One topic I've seen discussed a lot recently is the role of a coursebook in language learning. I have several colleagues who are extremely critical of coursebooks and proudly proclaim "I don't use books!" In my own teaching, I use coursebooks, but will alter the content from time to time and add other material when I think it's necessary.
Lindsay Clandfield created a summary of the pros and cons of using coursebooks over on Scott Thornbury's A to Z of ELT blog in May 2010.
For those who would like some practical teaching ideas for using a coursebook, Marisa Constantinides has a wonderful powerpoint titled Animating Your Coursebook. Also, Ken Wilson has more inventive ideas in his webinar, In The End, It's Only A Book.
Now I'd like to share with you a few ideas from my own classroom. I've used these four activities in my freshman and sophomore university classes in Taiwan. I hope you find them useful.
1. Dialogue Reading Competition
Before class, prepare a handout with 4 two-line excerpts from dialogues your students have studied before. Make enough copies for half the class. Move three chairs to one side of the front of your classroom.
In class, announce that you're going to have a competition. Choose 3 students to act as judges. They should sit in the three chairs. Tell the other students that they will be reading a short dialogue in pairs for the judges who will decide which pair did the best job. Before passing out the handouts, remind the whole class about areas in which they can improve their performance, such as pronunciation, intonation, speed, volume and body language. Put students into pairs and give each pair a handout. Give them about 10 minutes to practice the first excerpt. Ask for two volunteers to perform the two-line dialogue for the judges. Let the judges make a quick decision, and then tell the class, giving reasons for their decision. Repeat this process once with other pairs. After the second round, ask the judges to find 3 other students to take their places. Get everyone to change partners. Repeat the same process with the two other dialogues.
2. Quizzing Teams
Before class, take a long dialogue that students haven't practiced before and make a copy of the tapescript. Divide it into two sections, and put each section on a separate handout. Make a few copies of each section.
In class, tell students that they will be working in two teams. Their task is to quiz the other team about half of a dialogue that they will only hear twice.
Divide the class into two groups. Explain that each group will get a handout containing half of a dialogue. (The groups will each get a different section.) Each group will read over the dialogue and think of 6 questions about it for the other group to answer. Their questions should include one "dummy" question, a question whose answer is not contained in the dialogue. After 15 minutes, each group will put their questions on the board. Then you will play the dialogue twice. Each group must listen carefully for the answers to the other team's questions. Then the teams will have a few minutes to write answers to the other team's questions on the board. In addition, teams should mark the "dummy" questions with a big X. The final stage is to let the groups grade each other's answers. You can give a prize to the winning team.
3. Extending a Dialogue
Before class, select a dialogue from your coursebook that your class has covered in the past few days. Think of four situations involving one or two of the characters in the dialogue. This might include a dialogue that occurred in the past, in the future, or a dialogue between one of the characters and a family member/friend/stranger. (You can even include the name of someone in your school or class!) Put a clear explanation of the situation on top of a sheet of paper, assigning one role as A and the other as B. Write A and B four times vertically on the left side of the page, representing 8 lines of dialogue between A and B. Prepare a copy of each situation handout.
In class, put students into four groups. Remind them of the dialogue they covered before by briefly reading it out or playing the audio. Tell the groups that they will be writing a dialogue about the characters in the dialogue. Encourage them to make it funny or crazy if they wish. Give each group a handout and ask them to work together to create the first two lines of dialogue. Then ask each group to pass their handout to another group, who will complete the next two lines. Continue until the dialogues are complete. Finally, ask each group to practice the dialogue for a few minutes. Pick a pair from each group to perform their dialogue for the class.
4. Secret Life
Before class, copy the faces of four characters from previous units in your coursebook. Put each face on a separate sheet of paper and add a title such as "The Secret Life of Jim". Add four sentences starters to each page (some examples - One thing Jim's friends don't know about him is . . . or Jim will never forget the day he . . . or Jim hopes that some day he can...) Print these out on large sheets of paper. You should have one handout for each character.
In class, hold up your coursebook and say the names of the characters. Ask students what they remember about them. Tell the class that you're going to give them an opportunity to think more about these people. Put students into four groups, and give each group a handout. The groups will now work together to complete the sentences. Encourage them to be as creative as possible. When they're finished, ask the groups to put their handouts on the board for the entire class to read.
(For more practical teaching ideas, seek out a copy of my latest book, Provoking Thought.)
What about you? If you're working with a coursebook, what are some interesting games and activities you've developed to give students more practice? Post them here for everyone to read.