When teachers begin working for a new school or take over a new class, two things can happen. They are given a book (which they may or may not be familiar with) and be told they have to work through it, or they are told to create their own curriculum. If they are told to create their own curriculum, the first thing teachers try to organize is their resources, in particular, course books. If they are handed a course book, and told to work through it, it may not be appropriate for the types of lessons the teacher prepares. Below we look at some of the most popular course books and discuss their positives and negatives.
Let’s Go Series. – Oxford University Press
Recently put into print in its fourth edition, this series of books is aimed at younger learners and working through the basics of English language. They use big, clear, colourful pictures to help engage younger students, as well as songs and chants. They also use the backdrop of familiar settings to help reinforce familiarity with the content of the lesson. As with any simple classroom resource, the students can grow weary of the approach, especially in classes of students with slightly different skill levels. You will have to supplement this book with other games and activities.
Face 2 Face – Cambridge University Press
Unlike the above mentioned series, this text book series is focused on slightly older students. It deals with everyday English language with the goal of preparing students for life in an English language environment. This book focuses on grammar and vocabulary equally, and provides a variety of different tasks to cater to different learner styles and personalities. Unfortunately, it still follows the communicative approach, which has since become outdated. Contemporary teachers use an eclectic method which means that while tis text book is useful, it should not be seen as the be-all-and-end-all.
New Cutting Edge – Longman Publishing
The New Cutting Edge series of books takes the most modern approach to the idea of a course book. The Cutting Edge Series is more of a component in a larger ‘blended learning’ set of resources which also include DVD ROMs, online progress testing, and homework as part of the curriculum.This book series is great to use across a whole school. When everyone is following this curriculum, it can provide excellent insights into your students’ progress and provide clear benchmarks for students to meet before they move up a level. The greatest strength of this resource is also its greatest weakness. The book is not particularly effective for small classes, and classes where students come and go. Its solid structure makes it difficult to adapt for single classes.
New English File – Oxford University Press
These books are aimed more at adult learners as they feature serious, ‘real-world’ themes and authentic materials. As with the above mentioned books, it provides students with a clear structure for working through language. They feature grammar, vocabulary, and language-in-use sections which give students a clear learning objective for each unit of the book. Unfortunately, these books can be too heavy with serious content for many younger learners. In an EFL setting, these are best used in university classes or private tutoring of adults.
Connect – Cambridge University Press
The Connect series is aimed at young learners, but not necessarily children. It is a useful book to use in EFL settings because it takes real-world English use and keeps it interesting. It features all of the key elements of grammar and vocabulary and packages them together with bright interesting pictures. This book is well rounded and features a lot of language that students need to learn. It follows current teaching styles and has enough material to keep students working every day. Once again, because this book covers so much material, in such a structured and comprehensive way, it may take longer to get through than your school allows. It can also lead to students falling behind if they miss only a couple of lessons.
English Grammar in Use – Cambridge University Press
This is specifically a grammar textbook, but it is arguably the most well-known and widely used grammar textbook in the industry. It takes a step by step approach to practical English, breaking down structures into easy to follow metalanguage and examples. Teachers often use this book to supplement other classes and add an element of grammar. It is a great way to give students a task related to a specific grammar point. It shouldn’t be used alone, as students need more practice than this book alone can provide, traditional textbooks have more varied activities.
Ship or Sheep? – Cambridge University Press
Another book from Cambridge, this book is the go to book for pronunciation activities. While quite specific in its subject matter, it has been a trusted text in many teachers’ classrooms for years. Almost every EFL staffroom has a copy floating around. Pronunciation is a skill that can improved at any level, which means this textbook will provide activities and lessons for a very wide range of classes. Being a Cambridge book, the pronunciation being practiced is British. This is not necessarily a negative and the principles translate to your native accent once you have learned the phonemic chart.
This list barely scratches the surface of English language textbooks that are out there on the market. Do you have any books that you find particularly useful? Let us know and we’ll review them next time.