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In this issue:
Course books: friendor foe?
No course book?No problem
Most institutions today require us to use a particularcourse book with our classes. There are very goodreasons for doing this. Primarily, the course book willact as the syllabus for the course we are teaching.Syllabus design, with all the inherent concerns of staging, grading, ordering and so on is a verycomplicated and difficult process to get right, sohaving all of this provided for us by the course bookis a great comfort.However, as teachers, we worry about making ourlessons learner-centred and catering for the differentlearning styles and attitudes of our students, so doesn’tthe requirement of using a fixed course book for allclasses fly in the face of this? Isn’t this trying to use a‘one size fits all’ solution to different groups of differentindividuals, each with their own interests and needs?Well, the short answer is ‘no’, but it depends on howyou approach your course book. If you approach thebook as a text to be followed religiously, each word tobe digested and followed in turn, never deviating fromthe prescribed course, then perhaps the answer wouldbe ‘yes’, but I would advocate a very differentapproach. As a teacher, and more recently as a course bookdeveloper and editor, I would argue that the coursebook should be seen as a framework on which to hangyour lessons and as a springboard for creating richlearning opportunities. It should suit your particularstudents, in your particular learning environment and atyour particular time. And all this can be achievedthrough the art of supplementing.
Making the most of the course book
We adapt our course books for many reasons: perhapsthe particular page we are working on doesn’t provideenough practice for the class in question, or perhapsthe particular topic doesn’t excite the interest of thegroup. Whatever the reason, the principles are thesame and can be distilled into the following advice.
1. Supplement, don’t replace.
Supplementing means adding to the activities in thecourse book to better suit the needs of the learners. Inprinciple, we should supplement to provide more thanwhat is in the course book, however, the course bookactivities are there for a reason and so you should try toinclude them.
2. Supplementing doesn’t always mean photocopying.
Many people think that supplementing means creatingor copying worksheets. This is not always the case. Think of how you can include warmers, games, or evenDIY exercises and (student-generated) worksheets toadd to the book.
3. Don’t follow rubrics slavishly.
Just because the course book tells you to dosomething in one way, it doesn’t mean you have to.Sometimes authors will miss the opportunity, particularlyfor group and pair work. Doing an exercise in a newand imaginative way can help to lift the book off the page.
4. Have a good reason to do what you are doing.
Don’t supplement or adapt merely for the sake of it.Make sure that you have a very good reason for whatyou are doing and that you are clear about the aims.Not only will this make the activity easier to conduct,but it will make it more interesting for all.
5. Change the content, not the exercise.
A practical idea for supplementing is to adapt exercisesby changing or adding to the content but keeping thesame exercise framework and aims. This helps to keepthe flow of the course book syllabus intact, but will alsohelp to make the content more relevant to the groupand is particularly useful in an ESP context.
Course books: friend or foe?
EF’S NEWSLETTER FORTEACHERS
EF Educator Monthly
is distributed to teachersin a variety of institutionsand teaching environments;some will have a choice of teaching materials, some willhave no choice, and yetothers will have no coursebooks at all. This month welook at the pros and cons of using course books: how towork with them and how towork
EF Educator Monthly
isdesigned by and for teachers;if you have any suggestionsfor content or themes forfuture newsletters, contact theEditor email@example.com.