Reasons I don't like coursebooks (1)

  • crowded pages.


2nd reason

19 Responses to “Reasons I don't like coursebooks (1)”

  • Anonymous says:
    September 29, 2009

    Tell me about it. My school adopted a book, which I did warn them that it would not fit in our time schedule unless more time were given. Now we have to rush rush rush. It sucks! I don't have any time to work on emergent language that brings up with the topics given... or work at the pace of the students. :(

  • Jeremy Day says:
    September 29, 2009

    Karenne, how can you say that? Coursebooks are fantastic - they take away 90% of the stress of lesson planning.

    I can do dogme when my students are in the mood, but when they have nothing to say, the coursebook is always there to get me through the slowest hour of my life ...

    As for them being too crowded, I say bring on Where's Wally-style coursebooks - a year's teaching squeezed into a pamphlet.

    If you want more white space on your pages, get some printer paper.


  • Johanna Stirling says:
    September 29, 2009

    Generally I'm not anti-coursebook - I can see lots of situations where they are useful. But I have to agree with you on this one - plenty of room for pretty pictures but not enough for learners to write. One of the things on my coursebook wish-list is space not only for learners to do the tasks but also to make notes so they can keep a record of the language learnt within the lesson and notes on their own understanding or opinions. Also white space makes me feel less hassled.


  • Vicki says:
    September 30, 2009

    Yeah! Specially with adult learners who have stacks to contribute.

    I'm always drawn to one column books with lots of white space to scribble notes. It's not easy to justify though because of the cost of paper. I think paper used to be about a third of the cost of publishing a book. Does anyone know if that's still true?

  • Jeremy Day says:
    September 30, 2009

    OK, so perhaps I was being a bit extreme - I was in a Devil's Advocate mood last night!
    Coursebooks where there's no space to write also drive me crazy ... or when they have white text on a black background!
    And big pictures that fill half a page are never justified. I remember when I used to use Headway all the time and the pictures seemed to get bigger and bigger for lower levels ...
    But the coursebooks I use these days seem to get the balance right ...

  • rliberni says:
    September 30, 2009

    Coursebooks used to be an aide to teachers but somehow they seem to have taken over the job. I agree with Karenne too crowded, too many parts and too suffocating. They are useful for students to revise and do homwework and perhaps as a prop but I have rarely found one that didn't get dull after the 3rd unit. They also seem to change every year!

  • Unknown says:
    September 30, 2009

    I hate:
    1. The way they are written for everyone and therefore for no-one.
    2. The way that they often force students to talk/think/write about subjects and issues in which they have absolutely no interest.
    3. The way they are so often so adolescent-oriented. The content is sometimes so puerile that it is embarrassing if you are teaching adults.
    4. The way they so often still have the tense system at their core and are grammar-driven (because that is what so many teachers demand).
    5. (The result of '4'.) The way they include so little task-based work.
    6. The way they systematically avoid anything controversial subjects so that they will be non-controversial and therefore profitable in, say, Muslim cultures. (A good example of how business interests distort the content of education.)
    Do I use them? Of course I do. Couldn't survive without them. But if somebody can 'paint'* me a different educational world in which to work, I'll gladly step into it and leave my textbooks behind.

  • Ken Wilson says:
    September 30, 2009

    As a coursebook writer, I should be right in there singing their praises, right? Well, up to a point, Lord Copper*.

    Earlier this year, I got my first chance to see a e-board version of a major coursebook (not saying which) brilliantly presented by the publishing team.

    E-board version seems to be the best of both worlds. Books closed, no fidgeting and flicking, the relevant page - even the relevant LINE - highlighted on the screen behind you, heads-up teaching, everyone focussed, then use the book when it's time for students to do some individual work.

    I was in heaven! And then down to earth with a bump. The cost ... £250if it was to be used on just one computer, a massive £600 if the school wanted to put it on more than one computer.

    SIX HUNDRED SMACKERS! But these things always get cheaper - I remember buying an Apple Mac in 1995 - cost me nearly £2,000 - and more for some software to make it go!

    * Can anyone identify the source and meaning of 'Up to a point, Lord Copper'?

    September 30, 2009

    Now Glennie, you've gone and written the whole series... I'm going to have fun with this ball and keep running with it... I'll be sure to refer back to your comments each posting ;-)

    Jeremy, yeah. White paper - am with Vicki, give me/my students space. It's not a brochure, it's a textbook.

    Space to breathe and write notes and doodle and think about what the important words were. Yes, there are a handful of books that do this but gone are the days of BusOps eh?

