To use or not to use course books




image taken from here

Everyday we come across with a tweet on whether coursebooks are evil or not. We even eltchatted about it.

As an EFl teacher, I love ‘EFL course books’ and most of my colleagues who are not teaching English are jealous of us beacuse our course books are full of ideas, resources, extra materials and even tests. They are jealous of us because they can’t even find quality seminars, workshops, conferences for their professional development.

Think about the days when we didn’t have internet, they were great life savers.

Think about the days we didn’t have numerous course books, the well-written ones were like treasure.

If you are an inexperienced teacher, and you don’t have anybody in the staffroom to take advice, if you’re not using social media to build a PLN then the course book will be a great help for you.Not all the coursebooks have tremendous guidance for teachers; however, you will find ways (as Marisa Constantinides suggested) to ‘animate’ your coursebook using many other resources.

After spending 20 and more years teaching English, I want more initiative in my classes. If I have to use a coursebook, sure I’ll use it. However, in my class I can choose to animate it the way I like.

On the other hand, I’d prefer to create my own materials. We, the teachers of 21st century, are lucky now. We have loads of resources and they are even more than we need and sometimes it can be difficult to choose from them.

I remember my English teacher, while using Streamline and Kernel series, she was very happy to have them.

Today, I’m happy to have a PLN, internet, social media, web 2.0 tools and books, albums, CDs, films with subtitles, videos and more.

All of these exist to help me teach better, to help motivate my kids, to find something that appeals to their tastes.

16 comments on “To use or not to use course books
  1. Hi Eva,

    You’re right about the fact that everyday we come across a tweet on it and since the eltchat the discussion seems to have mushroomed again with many of us blogging on the topic. ☺

    You make a valid point re the animation of coursebooks (to use it in the Marisa sense) but I still think that even in these Internet based days, the coursebook can be a lifesaver. Like you, I have been teaching for many, many years so finding appropriate materials or even using no materials at all is a skill we have learned. As I wrote in my own post on the subject, what worries me is that we seems to be sending out message to new teachers that the coursebook is a bad thing to use and I for one, even with all my tech skills , would not really nowhere to start if this was my first year of teaching ☺


  2. Thank you for this view. I actually think it’s fairly representative of many teachers’ views around the world – obviously not the highly trained and experienced digital natives who may be able to prepare their material from original sources, but the average teacher in school classrooms around the world.
    Speaking personally, for the years I’ve been a textbook writer, I thought I’d learnt to ignore the criticsms. But I’m becoming more frustrated by the implications of textbook critics that my professional life is somehow of little value. I would not dream of saying the same about them. So I think you get this right. Thank you.

  3. Hi Eva,

    The topic has been on the spotlight, hasn’t it? And all the posts and comments I’ve been reading point to the same direction you expressed here. I totally agree with you, I also love preparing my own materials and use a mix of coursebook and non-coursebook lessons.

    But I believe some change in coursebooks would be a great thing right now. Because despite how I like to teach and whether or not I like a particular coursebook, many times I have to mostly stick to it – school policy. Parents pay for the CBs, they want it used until the very last page. That limits my ability to choose what/how to teach a bit. I do the best I can, but in the end of the day I have to follow the CB’s agenda. This is one of the reasons I prefer more advanced groups, in which CBs are either not adopted or do it in a much “lighter” way.

    Loved your post. We can tell it comes from the heart – very brightly written. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  5. Hi Eva,

    I would say I agree with your point of view. I think that the ELT context many of us work in is such that not having a coursebook can actually be seen in a very negative perspective.
    I actually think that to abandon a coursebook a teacher really needs experience and a good understanding of the learners in front of him?her. It requires considerable planning and organisation on the part of the teacher.

    Yes, coursebooks can be lifesavers! They can be used as they are or adapted to suit needs.
    I can´t remeber the day in my last 20 years as a teacher in which I haven´t adapted something in a coursebook! But that doesn´t mean to say I don´t want them!

    I think we might all be having this same exchange in 10 years time – I don´t see coursebooks dying out (although I do see threats coming to the publishing industry from digitial publishing), I don´t think coursebook writers should go into hiding or feel bad about writing books & I think there´s enough space for all who want to invent and add other creative elements to lessons & teach unplugged.
    So, great to read your post with a very balanced point of view.

