- The story of iT's
- Our titles and online resources
- Creative team
- Website design
- Audio production
And then what happened?
We pick up the story of iT's at the start of the 1996-1997 academic year and issue 53. Two years previously Rob Metcalf and Gill Holley had joined me as writers on the magazine, creating and developing the teaching material. There have been a few special issues of the magazine over the years that the three of us particularly like. There was the left-handed issue (No. 44), which had to be read from back to front. Then there was the banned issue (No. 56), which had a feature on censorship; we designed the magazine so it looked as if pages had been removed from it, cutting the censorship feature in half. It was a play on the censorship theme, but several readers called in to say that their magazines had pages missing and to ask if we could send the pages (that had never existed).
During this period Gill and Rob wrote The iT's Grammar Pack, a pack of grammar activities for teenagers that could be used in conjunction with the magazine. The idea was that teachers could abandon the traditional course book and use the magazine and Grammar Pack as the main course components. The pack is still used on courses today.
The "white" issue was our first magazine of the new millennium. White was said to be the colour of the millennium, and our white cover included a message written in Braille which read "love is blind" to coincide with our features on Braille and St. Valentine's Day. The issue included one of our all-time favourite activities, "Be Evil". We have included many anti-smoking activities in the magazine over the years, but this one was slightly different. In "Be Evil" we asked students to imagine that they worked for a major tobacco company and had to come up with a cunning new scheme to convince young people to smoke. We hoped that by seeing through the eyes of a marketing executive working for a tobacco company they could see how young people are manipulated by some of the big companies that target them.
You can always tell when an issue of iT's is a success with teachers because you see photocopies of the magazine in teachers' rooms. The Titanic issue (No. 61) was one of the most popular issues ever because it coincided with the movie that was such a huge hit at the time. I remember walking into photocopy shops in different parts of Barcelona and seeing the magazine being copied.
The cover of issue 62 became an exhibit at an art exhibition. The artwork inside the magazine was more controversial. We got into trouble with some teachers over an activity that included illustrations depicting alternative visions of the future. Students had to describe the pictures, including one of an idyllic future paradise where there was no need for people to wear clothes. Some teachers found they were put on the spot when students pointed at various parts of the people in the picture and asked, "How do you say that in English?" Knowing what is and is not acceptable to include in teaching material was something we would learn more about later when we took the magazines to the United States.
The same issue included another activity called "Make the Worst Movie Ever". It was one of those slightly offbeat ideas that you wonder if teachers will use or not. Teachers had to persuade their students to bring old toys to class and use them to do the special effects for a film that could earn the title of Worst Movie Ever. I observed a class of teenagers doing the activity and was amazed at how much they enjoyed playing with their toys again - and using English at the same time.
Issue 70 was another memorable issue. To make "Barbie's Beach Adventure" we went to Barcelona's Olympic Port for a photo shoot with Barbie and Ken. It was all to celebrate her 40th birthday by making a photo story for which students had to write the story, the dialogue and the characters' thoughts. I think Barbie enjoyed her day out. We certainly attracted attention on the beach.
The life of a magazine is limited, and it was always sad to see good teaching material, like "Barbie's Beach Adventure", left in an old issue to be forgotten eventually. So we started rescuing and reformatting the best activities from back issues to create packs of material that teachers could photocopy. The resulting theme packs and project packs were extremely popular with teachers and developed into the series of Activity Books that exist today. You'll find almost all of the activities mentioned here in one or another of the It's English Activity Books.
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"original and motivating resources for teachers and learners of English as a foreign or second language"