    Exactly, exactly, Johannna - an area of space to keep journal type notes - to process.

    And Rose (anonymous) - my god, the last book I looked at was aiming for about 400 hours... I hate rushing as well. I don't, actually.

    We go through the index (when I have to use a book) and decide together on what units. But, pah, I don't like the wastage.

    I don't like the students feeling the pressure and I don't like not having the freedom to personalize.

    September 30, 2009

    Ken. I don't want to know... who the publisher is.. is this what Scott Thornbury has been harping on about when he dismissing IWBs?

    Me, the techie, somehow really gets the heepygeebies when you talk about a book beamed on to the wall.

    Not that I mind materials being developed for the wall - Intelligent Business Skills Book have a really nice DVD thing with video that my students like but not so much the exercises.

    Lord, I'm somewhat reminded of that video of Hilary Clinton that Obama (or his team used in the election)... do you know the one I mean? yay, gods.

  • Natasa says:
    October 01, 2009

    Don’t you think that, now that we are blogging about this, we, the teachers, can do something to change the way textbooks look? If your answer is yes, what sort of book are we talking about? I would like to have the book on the wall (we wants it, my precious), but I can’t afford it right now. So, what do we want exactly?

  • Anne Hodgson says:
    October 04, 2009

    I see one advantage over doing everything yourself.
    Not doing everything yourself.

  • Unknown says:
    October 04, 2009

    In response to Natassa...

    Ideally we would like a world in which we could use free on-line reading, listening and grammatical resources to support English classes whose content was not determined by what two or three people plus an editor have decided that tens of thousands of people will want to talk about. (Why is there ALWAYS a unit on food?)

    We would also like to be in a situation in which our workload would allow us to respond to the needs of our students once liberated from coursebooks.

    And we definitely do not want to have to do it all, Anne. We just need the time to find the resources that our out there and to discover how our students are actually walking resources a lot of the time.

  • Unknown says:
    October 04, 2009

    Apologies for spelling mistakes.

    My ambition is to go to 'Preview', correct mistakes, and then hang the corrected comment.

    But I just can never hit the right buttons!

    Where is the button you hit AFTER correcting?

  • Unknown says:
    October 04, 2009

    I don't want to give the impression that a teacher should never go into a classroom with a topic 'under his/her arm'. It's just that textbooks don't let us get close enough.

    For example, I think it would be perfectly acceptable to introduce the theme of 'students' respect/disrespect for teachers' in a class of Spanish adolescents. It's a theme that has been around a lot recently in Spain and is 'hot'. So it is highly unlikely that the teacher would not get a response to work with.

    A textbook can't get that close. It can't even begin to.

    October 04, 2009

    I agree Glennie - it's madness to even attempt it and I'm not sure why they do - it only leads to the crowded pages I was referring to.

    Why not simply leave some space so that the students can adapt and develop the themes, personalize them.

    I understand what you mean Anne, on one hand, but eventually, even with children we stop spoon-feeding ;-)


  • Dan O'Donnell says:
    October 08, 2009

    Hello, and thanks for all your comments. In the school I work in, (and where I do teacher training) we always give the student(s) a coursebook. This doesn't mean that we want the teachers to use it dumbly, going from page one to two to three, etc., but it does give a framework to the overall cycle of lessons. Of course these are supplemented with students' own work, supplementary material, etc, but honestly, what the authors who spend a year or more writing a coursebook come up with is often a bit better thought out than what a teacher will come up with in 20 minutes of prep time.

    October 08, 2009

    Hmmm...Dan, there is that. Good point. ;-)

  • Victor Hugo Rojas B. says:
    October 08, 2009

    Definitely, teachers should never go into a classroom without preparing their lessons; further, taking into account whether the coursebook is culturally acceptable, reflects students' needs and interests, the level of difficulty, the right length (crowded of information), is relevant to real life, and other required criteria when choosing a textbook. Unexpected experiences happen every lessons, I’d like to share one of them, I’m teaching an elementary EFL course for adult, all of the students are teachers in a capital city, and they were suppose to have a wide background because of their teacher education preparation; one of the topics was “At the airport” about check in, Nº of flight, boarding pass, etc; surprisedly, they had never traveled by plane. Likewise, next topic “A Pacific cruise”…So, we are using very crowded coursebook full of pictures, information, activities, etc. but many of them are disconnected to students’ real world. I think, personalizing themes usually works, in case of students’ lacks of specific information, filling the gaps simulating communication in particular context. Finally, I ask myself what my ideal coursebook would be like.


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