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The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities 2

The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities

How are supplementary materials and activities selected?

Books and other materials that can be used along with the coursebook are called materials. These usually include skills development materials, vocabulary, phonology, grammar, practice materials, collections of communicative activities and teacher’s resource materials. We can find supplementary materials from authentic sources such as newspaper articles, magazine articles, videos etc.). In some coursebook packages, we can find supplementary materials have been included. The activities would also be created in a way so that it would match the coursebook syllabus. There are a great deal of websites from which teachers can download supplementary materials as well. In order to select supplementary materials and activities, we need to identify the issue that we need more, various types of material than what is given in the coursebook. Then, we have to know whether we can find the types of material that we need.

The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities 3

Reasons for using supplementary materials and activities

There are many reasons why a teacher would want to use supplementary materials and activities in her classes. Some of them are:

  • To make the teaching interesting and add variety to it.
  • To give the students appropriate material according to their specific needs and interests.
  • To fill certain gaps that might be in the coursebook.
  • To replace material in the coursebook that may not be appropriate/suitable for the class.
  • To give the students extra language/skills practice.

    Although coursebooks are organized according to the syllabus and are carefully graded (this means grammatical structures, vocabulary, skills etc are given in a helpful sequence for learning) so that students’ language knowledge can be built up through stages while following the book, including supplementary materials and activities in the class can add variety and extra practice in the lesson which would be useful. However, it is always important to ensure that the supplementary materials and activities that are used would suit the students’ program. They should also be appropriate for the class and align with the aims for certain lessons.

Advantages and disadvantages in commonly used supplementary materials

Here are some advantages and disadvantages in commonly used supplementary materials.

Class library of readers

Possible advantages:

  • Encourages extensive reading
  • Gives students confidence

Possible disadvantages:

  • Language sometimes too simple
  • May not be challenging

Skills practice books 

Possible advantages:

  • Focus on individual skills 

Possible disadvantages:

  • May not fit with the coursebook.

Teacher’s resource books 

Possible advantages:

  • Provides new ideas for lessons

Possible disadvantages:

  • May not suit lesson aims


Possible advantages:

  • Variety of lesson plans, teaching materials, other resources

Possible disadvantages:

  • Sometimes difficult to find the right material for the learners


Possible advantages:

  • Provides visual context
  • Source of cultural information
  • Shows body language

Possible disadvantages:

  • Equipment may not always be available
  • Language may not be graded

Language practice books 

Possible advantages:

  • Extra practice
  • Learners can work alone without teacher’s help

Possible disadvantages:

  • Repetitive exercises
  • Little or no context

Electronic materials

Possible advantages:

  • Motivation
  • Familiar technology for learners

Possible disadvantages:

  • Difficult for teacher to control how learners are working
  • Little or no human feedback


Possible advantages:

  • Enjoyment
  • Language practice with fun

Possible disadvantages:

  • May not be suitable for older learners



The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities 4
The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities 5

Things to consider when selecting supplementary materials

Perform a need analysis
Become familiar with the supplementary materials that are available in your school or institute. Perform a needs analysis by using a questionnaire or interviews at the start of the course. This will help to discover what you will find useful to add to the coursebook when planning your scheme of work.

Be familiar with the coursebook/syllabus
There may be some instances when you will find supplementary language practice materials without teacher’s books. The aims of the activities may be rather unclear in some cases. Therefore, when choosing material for your class, it is crucial that you consider how the material you choose will replace or further improve what is in your coursebook.

Using authentic materials

Sometimes, using authentic material (which is not designed for any specific level), is useful as it gives students the ability to work with more challenging texts and tasks.

Type of skills they improve

The activities in the materials which are created to improve individual skills can usually include the use of other certain skills. For example, students must learn to read a piece of text before they do a listening task. Or they should do some writing after a speaking activity, just as a follow-up activity. Therefore, when choosing materials for the class, keep in mind that all skills that are required need to be catered to.

The competency and the language level

There are many materials supplied by publishers to practice separate language skills at various levels. There are usually lists of tasks and activities in teacher’s resource books as well which are arranged according to level. It is important to check whether the level is suitable for the level of your students. Take into consideration the language that your students will need to comprehend or produce.

The methodology followed in the coursebook

There is methodology in the students’ coursebook and the students normally become comfortable with it as they get used to it. If supplementary materials are being used and if they are very different from the coursebook style, it is important that you pay special attention the instructions as they may confuse your students.

Ability to adapt the material

It is possible to adapt many supplementary materials to use with classes of various levels. Sometimes, the texts may not be graded. However, you can grade them by yourself. This can be done by making the tasks more challenging or easier.

Types of games and communicative activities

It is a good idea to use games and extra communicative activities as they can vary the lesson and make it interesting to the students. However, before using them, think carefully about why you are using them. This will keep you focused on the purpose of your lesson. Older students may question why they are being given such activities to do.

A Practice Task

To answer questions 1-7, select which book from the list A-G could aid a teacher who made the comments given below. You do not need to use the extra one.

Teacher’s Comments
1. My students need a lot of extra tasks to help them with reading practice. However, I don’t have enough time to search for the supplementary materials at the right level for them.
2. I’m searching for activities to assist my teenage elementary learners to develop their language fluency, but I don’t have enough time to do extra preparation for them.
3. I’m uncertain of how to use websites to teaching English.
4. I need some new ideas to teaching grammar to lower-level students. I have been teaching for quite a while now. 
5. I need a book that describes pronunciation. And it should also give me some ideas as to how I’m supposed to teach it.
6.I would like to use poems and short stories in my language classes.

7. Students exchange and give feedback on certain texts.

A. The Internet and the Language Classroom Gavin Dudeney, Cambridge University Press
B. Developing Listening Skills Shelagh Rixon, Prentice Hall
C. Simple Speaking Activities Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield, Oxford University Press
D. Elementary Language Practice Michael Vince, Macmillan.
E. Words in Their Places: Graded Cloze Texts and Comprehension Exercises Lynn Hutchinson.
F. Sounds Like This Katie Kitching, Belair Publications Ltd
G. Literature in the Language Classroom Joanne Collie and Stephen Slater, Cambridge University Press

Reflection on teachers' comments

Here are some comments from teachers. Which of these comments would you agree with? State your reasons for doing so.


The selection and use of supplementary materials and activities 6

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