Choosing the Right Coursebook: The Eternal Dilemma of Every ELT Educator

Have you ever found yourself in a state of displeasure as regards the choice of the ELT material you are using? Are your students struggling to learn, or even worse, uninspired? It’s common knowledge that as educators, we are on the constant lookout for that new ELT content which will miraculously set a new standard in learning and in turn, make our lives easier in class. One would wonder though, is there such content available and if so, how can we actually get our hands on it?
In answer to the aforementioned questions, the ELT market has been constantly blossoming since its conception and it would be not only immature but also unprofessional to discard any sort of educational content as weak or lacking. As educators, it falls upon our shoulders to meticulously examine what the market has to offer and in turn, choose that which is best tailored to our students’ educational needs.

Text by Katherine Reilly - Teacher Trainer and Author

ELT Learners’ Level

Even though this is a no-brainer, you’ll be surprised by the fact that the proposed level of a coursebook might not be the most suitable for your students. Many a time, educators would switch to another publisher, simply because their students found a coursebook facile or in most cases strenuous to work on. Bumping up or down a level or two might just be the answer, as the coursebook’s approach may be ideal for our students, whereas, our selection of difficulty was not.

Theme and Content

It’s common knowledge that every coursebook follows a specific theme. The main characters of a book are more important than you might realize. Will my students relate to them? Are the stories included thought provoking, humorous or even inspirational? Characters that might appeal to us, may not necessarily do the same for our students. Before switching to a new coursebook, why not ask the students themselves what they think? Publishing representatives are more than eager to do presentations or hand out free samples of their work. These samples unfortunately never reach our students’ hands, which is ironic, since the students themselves are the ones who will be using this material to learn.

New Skills Perspectives

A coursebook usually follows a specific pattern of representing the proposed content of learning. Sections dedicated to grammar, vocabulary and reading are a staple but what about other aspects of ELT? Is there enough content available for enhancing their verbal communicative skills? What about critical thought? Rote learning has become a thing of the past and we are all aware of the fact that our ever-developing society depends on individual initiative, social interaction and the stimulation of the now highly regarded soft skills; all necessary qualifications for entering the job market.

Content & Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

CLIL in itself would require an article of its own to fully analyze, nonetheless, to put it briefly, it is an educational approach for learning content through an additional language, thus teaching both the subject and the language at the same time. To be more specific, any subjects like physics, geography, history or even life skills learned in a classroom context, can be taught in a foreign language. Are your students interested in one of the aforementioned subjects? Does the coursebook incorporate CLIL themes which would invest them in the learning procedure?
CLIL can definitely add a new flavour in the learning procedure as it is a unique approach to integrating a student’s interests with the ultimate goal of expanding both his general knowledge, as well as the assimilation of the language taught.

The Dawn of e-Learning

A coursebook is intricately dependent on its accompanying components which amplify the content being practiced. Gone are the days of relying solely on extra, albeit repetitive content, found in workbooks as ELT has fully embraced the digital age and is thriving in its own right. Downloadable apps and software not only stimulate, but further motivate a learner to embrace and adopt the language as his own. One must now consider the potential offered by online interactive content and put it to the best of use both in class and mostly, in the palm of our students’ hands.

Teacher’s Material

The final ingredient to putting this all together is to look in the mirror and ask ourselves as educators, “Am I fully prepared to deliver the material the publisher has offered me?” It is a sad truth that many educators rely solely on their own experience; a highly respected experience that spans over decades of teaching a foreign language to classes of all ages and levels. Experience, however, comes at a high price, as in many cases overshadows new breakthroughs in ELT which are most often than not, fully represented in accompanying textbooks provided to us with the sole purpose of making or lives easier in class. You would be surprised by the amount of effort put into an ELT series Teacher’s Book and how it can change our teaching experience for the better.

Just remember to keep both yourselves and your students inspired, to take advantage of new ideas and approaches and remember that every coursebook has something unique and wonderful to offer us all.•