The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

keep calm and step away from the coursebook

Teaching is not always easy. Every day, for every lesson, we balance the needs of your students, the expectations and regulations of your school and our own time constraints and come up with a well-balanced, effective, enjoyable lesson. Easy, no?

So this is where coursebooks come in, to help us to achieve the seemingly impossible. Sadly, more often than not they can hinder more than help. How often do we find a reading text on a little-known celebrity that no one has any interest in or, even worse, Britney Spears? How many times do we (and our students) find the exercises bland, pointless and ineffective? How much do we wish we could accidentally tear the book to pieces?

To be fair, it’s not easy writing a coursebook (I’ve tried!): it’s time-consuming and difficult to organise permissions and develop original materials. The whole process can take ages so it’s easy to understand how materials can become dated quite quickly. Schools feel obliged to use well-known and familiar coursebooks because that’s what students know and respond to. Coursebooks are also  good for teachers early in their careers as it helps overcome the drama of lesson planning, to a large extent.

But if you have had some experience teaching, I implore you: keep calm and step away from the coursebook!

There are so many ways to adapt what the coursebook gives us but gets out students’ noses out of their books. Amazingly, using the same material and simply taking it out of the book and putting it on the board, or moulding it into a communicative activity will bring an added element to your lesson. Have you noticed how your students automatically pay more attention when you are not dealing with the coursebook? Use that.

Using a reading? Spend some time beforehand discussing the topic. Your students will warm up to the topic and open their minds to related thoughts and language.

Looking at a grammar point? Give your students some individual study-time and let them teach each other.

A text too irrelevant or inappropriate? Don’t use it.

Don’t understand the Teacher’s Book activity instructions? Don’t do it.

Too many grammar exercises? Let your students work on them at home and use class time to group activities.

I’m not saying get rid of it completely, but what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t feel the need to always use it. Think about how the coursebook can be used for your needs, and mix and match materials, exercises and activities. When you can, bring the real world into the classroom: newspaper articles, movie clips, songs, current events, personal stories. Te real world is always more interesting than a coursebook.


3 comments on “keep calm and step away from the coursebook

  1. Pingback: lesson planning logic: start from the end | this is it

  2. Pingback: getting real in the classroom | this is it

  3. Pingback: reactive teaching | this is it

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , , .
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