  6. Hi Eva!
    In my opinion, coursebooks are useful but we can’t stick only to them. I use some coursebooks in my classes and I also have my own material. A combination of both is better and gives us more options to work with the students. You are right, some years ago, coursebooks were life savers.
    Mario Lindberg

  7. Hi Eva

    A very interesting post and I believe the comments contain some very important opinions as well.

    I think coursebooks are still a necessary part of teaching and I too, wouldn’t know where to start if I were a novice teacher beginning my career now.

    Yes, they are a life-saver, and yes, it is great if one has the possibility to adapt as necessary. Yes, as a very experienced teacher, I still like to have a base to mould a course with from time to time, as it is indeed time-saving. Most modern coursebooks nowadays are action-packed with lots of lovely, creative resources, visuals and multi-skills type activities.

    However, whenever possible, I also agree that having the opportunity to being able to teach using one’s own specially selected and created materials is great. If you can combine the two, then that makes for a pretty dynamic and eclectic type of programme.

    I am absolutely certain that highly skilled coursebook writers such as Simon above, will continue to be in demand for many years to come!

  8. Hi Eva,

    You are right.
    As I see it TEFL is somewhat like playing jazz music.
    –Of course it is the students that you teach,not the coursebook, and DOGME is a great thing. BUT I must admit that I’ve learnt so much from coursebooks, I’ve always tried to use newer and newer ones. I have so many tools in my toolbox to present certain lg items and so many of these techniques come from coursebooks.–
    Back to playing jazz, you can improvize really well if you have already played thousands of tunes composed by other people, the same may apply to teaching a language.
    Coursebooks are great training to become an unplugged teacher, or?

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  10. Thanks for the comments and discussions.
    I agree that teaching is kind of jazz and I agree that without the guidance of very well-written coursebooks it would be hard for the teacher to improvise and for us, the non native ones, at the very beginning of our careers it would be difficult to find our ways.

  11. Hi Eva,
    I used to use books with my adult learner evening classes at all levels, but they rarely worked in company courses and never at college. The “problem” in teaching adults and college students using a book is that they have a lot of previous knowledge to build on, and if a coursebook doesn’t give them enough space to expand and build on that, it won’t keep their interest. On the other hand, if it doesn’t contain enough substance of the exact kind they need and can use in the time the course affords them, it’s just not going to be worth the expense. I have often felt that none of the coursebooks contained the skills training I felt they really needed and should be getting. If I get into writing a coursebook, therefore, that’s really where my focus would lie.
    Have a good day!

  12. I’m not only interested in what people have to say in this blog, Eva, I’m actually quite touched. I really couldn’t have used better analogies for the textbook or for a sympathetic understanding of the work I do. It probably doesn’t even need to be said that no one should expect a textbook to be the source of material or methodology available to a teacher, and that creative teaching and teacher training are essential too. But good textbooks have a responsibility to promote both of these as well. It’s a very organic relationship.
    Thank you again.


  13. Thanks for a great post Eva, written from a teacher-in-the-classroom perspective. I have little choice about using coursebooks in my school – they are chosen and then the syllabus is based around them. Some have proved better than others but you just have to work with what you are given. I enjoy getting inside a coursebook, creating my own path through its contents, animating it, adapting it, (ignoring parts of it), and getting the most out of it.

    One thing I also like to do is to offer the students some choice. Quite often, I will outline the upcoming coursebook activities at the start of the lesson and let the class vote on what they want to do first. They love being invovled in this way and it makes them think about/reflect on what they enjoy doing more and why.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  14. I love any post that mentions Streamlines! That was my first contact with an ESL/EFL method and I thought it was very well-structured and most suitable for beginners false beginners, at least.

    But I’m with you…I tend to prefer creating my own materials and using web-based materials now. However, I teach in multi-level college classes…I think coursebooks can still be very helpful in classes where the groups have roughly the same level. I just never teach any of those!

  15. Hi Eva.

    From my point of view,coursebooks are really helpful for us teachers because they still provide a set of achievement objectives which include what the learners are expected to be able to do.The content can be easily followed by teachers and learners,as well; and there is also a consistency in the four skills.In this way,teachers may feel more confident while delivering their lessons.-

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