Coursebooks in Classroom: Be Course flexible– be course friendly!

For most teachers a coursebook represents the backbone of the course providing the syllabus and accompanied by other components like companion, workbook, grammar book etc. It can be seen as the basis for all the language skills practised in the classroom so coursebook selection and evaluation is a complex and critical task, especially when teachers are bombarded with a plethora of them which makes their choice really hard.

Educators are on a constant lookout for the coursebook which will suit the students’ level and needs and which will appear attractive to their eyes. Coursebooks are indispensable in ELT contexts and there are quite positive outcomes in the classroom. They help students measure their progress and achievements and equip them with a source of ideas, activities and materials which will support them linguistically and prepare them for future exams.

Good coursebooks often contain lively and motivating material providing language items which need to be learnt and summarized in an interesting and creative way. They are sensitive to students’ needs and save time and money for teachers as they do not have to spend too much time on lesson plans or money to provide students with authentic material that might be costly.

Whether coursebooks are for some teachers both a blessing and curse or /and a master and servant, the truth lies somewhere in between depending on how coursebooks are used in the hands of the educators. It goes beyond saying that a teacher does not always have the chance to choose the coursebook her/himself and has to stick to the rules and the instructions of the director of the school, meet deadlines, cover material etc., thus feeling daunted and stressful, especially if he/she is an inexperienced one.  As a result, it is hard both for the teacher and the students to enjoy the lesson in a relaxing atmosphere and become more creative.

On the other hand, coursebooks can become a support for less experienced teachers, provide a source of activities for learner practice and communicative interaction. Selecting a suitable coursebook helps to keep students engaged and motivated and enhance their cooperative skills. The layout of the book is also of utmost importance. A boring and confusing layout can lead to unmotivated and disruptive students and to discouraged and exhausted teachers.

A coursebook should ideally match the students’ learning styles, interests, level and needs, be visually appealing and function as a guide and supporter not only for students but also for teachers themselves. A coursebook could possibly be seen as:

C creative

O objectives used

U utility of materials

R revising

S selective

E effective

B beneficial

O observe

O omit and choose

K key criteria used

Feel free and flexible to decide what you choose to do and what to omit from the coursebook. You could also observe what the students like or not as well as their performance on the activities provided so that you can keep the more effective ones.

It is significant that coursebooks be selected to match each chosen teaching style so decisions on choice should not solely be made on the coursebook’s reputation but on its whole layout and on how straightforward, organized, comprehensive and motivating the material is. Sample materials, research on coursebooks and /or consulting colleagues or experts before making a final decision will greatly help.

Our reliance on coursebooks can lead to inflexibility and a lack of creativity. Coursebooks are tools, and teachers have the power to decide how to use them. Therefore, they need to be flexible and adjust their approach to the coursebook, tailoring it to serve their specific purposes. The coursebook should act as a mediator for both receptive and productive skills, which are key to the acquisition of learning.

Top of Form

The question is: ‘Has the level successfully been achieved at the end of the year?’ Have the students acquired effectively what they have learnt or have they been uninspired and forced to learn a ‘bulk’ of linguistic items at a very limited time in order to serve the needs of the coursebook instead of their own ones?

Being overloaded with too many units, including numerous exercises, is akin to running panicked in a marathon, struggling to catch up with time and fill students’ brains with as much knowledge as possible. Instead, the focus should be on how effectively students can learn through hands-on activities, which will help them practice both their language and life skills.

Using supplementary material like authentic texts, videos, realia, visual and audio material as well as roleplay, gamification and kinesthetic activities, will certainly do the job. The difference in students’ learning will also make the implementation of activities including storytelling, drama, craftwork, songs, even cooking! There is an inexhaustible source of ideas which can fire the learners’ imagination and creativity and accelerate language acquisition and consolidation.

If it is used selectively and wisely, the coursebook can prove to be a valuable assistant instead of a pain in the neck for both students and teachers!


Dora Sopasoudaki

Dora Sopasoudaki

Teacher of English, MSc in TEFL