October 27, 2019 at 2:04 am #8758
I used course books for the first 15 years of my teaching and I learned a lot from them. As Scott mentioned in activity 8, writers put a great deal of thought into constructing a course book and understanding their logic and intentions gives you an insight to teaching from their perspective.
However, after 15 years I decided to stop using course books entirely. I decided to challenge myself to create my own lessons based on the needs, interests, and desires of my own students, in my own unique context.
Taking responsibility for choosing materials from online, from my imagination, or from past experiences forced me to also become very sensitive and reflective to what worked, what needed to be tweaked, and what needed to be discarded completely.
The one exception to using my own materials is when I am teaching a TOEFL iBT or TOEIC test preparation course. I will always use a practice book to give students real practice for these tests.
Finally, at one school I am required to choose a course book. I tell students that it will be their homework textbook. I assign a half year’s worth of activities (usually as is in the textbook) and then at the end of the term I check how much they have completed. This goes to the homework portion of their grade.
October 29, 2019 at 8:50 am #8771
I love the idea of the ‘homework coursebook’, those who feel the need to have something tangible (a physical proof of progress, as many students often see the coursebook and the workbook) are looked after, it may also result in more autonomy.
November 1, 2019 at 11:45 pm #8791
I have the exact feeling about course books. I love them, hate them and adapt them.
I know that they were created by experience developers, but sometimes the context/situations are too generic for my interest.
I think your advice about teaching for test is spot on because it was designed for a specific purpose.
October 29, 2019 at 9:33 am #8772
Three pieces of advice I would give to a new teacher:
1 Check the teacher’s book. It helps you understand the goals of the activities and it may give you ideas.
2 Try to put yourself in your students’ shoes. Think of what is good in it for them. What is the ‘candy’ that can motivate them to do the activities you are going to cover? If you can’t identify such a thing, try to supplement the book with something personal, digital, audiovisual, something that involves using their senses, something humorous, etc.
3 List your aims and match the activities with your aims, also considering your students’ level, strengths, interests.
November 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm #8786
Totally agree with you, Barbi, on all of those pieces of advice!
- Checking the Teacher’s book/guide can also often be a goldmine, sometimes including alternative activities, optional extras, as well as resources and tips.
- Love your second tip that drives home the value of meaningful, personalised learning with technology and a multisensory experience.
- Good to link activities to the aims so as not to work through a coursebook unquestionably. This relates to the advice to remember that the coursebook is and should not be the syllabus but a vehicle/tool to help realise the syllabus aims, goals and learning outcomes.
November 1, 2019 at 11:47 pm #8792
I love teachers books because they offer specific information about the task at hand. Why flip through a bunch of random ideas in an activity book when a great resource was created for the course.
Note: I always flipped through the list of random ideas.It is me.
November 1, 2019 at 11:41 pm #8790
I stopped using a textbook after 5 years of teaching. My second job had me create content to be used in an English village and I was employed to create/curate the required content. My third and current position (My school) has me making ALL content for my learners.
These experience lead to me invest the past 12 years into developing my own materials. Sometimes I wish I had never made my own book and materials. I feel this way when I get overwhelmed with the parameters and requirements of the scope of the course. I have learned to navigate these feeling by learning more about course creation and a variety of other skills.
Here is my general advice.
Use it as a roadmap for a long trip. Set each unit as a different ‘stop.’ Once you stop there, you have the freedom to see and talk about the topics more freely. But follow the roadmap because going too far off the beaten path will change many of the variables and will most likely lead to overwhelm and confusion amongst stakeholders.
Start with the End in Mind
Read through the outline/ syllabus and familiarise yourself with the target language and patterns that will be taught. Adapt your language to incorporate these patterns. By doing this, you will extend the amount of exposure students have with the target language.
Challenges / Milestone
Opening up the same book every day for 3 (or more) months can get boring and demotivating. Learn how to set up little challenges to help boost engagement and achievement. Students love parameters that define success.
As an aside, I would love to learn more about course development.
November 2, 2019 at 8:17 am #8798
3 great pieces of advice, Rhett
- The roadmap metaphor is a great one and, as my first CELTA trainer put it, also applies well to a lesson plan which should not be followed like an express train going from A to B with no chance to get off.
- Again, it’s interesting to see how backwards planning not only applies to lesson plans but also syllabus, textbooks and course design.
- Indeed there is often the need to balance the benefits of familiarity and routine with the need for innovation, creativity, and spontaneity. Can you give an example or two of ‘little challenges’ that you see working well to boost engagement and achievement?
