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Points of view on using course books authentic materials
Scris de mihaiela lazar   
Vineri, 08 Septembrie 2017 17:45


Autor: Prof. Felherț Monica, Gradul Didactic I

Liceul Tehnologic Nr.1 Salonta, Bihor

The books seem to appeal both to the teacher and learners. They provide the teacher with colourful illustrations for topic introduction and discussion, task-based activities, step-by-step instructions for novice teachers as well as insight into activities for experienced teachers, suggestions for authentic material, additional exercises and readings supplements, and testing and assessment material.

“One of the major concerns is that any given course book will be incapable of catering to the diversity of the needs which exists in most language classrooms.” (Nunan, 1991: 209)

Therefore, according to (Stern, 1992: 260),

“There is a need for the teacher to consider the learner as a person, but equally a need for the learner to come to terms with himself, and try to understand his own strengths and weaknesses.”

The books also appear to increase and enhance, “the amount of initiative and control which learners are allowed to exercise and the extent to which they are active participants in the learning process.” (Nunan, 1991: 210) Since “for most learners it is important to recreate their own identity in the second language,” (Stern, 1992: 190) the course books’ choice of topics may, therefore, capitalize on learner’s prior knowledge and motivate them to communicate in the target language. Breen, (1989: 198) supports this idea pointing out that “Interest, relevance, or helpfulness of content seem to be very important to learners in making the learning process meaningful and manageable.”

Hence the books appear to “be so designed and organized that a great deal of improvisation and adaptation by both teacher and class is possible.” (O’Neill, 1982: 152)

McDonough and Shaw, (1993: 71) contend “some textbooks… are very well researched and written but are so cluttered with information on every page that teachers/learners find them practically unusable.” However, these course books appear to be clearly presented and formatted for teachers and learners. Each speaking dialogue is clearly highlighted in yellow with a response/expression/vocabulary alternative column next to it. Listening activities are generally highlighted in purple if they contain written text or present clear representative photos if they require selection or sequencing. Moreover, the books are also neatly bound and have good quality glossy paper, which “means they are easy to carry and to look at where and when the learner wants to.” (O’Neill, 1982: 152)

Nunan, (1991: 210) points out that, “The way materials are organised and presented, as well as the types of content and activities, will help to shape the learner’s view of language.” The books offer a variety of topics such as considerations for learning, stress and solutions, values, and challenges. This is “one of the most obvious ways in which materials may offer opportunities for additional learning,” (Littlejohn and Windeatt, 1989: 157) because it may enable learners to ponder additional aspects of learning than those expected from the materials. In addition, “for most learners it is important to recreate their own identity in the second language” (Stern, 1992:190) so the course book topics may enable learners to more comfortably discuss and learn about situations or interests, because they involve the learners’ teaching backgrounds and/or personalities.

As maintained by (Littlejohn and Windeatt, 1989: 162),

“In that most FLT materials are normally organised into ‘units’ or ‘lessons’ with a repetitive pattern of sub-sections labelled according to the content or type of activity involved, learners may see learning a foreign language as involving the development of abilities in the specified content areas or activity types.”

According to Stubbs in (Littlejohn and Windeatt, 1989: 165), in some teaching situationsthe teacher has control over classroom discourse and learners take a passive role in thelearning process. Stubbs then claims that in these situations, “education consists oflistening to an adult talking and answering his or her questions”.

McDonough and Shaw, (1993:69) point out that course books over the last decade claim to include large amounts of learner involvement in the learning process. Moreover, according to (Low, 1989: 142),

If the designer is justifying the material explicitly on the grounds that it relates to what people do and think when they use language, as is commonly the case with ‘communicative’ courses, then there is likely to be an attempt to make the unit task-based in some way.”

Discussing what a good coursebook is, (Harmer, 2007:144) wrote, with a good coursebook, there is a strong possibility that the language, content and sequencing in the book willbe appropriate, and that the topics and treatment of the different language skills will be attractive. As a result, theteacher will want to go ahead and use what is in the book. (Harmer, 2007:146)

Therefore, good exploitation of the textbooks or materials is very necessary because “exploitation is the creativeuse of what is already there (e.g. text, visual, activity) to serve a purpose which is additional to that foreseen bythe textbook writer”(McGrath, 2002:65). “Teachers need strategies for working with the book open andclosed.” “Teachers also need specific strategies for handling coursebook presentation material, practice material,and skills development material”.(Davies and Pearse, 2000: 150).

