On our CELTA courses in Munich, we use two coursebooks with the students (currently Speakout and English Unlimited) but as the course progresses and trainees become more confident in the classroom, we encourage them to move away from the coursebook a little. Why?
- Coursebooks are not bibles! You do not have to agree with or like everything that is in them.
- The coursebook writer does not know your students in the same way you do.
- Coursebooks are writen for a global market, some texts, for example, may not be of interest to your students, or to you!
- Some parts of the course book may be too easy or too difficult for your students.
- There is nothing more boring in a language class than working through every exercise in a coursebook.
- Coursebooks date very quickly. I remember one trainee using a text from the coursebook about the Olsen twins and not one of the students knew who they were!
So what do we need to consider when selecting activities from a coursebook?
- Do the activities in the coursebook provide the practice we want to give our students?
- Will the topic interest our students? Does it interest us? Our enthusiasm (or lack of) is often transferred to the learners!
- Will the activities ensure our lesson aims are met?
- Are we providing a variety of activity types? One gap-fill activity after another makes for a dull lesson.
- Are we providing enough movement in the class? Learners lose concentration if they are sitting too long.
- Are we meeting the students’ expectations and their needs?
- Does the coursebook activity provide enough visual stimulation?
- Is the topic still up-to-date?
If you answer no to any of these questions, the coursebook may well need to be supplemented. We can either choose an activity/ text from another source such as the internet or we can create our own.
So when choosing our supplementary activity or materials from another source, as well as asking ourselves the questions above again, what do we need to think about?
- Is the supplementary activity at the right level for our learners? Are there too many new words or new grammar they won’t know which might distract from the main lesson aims?
- Are we meeting copyright regulations?
- Do I (the teacher) know the answers?
- If we have chosen the activity online, is the language used in it correct?
If we create our own text or activity we have the advantage that it can be personalised and we can ensure all the first set of questions are answered positively. Some would say it is more time-consuming but personally, I can lose hours on the internet hunting for a suitable activity!