martes, 29 de marzo de 2016

Teaching EFL Beyond The Textbook

                                                      By Carmen Hurtado

The need to learn English nowadays
The ability to communicate in English has become necessary nowadays for two main reasons: first, the compelling interaction among people in their different ethos/cultures; and second, the impact of IT and global communications. This has steered students’ attitude towards the completion of a better communicative competence in EFL after graduate school. Consequently, our educational system which strives for a better approach to nurture EFL-school students as well as the teachers who undertake a role as facilitators seems to still require techniques to make students performance in class effective, in order to help them reach this competence. Thus, teaching and transferring EFL beyond textbooks constitutes one of the main abilities to be developed in the educational field and teachers should go for it.

More than learning a system of signs
It is common knowledge that learning a language is not only acquiring a system of signs, but that it also includes a cultural meaning; in other words, a system of interpreting reality. This prompts teachers to be creative and competent in class. Planning is very important in order to attain our goals. No matter the approach or institutional policy normally applied at school from an educational point of view, the curriculum or program could be attuned –should it become necessary.
As a measure of teacher’s creativity, we grasp several and assorted tools (i.e.: textbooks, graded readers, on-line resources, you name it!) to support students tackling of learning in a more stress-free atmosphere, thus feeling driven towards acquiring the language in genuine contexts where motivation is a key factor in the learning process. What's more, instructors support learners broadening their minds to a foreign culture naturally and effortlessly.

Using the book creatively -- one of the premier teaching skills.
Alternatively, one of the foremost things that teachers consider among their teaching resources is the textbook ‘to be used in classes’. Spending hours and striving for ‘the best’ in fact challenges the main duties of the teacher –as the facilitator of the language- the one that should provide learners the right strategies and techniques to be the genuine performers of their acquisition.
Additionally, it is known that in methodology, we study about the best use of the textbook in class; but once in the field, we are tempted to follow not only the book content and sequence, but also the instructions as they are presented in the texts. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten also how important it is to plan ahead and take many aspects into consideration, such as the student’s background and their real interest in learning EFL. At that point it will be the teacher’s methodology that will determine the impact of acceptance among students in getting into the learning environment the teacher creates by being as much ingenious as possible to come up with different activities to engage students into the class.
Impartially, we can say that pupils learn more when they have their say and do: using visuals, timelines, and graphics; read effectively but critically. Our job as teachers is to bring the English textbook to the world of our students. Use the textbook like a ‘magic box’ for games, stories and activities.
Remember, there is no regulation or requisite that establishes you must carry out all your English language teaching from a textbook starting on page one and continuing pay by page until the end. When you adapt and modify textbook activities, stories or exercises to your own classroom, you encourage students to boost the use of English for several different purposes.

Assuring readiness for the next level
So let’s think of what it is like going beyond the textbook and not doing it word by word. Let’s discover how to choose the best pieces and use them creatively to make learning more attractive for our learners. However beware, there’s something important to be careful about: do not forget the textbook lesson completely. That is, we may get so excited about technology and the great amount of good quality materials at our disposal, which we may find and use in class, that we forget leading topics. The appropriate development of the course structure as well as the right adaptation of the free material we may get from the web and other sources should guarantee the success of students to be ready for the next level.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think teachers at school are aware of this? How far have we gone over the years in trying to overcome the temptation of just going to the classroom and start our lesson by saying: ‘Open your books to page…?’

Leave us your comments and let us know you your opinion.

How to teach English by Jeremy Harmer. - 2007
The practice of english Language Teaching. Jeremy Harmer - 2011.
A Course in Language Teaching by Penny Ur - 2011

Carmen Hurtado, graduated in the educational field; she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Science, and has the title of Licenciada en Educación by Universidad Nacional de Educación. She has also finished her master’s studies in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Universidad de Piura, and taken some specializations in the EFL and Spanish fields. She has taught English and Spanish for over 20 years. She currently works teaching fully online courses. A lecturer in the late Annual Congresses at CIDUP, she works as a Pedagogical Specialist, Teacher Trainer and is a member of the Research Area at Universidad del Pacifico Language Center.