In contrast, if the coursebook is not appropriate for a particular group of students, the teachers have fouralternatives to consider. They are omitting lessons from course book, replacing the coursebook lesson, addingactivities and exercises to the coursebook, or adapting what is in the book (Harmer, 2007:146-147).

Also, (Ur, 1996:189) suggested that “most commercially produced materials can be adapted to fit a range ofneeds and goals not originally envisaged by the materials writers”. According to Tomlinson, (1998), materialadaptation is “making changes to materials in order to improve them or to make them more suitable for aparticular type of learners.”

Maley, (1998: 281-283) advised that teachers can “use some or all of the following strategies to make thepublished course bearable, or more effective:”

“Give it a rest”: Teachers introduce additional material to restore interest or supply light relief such as songs,rhymes, games, cartoons, off-air recordings, video clips, etc.

“Change it”: Teachers can adapt materials by using several options such as omission, addition, reduction,extension, rewriting/ modification, replacement, re-ordering, branching.

“Do it yourself”: Teachers can use “Scissors and Paste” and “the process option”.

Concisely, there is no book perfect in itself or for a particular learning situation. The teachers have to know howto make a textbook work by exploiting, adapting and supplementing it in some way to meet their own specificlearners and teaching situation (Davies and Pearse, 2000:150).

When bringing authentic materials into the classroom, it should always be done with apurpose, as highlighted by Senior “…we need to have a clear pedagogic goal in mind: whatprecisely we want our students to learn from these materials.” (Senior, 2005:71). Students feelmore confident, more secure when handling authentic materials as long as the teacher givesthem with pedagogical support. Authentic materials should be used in accordance with students'ability, with suitable tasks being given in which total understanding is not important. In order toovercome the problems created by difficult authentic texts, one solution is to simplify themaccording to the level of the learner. This can be done by removing any difficult words orstructures but this can also remove basic discourse qualities, making the text “less” authentic.

The basic parameters to consider when simplifying a text are:

Another possible solution is to give text related tasks. They are three basic types:

The materials selected for classroom use can be defined in a number of ways.

Here are some opinions on ELT materials.

Materials are, in fact, an essential element within the curriculum, and do more than simply lubricate the wheels of learning. At their best they provide concrete models of desirable classroom practice, they act as curriculum models, and at their very best they fulfill a teacher development role. Good materials also provide models for teachers to follow in developing their own materials. “(Nunan, 1988:249)

"...One cannot deny the usefulness of course books and the materials they contain. They have usually entailed an enormous amount of expertise, time and effort to produce, and the material is extensively researched and trialled before being published. “(Wild, 1991:108)

"...It is possible to provide effective and accountable language teaching without using a course book..., the objectives and content of each course being negotiated amongst the participants." (Fitzpatrick, 1995:225)

"The textbook will continue to play an important role, but it will not be a tyrant." (Williams, 1988:89)

"External or imposed materials can be made internal to the learners by creative involvement in the adaptation process.”(Clarke, 1989:59)

"By selecting a text with a content which can be personalized to the students' interests, the teacher can more readily provide opportunities for real language practice.” (Chastain, 1976:78)


Harmer, J. The Practice of English Language Teaching (4thed.)”. New York: Longman Publishing,2007

Harmer, J. How to Teach English (New ed.)”. Oxford: Pearson/Longman,2007

Littlejohn, A. ‘The Analysis of Language Teaching Materials: Inside the Trojan Horse”. In B. Tomlinson (Ed), Materials Development in Language Teaching . Cambridge University Press,1998

McGrath, I.Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching.” Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,2002

Nunan, D. & Lamb, C. “The Self-Directed Teacher: Managing the Learning Process.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1996

Stern, H. H.“Issues and Options in Language Teaching.” OUP,1992

Ur, P.A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and theory.” UK: Cambridge University Press,1996

Vizental Adriana“Strategies of Teaching and Testing English as a Foreign Language,” Polirom,2007



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