Working with ELT Materials – Peter Beech

About the author: Peter Beech is Director of Anglo-Hellenic Teacher Training

Part two – selecting coursebooks

In the first article of the series we discussed ways of finding teaching materials. The next step is to select the ones you want to consider adopting. Choice of coursebook will have a major impact on the style and content of your lessons, and may even make the difference between success and failure for your students, so it’s important to consider it very carefully. Here are a few of the issues to look at.

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Are the materials up-to-date?

Once a coursebook has been published, it generally remains on the market for several years. And teachers, having invested the time and effort required in adopting a course, are likely to want to go on using it, as long as it worked well the first time. So one of the first things you should look at in a coursebook is the date of publication. You will certainly want to avoid starting to use a book when it is already several years old, but even if the publication date is relatively recent, the book may still seem to be behind the times. Some materials quickly become dated, particularly if they contain topics relating to the latest movies, current fashions and trends in music. These are the kinds of items that are likely to interest and motivate our students, but fashions change quickly so it’s probably better to get materials on these subjects from other more current sources such as magazines and internet sites.

What components are available?

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The next thing to look for is the range of components available. As a minimum, there will be a student’s book and a teacher’s book. The teacher’s book may be a separate volume, or may be interleaved with the student’s book, making it easier to refer to during the lesson and so reducing preparation time. As well as providing the answers to all the exercises, the teacher’s book provides guidance on how to use the materials in the student’s book. This can be very helpful, especially for novice teachers, but if it’s too prescriptive it can restrict flexibility and stifle your creativity. Some teacher’s books also contain additional resources and communicative activities, or there may even be a separate book with these.

Most courses also provide a workbook with extra practice activities for the students, usually done as homework. And, particularly with courses published in Greece, there may be a companion. This gives explanations of the new vocabulary in each lesson, often with Greek translations, and additional practice activities.

There will also be one or more audio CDs and possibly other multimedia components. Most major courses these days also have interactive whiteboard software, so if you intend to use the IWB in your lessons, you will need to check that this is available for whatever course you select. And there may also be other components such as a grammar book, test booklet, or even flashcards and stickers.

What levels are covered?

Most coursebooks are published in series that provide continuity over several levels. Of course you will need to select materials at the right level for each of your classes, but you should also make sure that they match the age of your students. For example, some courses at Beginner level are designed for adults, and this is reflected in the style of the materials and the choice of topics.

These are a few preliminary considerations that you should bear in mind when making your initial selection of coursebooks to examine with a view to adoption. The next step is to conduct a detailed evaluation of the materials, and that’s the topic of our next article.