November 15, 2021 at 10:15 pm #17079
Teamwork – the Common Goal or the Common Opposition
Students will often rise to a challenge to achieve higher levels of competency when they are encouraged to put in slightly more effort. Challenges are good because they often have visible gains that students can see how they improved from the start to the end of the course.
Three challenges I do:
+1 – Can you add one more word to your sentence? Can you write one more sentence about the topic? Can you talk for an additional 10 seconds about the topic?
40 seconds – you did the task in 40 seconds the first time. Now you are doing it in 30 seconds. Do you think you can do it in 25 seconds?
Test 1 Vs. Test 2 – In your first test, you got 3 out of 10. Now you got 6 out of 10. If we practice some more, I believe you can get 10 out of 10.
Students and teachers make many transformations, but we are often too busy in the complexities of classroom engagement that we can’t see and hear the micro-improvements.
November 18, 2021 at 8:48 am #17098
I love the simplicity yet versatility of your +1 idea! That’s definitely a keeper to play around with, e.g. Can you ask one more question? Can you read one more page? etc For some of my classes, they might also do well by having a +1 star/sticker chart, for example. How about yours?
40s/30s/25s is a nice, age-appropriate adaptation for the classic fluency development 4/3/2 (e.g. as often shared by Paul Nation and on our course)
Repeat tests and opportunities with you, the teacher, believing in your students’ ability to improve is another great one to share. Thanks!
July 13, 2020 at 12:00 am #11084
A new teacher has asked you: ‘Can you give me some tips on how to use coursebooks?’
Think of at least three good pieces of advice you can give her.
1: Focus on your main teaching goal and then decide whether you choose any specific activities or not.
2: Read the coursebook writer’s main ideas and understand how the coursebook is written so that we can understand the main aim of each exercise and we can decide whether we use it or not.
3: Depending on students, we have to adjust what we teach.
July 13, 2020 at 3:01 am #11090
Good advice, Masatoshi. All of them focus on using the textbook as a tool (NOT as the syllabus, which too often becomes the default ‘easy’ option), adapting it to match students’ needs, and then further modifying the lesson in progress depending on the students’ learning process.
November 15, 2020 at 11:03 am #13248
3 pieces of advice I would give to a new teacher on using a coursebook:
1 Always think about the goal, aim of the lesson and have that as a rigid starting point.
2 Be flexible with all your materials. Don’t be afraid to move out of the coursebook.
3 Always plan for your learners. Think of what’s good for your learners, their level, interest and strengths.
November 16, 2020 at 3:39 am #13267
Good advice, Jessica, and relevant to your context with young learners in small classes at a private language school as well as other teaching situations.
In what circumstances might you be more flexible with the lesson goals or negotiate them with learners?
November 17, 2020 at 11:39 am #13310
First your textbook is that a resource or toolkit not the be all end all of things. It’s not a bible. It’s something you can use that can help guide you and provide opportunities to learn but it’s not the only thing.
Second would be to add to the textbook drills and dialogues. Don’t do just the targeted parts but have them add more. Use plus alpha. Add four more lines before or after a dialogue. Add where or when clauses to a plain present tense sentence. Use the text as a springboard to have them make realer sentences that are personalized.
Third limit the time of the textbook in class to under a third of the class if not a fifth. Keep the magic of it don’t devalue the currency. People adapt so keep its use so it feels fresh and wanted versus the hypnotic sleep inducing device it can easily become. Make them want it rather than like a ball and chain they drag out.
November 17, 2020 at 2:19 pm #13319
Those first two pieces of advice are solid, but the third is a gem!
Like a good activity, too, I find I get much more if I use it ~2-3 times with variations as they gain increasing confidence and fluency, meaning they can enjoy greater complexity and stay motivated, but ‘without having too much of a good thing’! Then I put it aside for a while to be used again with another topic, different vocabulary or grammar, for example.
Indeed, we should also be wary of potentially having classes that are ‘materials-driven’ at the expense of being driven by real communication. So keeping textbooks limited, especially for more experienced teachers, can be a way to create scarcity, maintain value, and afford more opportunities for personalization and ‘plus alpha’!
November 19, 2020 at 12:25 am #13346
Make it Interesting
Teachers and learners may say that something is boring or not interesting. Thus, it is important to learn to hook students and yourself to the source content by making it appealing to all stakeholders.
Personalizing the Materials
I have found personalizing the content as a great technique to make things more enjoyable and relevant to the students. Become flexible and adaptable so that you can help students make connections to the language usages, functions, and situations.
Learn the Principles Behind the Design
Dive into the approaches, techniques, and processes used to write the book. They will have an intended function for each exercise, activity, and task. The better we understand the learning strategies, the better we can wield them as a learning tool in the classroom room.
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