6 comentarios:

  1. You hit it, Carmen!!! You’re right, we must care about our students' motivation and instill love learning as well. A teacher here should be a joyful leader: a concertmaster, a sculptor, a plumber carrying a toolbox, a first-aid nurse… with a great soul! Some wear the outfit some don’t. Some think submitting credentials is enough but expertise lingers the most because learners recall then how we did manage a lesson avoiding misbehaviour, which in fact is an issue most young EFL teachers lately find hard to deal with at public and private schools.
    Hope not to upset EFL editorials’ sensitivity with my thoughts here regarding textbooks. I have to admit that some are excellent but most bore students with their contents not even related on our ethos or cultural backgrounds. Since textbooks are marketed along the country, they must comply with content standards and facts from our regions –most are unaffordable, too. What would it be like without EFL textbooks? Will teachers dare to create their own materials? I bet they will. Once I tried and at first, it was not easy. Teaching without a textbook meant extra time for me, especially teaching ESP-subjects kids learnt in their mother tongue formerly; then, upturn and adapt curriculum from other sources, book-specialties, videos, websites, and colleagues. Nevertheless, it was worth the effort and my students were more engaged, understood the topics through PBL and developed a deeper comprehension of the subject matters –Social Studies and Literature.
    Wish you very best this coming month.
    Warm regards to your family and team UP :)

    1. Hi Cecilia!

      Feel free to express your ideas in 'our' journal which has been created to allow all colleagues express their thoughts about educational topics and Exchange views.

      Regarding the question you state: 'what would it be like without EFL textbooks?' I think it would give teachers the opportunity to show their talent and be authentic when teaching. Woudln't it be marvelous? Though for matters of the curricula at schools we need to follow a scope and sequence flexibilty and creativity should be kept in mind.

      Thank you for your warm wishes and for becoming one of our frequent commenters!



  2. Dear Carmen,
    I found your article very interesting and regarding your question I think it is really important to go beyond the book and look for activities that challenge students. They can vary from games even to TED talks or projects. I'm using the book as a reference but my students prepare Public Speaking where they give their viewpoints on different topics, some of the topics are taken from the book (contents) but some of them are about controversial topics of teenagers' interests. I'm also teaching them how to debate and let me tell you that by the end of the year I feel so happy to see my students stating their opinions in an appropriate way.
    I guess that the key to success is to vary the activities, not just use the textbook. We shouldn't be so predictable if we want our students to also surprise us!

    Have a great day!

    Best wishes,

    Romina Palenzona

    1. Hey Romina!
      Thank you for you comments! I absolutely agree with you. The key to success is to vary the activities and to keep in mind that the book is a teaching tool as many other ones. I'm pleased to have motivated you to share views through our blog Romina. Thanks again and keep following us!

      Have a great day, too!


  3. Carmen, I agree with you in what you have expressed about the use of textbooks in class. Additionally, I think that one of the most important things when choosing the appropriate textbook for the students is that they will feel at ease when reading, following, understanding,and doing the contextualized language -practice exercises or other further activities they have to perform to complete the learning process probably on their own at home.
    The textbook should include apart from clear and concise grammar explanations , also group work and communicative activities. I have noticed that students really internalize the target language when the textbook includes cultural material integrated with selected language practice activities to balance the students'interests. Moreover, it is crucial that when selecting a textbook program to examine all the ancillatory materials, namely,Workbooks, CD's, computer software, etc.
    Thank you.


    1. Thanks to YOU Arminda for sharing your thoughts. It is really rewarding having you as one of our followers. You really honor us sharing your expertise with all of us!
      As you named it, the textbook should include communicative activities, ideally. Unfortunately, it is seen that in most of them, if not all, there's still a strong emphasis on grammar and fill in the gap exercises that turn to be the main focus in an English class.

      On the other hand, due to the wrong use of a great variety of authentic material provided in textbooks, which in my opinion is important to develop receptive skills, makes it hard for learners to enjoy their learning experience. I think they should not necessarily be considered as a model for productive skills, but to be used in a more practical way and be adapted according to learner's particular contexts. That's what I mean to bring the texbook to the world of our students.

      Thanks again and stay tuned for our coming posts!