The selection and use of coursebook materials
How are coursebook materials selected and used?
All the materials we can find in a course book package that we use in the classroom are called coursebook materials. We use them to present and practice language and to improve the students’ language skills.
Often, a coursebook package contains a student’s book, a teacher’s book and sometimes audio/video recordings. We can find the tapescripts of these recordings included with the book. A tapescript is the written version of what is given in audio or video. Usually there is a workbook or activity book as well, which is a book that contains practice material. Sometimes we may find a CD included or extra material to be retrieved from a website.
Usually, teachers decide what materials to use (either coursebook or supplementary) on a ‘needs analysis’. This means a study of the level of the students, their language needs and interests which is done by using questionnaires, interviews or otherwise diagnostic tests. A ‘needs analysis’helps the teacher to create and update a class profile, an explanation of all the students in the class, and it shows what the students have in common with each other and their differences as well. Then, the teacher has to choose the material that is most suitable for the class profile.
Things to consider when selecting teaching materials
Sometimes we may not have the option of selecting our coursebook. However, it is still possible to choose what materials from the coursebook we can use. In order to decide whether and how to use the coursebook wholly or partially depends on the responses to a few questions. The questions are given below.
- Does the material we are planning to use look attractive for the students? Is it clear and methodical and does it aid the students to develop an understanding of the context and the meaning?
- Is the material organized well? Is it possible for the teacher and the students to follow the logic of the material? Can we find out way around the page? Can we find a unit as quickly and as easily as we want?
- Is the material culturally appropriate? Will the students find the context(s) familiar?
- Is it appropriate for the age of our students? Will it match their needs and interests?
- Will the students find the topics motivating? Are they appropriate for the age, gender, experience as well as personal interests of our students?
- Is the content at the right level? Are the context and explanations clear enough for our students to understand the new language?
- Does the material chosen give the students enough chances to make use of the language?
If any of the above questions are answered with a ‘no’, then we have two options available for us to choose from:
- We can either replace the coursebook material with materials from another resource with the same focus/aim. An example of another resource would be a teacher’s website, a book or supplementary materials.
- We can adapt the coursebook material. This means to alter it in a way that makes it appropriate for our students.
How can we adapt the material?
There are a few ways of adapting material when it is not appropriate for a specific teaching situation.
The task or exercise is too short.
The students need more practice.
Write extra items, following the same pattern.
The task of exercise is too long.
The students don’t need so much practice.
Use as much as you need, but do not feel you have to use it all.
Give different parts of the text or task to different learners.
Changing the form of tasks
The task doesn’t suit the learners’ learning style.
You want a change of pace.
The coursebook often repeats the same kind of task.
Change the interaction pattern. E.g. use a matching task as a mingling activity (i.e. one in which learners move around the class, in this case to find their partners).
Changing the level of the material
The texts or tasks are too easy or too difficult.
Make material more challenging, e.g. learners try to answer comprehension questions before reading.
Make material lesson challenging, e.g. break up a long text into shorter sections.
The activities in the units in the book always follow the same sequence.
The learners need to learn or practice things in a different order.
Change the order of the material, e.g. ask learners to cover up a page or part of a page so that they will focus on what you want them to do first.
Making use of all the resources in the book
There is not enough practice material in a particular unit.
The learners need to revise particular items.
You want to preview material in a future unit.
Use extra material from the book: grammar summaries, word lists, lists of irregular verbs, etc.
Give whole-book tasks, e.g. searching through the book for texts, pictures, language examples.
The importance of coursebook material
It is the main source of learning for students
The teacher may have good reasons to leave out part or the whole of a unit. However, it is important to keep in mind that the coursebook is one of the most important, main sources of learning (and revision) for the students. Therefore, if we leave our parts of whole units of a coursebook too regularly, the students may be confused.
The coursebook has the main content
The coursebook contains the main content necessary for the lesson. The extra material that is given by the teacher or from the students themselves in some cases needs to be more personalized. It is important to consider the coursebook content when it comes to planning a lesson. We need think carefully about what we need to exclude or add.
The content is usually properly ordered
If the teacher needs to change the order of the material in the coursebook, she must ensure that one task/exercise does not depend on a task or exercise that was given previously. The order of activities in the coursebook can be changed to include variety in pace, interaction pattern, sequence of skills practice, content, mood, the difficulty level etc. It is always important for the teacher to think very carefully about how she can make the material visually appealing and interesting for the students. The teacher can do this by using mime, pictures, real objects such as food or clothes (known as realia), etc.
A Practice Task
Match each of the coursebook instruction given below (1-7) with the activity aims listed (A – H). There is an extra one which you do not need to use.
1. Scan the text and select a picture that matches best with the situation.
2. Answer the true/false questions by playing the cassette again and listening closely.
3. Complete the sentences below. Use one of the modal verbs given.
4. Select all the words that go together.
5. Take a look at the photos. Who do you think is speaking?
6. Get into groups of three and discuss the problem. Decide together on the best solution for that problem.
7. Find all the pronouns, underline them and draw arrows to show which nouns they refer to.
A. Reading for gist
B. Oral fluency practice
C. Listening for gist
D. Finding connections in a text.
E. Writing a short story
F. Listening for detailed information
G. Finding collocations
H. Accurate use of a specific structure
Reflection on teachers' comments
Here are some comments from teachers. Which of these comments would you agree with? State your reasons for doing so.
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