Finding that new coursebook

It’s that time of the year again when publishers are overwhelming us with leaflets promoting their (latest) EFL publications and are inviting us to their book presentations. There is, of course, no such thing as the ideal English coursebook, yet as a teacher you should have some criteria when thinking of changing coursebooks. Mainly, it boils down to taking into account what the curriculum prescribes, what your pupils need and what you want as a teacher.

The curriculum

The curriculum (with all its teaching goals) is, in my opinion, the most important criterion. Does the coursebook provide a fun mixture of varied language activities to help your pupils reach those curriculum objectives? Are you able to find the references to those goals for every activity in the teacher’s manual? Make sure all communicative skills are worked on, with a variety of text types and tasks, integrating grammar and vocabulary. Are the communicative tasks realistic and challenging? Check if the book deals with intercultural differences and if authentic materials are provided to do so.

The pupil

A second criterion is the pupil. Does the language material fit your pupils’ language level? Do the different themes covered meet their real interests? Check if there is lots of variation in the language practice, in the working methods, the assignments, the activities. Is the overall lay-out appealing to them? Find out if you will be able to address mixed-ability, both for the stronger pupils as for those who are not that strong. In this respect, you could also have a look at the online course materials.

The teacher

We should not forget ourselves: the teacher is the third criterion. Is the teacher’s manual user friendly? Are the solutions to all exercises and tasks provided? Do you have access to extra teaching materials? Are the audio- and videofiles good quality (native speakers)? Are the board book, the DVDs and CDs easy to handle? Check if there are testing materials for all phases of teaching: reproduction, transfer and communicative activities? Are there any evaluation rubrics for the latter?

Looking for a new coursebook? Examine it with the criteria above. Pick a unit and try it out with some colleagues. Discuss your experiences afterwards. Hopefully, you can make the right choice then.