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"What Do You Look For In A Coursebook?"
If you want to add your own opinion to this talking point, there is a comment form at the bottom of the page where you can do so.
I'm teaching in a country where English is the first language, but foreigners come to learn English. I have a choice of books and materials (lucky me) as long as I stick to the syllabus.
Course books are expensive, for the most part, so I hope the students will get their money's worth! That means that I will be able to use it during each class session, among other things. I look for a book that has the "basics" of whatever we're trying to learn, so that if I have a bad day, or the students are homesick, have a hangover, or are planning how to meet that cute classmate, and are still interested in learning something, they can return to the textbook for self-study. (I have also chosen texts for less-competent teachers for the same basic reason...the essentials are there, no matter what happens in the classroom.)
I've now been teaching for more than 16 years and I would say I used a course book in a good 12 years of them... There are obviously pros and cons and especially for the lazy teacher, a course book is ideal...but then again, nobody knows your students like you do so supplementing the course book is a must. I love looking at sts' language needs and putting a lesson together from various books...in that way, my lesson is sure to be tailor made to my sts. I normally use a course book as a framework and build around it.
I work at a German Gymnasium (grammar school), where most of my colleagues seem to think the coursebook has been sent by God to save teachers from a fate worse than death. We recently introduced a less old-fashioned course book, but even so I find it a serious constraint to follow the book page for page. So I don't. I make sure all the important structures are covered, and use a mix of the book (with its accompanying listening exercises, some of which are very useful) and other materials. Where to find them? Here and elsewhere on the Web (you can for instance use one of the screenplays available on the internet as a reader and then link it to the video of the film) ; get the pupils to produce grammar dossiers or presentations (they all have laptops, which makes it easier); dig occasionally through the piles of old lessons accumulated over three decades; re-read some of the books on my shelves ...
There are no end of things you can do to supplement a coursebook, which will become more and more difficult to use in a motivating way the older it gets. Having one, however, (as long as it's not too disastrous) can be a godsend when your workload is threatening to cause a nervous breakdown!
I look for two or three new ideas. Very seldom do I find a fantastic coursebook in which I learn a lot of new things, but if I get new ideas I consider it was worth going. I always attend courses, as many as I can.
If grammar is the skeleton then vocabulary is the flesh support this according to the different ways of teaching english and the communicative approach in teaching english as a second language. This is what I look for in a coursebook.