How can textbooks be properly utilized in the TEFL classroom? Personally, I don’t use textbooks very often. This is largely down to the type of people and classes I teach (conversation-based lessons). A textbook can be a very useful tool, though, especially with larger classes.
To get the most out of textbook usage in the classroom, you need to do three things:
1. Make sure your students understand the material
They could recite the phrases a thousand times, but unless they understand the context and the words, then they will not benefit from it. Helping them to understand the text is sometimes best achieved by providing the same text in the student’s mother tongue (particularly effective for novice learners). Otherwise, you can use role-play to demonstrate the meaning, or you can examine each unknown word individually (which is rather time-consuming). A brief Q&A will assess whether they have understood the material.
2. Give them plenty of opportunity to use it practically
English is about communication. Give your students the chance to speak up! The material should be practiced out loud until pronunciation is clear, and until the students feel confident in using the language.
3. Show them how any new language fits into the overall framework of English
Remembering set phrases for set situations is not always practical. Rather, if you can demonstrate how key words and phrases can be used in a variety of contexts then they will acquire the ability to use that language naturally. This can be done by picking out certain words or phrases from the text and getting the students to use the language in new sentences and situations.
Some textbooks just aren’t very good
I’m not always a big fan of textbooks. I’ve seen some that blatantly teach mistakes, and others that offer the most impractical and useless forms of English. Also, textbooks sometimes make us rely on a very straightforward conversation. Language is much more random than that. People don’t always say what you expect them to say.
My own experience of learning from a textbook has not given me a good impression. The language of textbook Japanese is really quite different to daily Japanese, which dispenses with a lot of the clunky phrases and overly polite language found in textbooks.
A valuable tool
For all that, there are some great materials out there, and for some classes a textbook is the best way forward. I hope the tips discussed in this blog help, but if you have anything to add please let me know!