Using a coursebook

A coursebook should be related to critically: we should be aware of its good and bad points in order to make the most of the first and compensate for or neutralize the second. Some general critical questions to be asked about the coursebook as a whole will already have emerged, and now we shall be looking it more specific, detailed aspects: the components of a single unit, or chapter, and what we might need to do in order to make the best use of it.

Materials are grouped under the headings: Coverage, Texts, Tasks (activities, exercises), Administration.


Any single unit of a coursebook should cover a fair range of language content and skills. Some categories of content are shown in the following box.


- pronunciation practice

- introduction of new vocabularv and practice

- grammar explanations and practice

- recordings for listening practice

- listening and speaking communicative tasks

- reading and writing communicative tasks

- mixed-skills communicative tasks

- short and long reading texts

- dictionary work

- review of previously learnt material

- some entertaining or fun activities

Cambridge Universrry Press 1995


If the texts are too easy, you may need to substitute, or add further texts. If, on the other hand, they are too difficult you may still be able to use them: by careful pre-teaching of Vocabulary, by introductory discussion of the topic, by preliminary explanation of key sections, by careful omission of difficult bits. The texts may be unsatisfactory, even if of the right level, because they are boring or trivial in content or because all the texts in the book seem to be the same genre, style and overall topic. Interest may be added by challenging or original tasks; but the problem of sameness of genre can only be solved by providing supplementary texts.

Tasks (activities, exercises)

Some coursebook exercises are more like tests: brief checks to see whether the learner knows something or not, rather than frameworks for extended and interesting rehearsals of different aspects of language.

If the tasks are too short and do not provide for very much learner activity they can be extended by, for example, adding further similar items, or by making items open-ended instead of closed-ended so that each can trigger a number of learner responses; or by simply supplementing with further activities of your own. You may need to supplement also in order to provide more heterogeneous or interesting tasks for your class; or in order to provide material which is more relevant to their individual or group needs.


Question : With regard to a specific component of the coursebook: would this be most effectively administered through teacher-led question-and-answer? Or perhaps learners should tackle it individually, through reading and writing? Or might it be most effective if they work on it collaboratively, in pairs or groups? Or use a combination of these strategies? Does the coursebook provide you with guidance on these questions?

When preparing to teach coursebook material, it is worth devoting a little thought as to how best to activate learners in a particular task in order to get optimum learning benefit out of it and make it interesting; and this is a point on which many coursebooks fail to provide guidance.

Last modified: Friday, 30 April 2010, 8:47 PM