26.10.2009

How to Choose a Course Book Wisely

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How to Choose a Course Book Wisely/ by Deena Reved

Choosing a course book suitable for both you and your students with few if any guidelines is a challenging task. In Israel, teachers of EFL are literally bombarded with high quality publications and materials and it's easy to become overwhelmed.

When we want to consider changing our course book after we've finally learned it inside and out and prepared loads of class work and tasks for it, we want to be sure we are making a wise choice. The best way to deal with course book selection, or with any aspect of teaching, is to use a principled approach rather than relying on intuition or whim.

One such principled approach consisting of four stages of consideration suggested by Harmer (1998:118) is COPA. This stands for: Consultation, gathering of Opinions, Piloting and Analysis.

I have chosen to discuss here the stage of analysis, not only because I believe that this is the best starting point from which to begin the process of book evaluation and assessment, but because the ability to analyze and critique materials is a significant element in our professional profile and standing as teachers.

Course book Evaluation and Assessment: The Stage of analysis

Analysis involves defining a set of criteria of essential features that must be in the course book, along with a set of desirable features, that are nice to have but are not absolutely necessary. Examples of essential features are level and method, whereas desirable features might be layout and design. Once you have determined which features are essential and which are desirable, it is time to select a number of suitable books for evaluation and assessment.

Course Book Evaluation and Assessment

Task # 1

Compile a short list of essential and desirable features.

Questions for Analysis

  • Is the layout and design user-friendly for both teacher & student?
  • Is the material well organized topically and grammatically?
  • Are the topics engaging and interesting?
  • Does the book sufficiently cover all four skills? Is the coverage balanced?
  • Does the material get progressively more difficult and is this progression clear and functional for use in your class?
  • Are the topics cognitively challenging for the age level you will be teaching?
  • Does the book re-enter taught material such as vocabulary, grammar, and skills throughout the book to facilitate real internalization?
  • Is there a practice book? Can it be used for homework, in class only, or both? Do the exercises in the practice book build upon what is covered in the course book or do they just act as fillers to the program?
  • What components are included in the program i.e. are there CDs with games, tests and/or interactive reading passages and questions. Do these cost extra?
  • Will you be using supplementary books along with the course book and how many weekly hours do you have to teach this class?
  • Can the book easily act as a reference for students and not function wholly as a teacher-centered course?
  • Does the book provide opportunities for learner- strategy-instruction which is much needed in Bagrut preparation courses?

Teacher's Guide Analysis

  • A TEACHER'S GUIDE should outline the rationale and methodology of the program. This can help you decide if it is in sync with your own style of methodology or not.
  • A TEACHER'S GUIDE should clearly use step by step induction and modeling of the process taught in the course book to facilitate implementation of the activities.
  • TEACHER'S GUIDES ideally should have additional ideas for extra and/or alternative activities and additional materials for the teacher to complement the program.

And finally…

Checklist:

  • Do I agree with the rationale?
  • Do I like what I see (layout, design)?
  • Do I understand the goals, the process?
  • Can I easily implement the activities and tasks in the classroom?
  • Is there enough scaffolding in the process to achieve the designated goals? For example: contextualized grammar exercises of different levels of difficulty, scaffolded writing tasks, varied text types, scaffolded reading practice (phonics), layout, format, level of interest, reliability.
  • Will my pupils get a sense of enjoyment/achievement/challenge with this course book?
  • Can I easily monitor my pupils' achievements and thus chart the success/failure of the program?
  • Can I see myself getting up in the morning to work with this course book day in and day out?
Task # 2

 

  • Choose a number of course books for the same target audience.
  • Critique these books according to your list of criteria. Score them on a scale from 1-10.
  • Modify your list of criteria as needed.

 

 

Last modified on 03.02.2013