Number one for English language teachers

General: teaching with coursebooks

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

If your relationship with your coursebook is going a little stale, here are a baker’s dozen of ideas to inspire and provoke you.


Coursebooks are great. They save time, include ready-made exercises and materials and provide a syllabus to follow. But sometimes they don’t work.

Teachers and students can feel forced into dull, page-turning rituals of pretend learning. Finishing the coursebook “because we have to” can become the course aim, more than learning English. If your own relationship with your coursebook is going a little stale, here are a baker’s dozen of ideas to inspire and provoke you.

  1. Do exactly what it says to do, page by page.

  2. Pick at it here and there as a resource rather than doing everything in order.

  3. Do all the units, but in the wrong order.

  4. Keep a healthy distrust for the oh-so-convincing, oh-so-convenient fib that all the students will learn the same things in the same order and that the order of learning is what all the coursebooks seem to agree it is….

  5. …. and sew healthy distrust in your students, too.

  6. Ask students “Which unit shall we start today?” (Not “What’s next?”).

  7. Ask students to design a questionnaire to find out which typical activities are liked and disliked. Let them then use their questionnaires on each other. Take the results seriously. Promise to pass them on to the next teacher who will use the book with a new class.

  8. Tell students “We have been given this coursebook to use this year. What shall we do with it? Shall we make it the basis of all our work? Shall we use it for half the lessons? What bits shall we leave out? What do you think?”

  9. …. and after a few lessons of doing exactly what the students told you to do, ask again e.g. “Is this what you wanted? Shall we change the plan at all?”

  10. Give small groups of students different parts of the coursebook with photocopies of the relevant teachers’ book instructions. Ask each group to plan (and later teach) a small part of the lesson.

  11. Cut up your book! Cut out about thirty or forty favourite exercises from your copy, stick them on backing card and put them in a box. Use them as a library. Students can sort through (and take home) exercises when they have free time or want extra homework.

  12. When you come to a dull looking page with an important grammar point, don’t teach it at all. Instead ask the students in small groups to redesign the page so that the information is clearer and the content more attractive and interesting. (If they can use computers, all the better). Even though you don’t teach the main language points, your students will get so much exposure to them they will come to terms with them in a different way. When the redesigns are ready, get students to try them out on each other (as 'teachers' and 'students') … which gives lots more practice!

  13. Photocopy this list of ideas for your students. Let them read it, discuss it and tell you what they think. 
     

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