me at kenwrite@btinternet.com and I can send them to you as attachments.

      Hope you can find a use in your teaching for the activities!


  17. Svetlana said:

    Hi Ken!
    Tell me please where I can find the lyrics of the album “Goodbye Rainbows”?

    Thank you
    Svetlana from Russia

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Svetlana – email me at kenwrite@btinternet.com and i’ll make a note to try to find them over the summer… I think there are already some available via box.net on the main page…

      • Svetlana said:

        Big Thanks, Ken!
        I know on the main page I’ve found 2 docs and already dowloaded these files and another songs.
        I’ve already sent you the mеssage on your e-mail.

        Thank you a lot.
        Best wishes!

  18. Hi Ken, I used your Extr@ English workbook 1 in class today teaching French teenagers English as a second language and they loved it! Where can I get the second workbook? I live in Montreal Canada, I’d love to have it. Great work!

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Gym Rat – I’m guessing that isn’t your real name🙂

      thank you for the nice comments about Extr@ English – a very unusual project and one which I really enjoyed working on. The only problem is it seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Where did you get the first workbook from? Can you try to same people/site?

      I will do some research and see what I can find out.

      Best, Ken

      btw, my wife Dede and I flew home from Montreal a week ago. We had just spent a month with her mom on Prince Edward Island.

    • Edith said:

      Did you find the workbook 2? I’m looking for this book to… Thanks.

  19. Mirta Diana Martinez said:

    Dear (because I owe you more than you can imagine) Mr. Wilson or should I call you Mr. Monday. I am from Argentina. When I was in High School my English Teacher introduced me to the famous Mr. Monday record. I loved it. By that time I was 17 years old (1973). Since I was the only one, in my class, that could converse in English, I could borrow the record!!!!. I kept forgetting on taking it back to school, so I still have it. It open my world to verbs and how to use them. Today I live in USA and I use your songs (correct time of verbs) in every second of my life. I had learned to talk fluently by listening to songs in English, again and again and again (most of them were from the group Carpenters). I put a tape recorder in front of me, a copy book and a English/Spanish dictionay. I ‘ve heard them and went right away to the dictionary to find out which word belonged to that sound. So many songs… Today I can understand any body talking, any thing, and I still can not believe what I do!. I learned in a different way than the normal: First the sound then the letters. As you can see “MY ENGLISH TEACHERS” were and are “very famous”. Some times I think how much would cost to be privetly taught by “these People”, hundreds and hundreds of dollars, I had it for free!!!!. This is my “learning English story”. I did it every day for 3 hours during at least 4 or five years. I started with Carpenters and you were the cherry of the dessert. THANK SO MUCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!!!!

  20. Ed Ollem said:

    Great one…
    How could I get the lyrics of your songs ?

  21. E. Regina Silva said:

    Mr. Ken Wilson,

    I was delighted to know you first of all here in Goiania at the beginning of this month. Secondly, how precious are the techniques you gently gifted us. I want to let you that i´ve already been used some of the drama improvisation activities. My students feel good about it. Thank You so much for your support and brilliant ideas.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi Regina!

      thanks for the nice message. I really enjoyed my visit to Goiania, the third leg of our Cultura tour. It was nice to talk to a smaller group after 650 in Rio and 200 in Brasilia. Nice to know that your students feel good about using the activities – and I hope there was a backwash and the teacher feels good about having used them, too!😛

      • Kholood said:

        sorry and I mean the sub opras?? I want to download season 2.. I really loved it🙂

  22. Kholood said:

    from where can I download the tv series Extr@ season 2??

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Hi – I really don’t know where you can find Extr@ material. It seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.😦

    • Hi, Kholood! I’ve got all the episodes of Extr@ season 2, BUT I don’t have the workbook part 2! Can’t find it!

  23. hi ken…I am indonesian,i really proud to know about your site.

  24. Nick Marsden said:

    Hi Ken
    iyi gunler
    Wondered if you got my message re my offer for a free e-copy of Shedding Skin, nick marsden:
    Penguin NZ, 2005.
    A tongue in cheek novel about a dodgy language school above a massage parlour.
    Just one for the mix.
    I remember your TEA days from when I too was at IH London (83-91)
    Nick Marsden

  25. John Buckle said:

    Hi Ken,

    Do you have any idea where I can obtain your very successful books ” English sketches”
    I am looking for both books.
    I am based in HK and it seems increasingly difficult to acquire them here.

    Many Thanks,

    John Buckle-ELT

  26. John Marengo said:

    Hi Ken, really enjoyed the Extra English tv series. Who produced and/or funded that show? Just curious, as there’s not many like it.

  27. budi hartono said:

    selamat siang Mr Ken…greeting from Indonesia..very interesting blog.your newest book “You and Me” for primary school is the best book !!

  28. Hello Mr. Wilson,

    Nice blog. Simple and up-to-date.

    We are contacting you from the International Publishers Exhibitions. We would appreciate receiving a quick email with your contact details in order for us to propose a cooperation for the future.

    Sincerely yours,

    Philip Dietschi

    Chariton 5, 17564 Paleo Faliro
    Tel. +30 211 715 7375

  29. We organized a series of workshops since 2011. On the link you can see with who else we have worked in the past few years (http://www.ip-exhibitions.eu/index.php?section=content&catItem=10).

    We are considering working together in the future. In order to do so, we need to contact you with our exact requirements.

    Our next exhibitions are:
    31st Thessaloniki IPE, 15/16 March 2014
    31st Athens IPE, 29/30 March 2014

    Sincerely yours,

    Philip Dietschi

    PS Since these are more private messages than comments, we would recommend removing them from your blog.

  30. Jane O Davies said:

    Could you please point me in the direction of your ‘Ten Quotations to Make You Think’ presentation, the clip of which is on a BC Seminar Series Selections? Thanks

  31. Aires Fortes said:

    Dear Mr. Wilson
    Thank you very much for this wonderfull resouce. I stumbled upon the extr@ course while searching for similar material and i am loving it. However i noticed there is no workbook 2. Not anywhere! Not to be downloaded, printed, or even to be bought. Sites like amazon say they are out of stock, but truth is they don’t even have a cover for it. The only reference i found to the book beside endless pages on google of people looking for it is on the teacher’s guide. Should i have not found that i would self doubt the very existence of workbook2. Like you said, it seems to have vanished from the face of the earth, but how on earth is something like that possible? So please, if you know of any place whare it should be possible to adquire it, let me ( us ?) know. I would appreciate a lot. Last resort i will try to come up with one myself based on book 1 and the teacher’s guide.

    Many thanks, Aires Fortes

  32. I too would like to download the Workbook 2 from the Extra@ English course. Can anyone help me with this please?

  33. Aires Fortes said:

    If anyone is still looking for workbook 2 , i finally found it. Just send a message to aires(dot)space(at)gmail(dot)com. Replace (dot) and (at) with the respective symbols,

  34. Markus W. said:

    This is just a thank you from a German now living in England whose English lessons at school back in the early 1980s were made more enjoyable by a cassette tape with the title ‘My Friend Jack’, which our teacher occasionally brought in to lighten up the learning of some elements of English grammar!

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