How can I use my textbook?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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How can I use my textbook?

Unread postby kitkat216 » 11 Nov 2006, 23:37

Dear Lucy,

I am a new ESL teacher for French high school-age students (3-6 years of English). I am finding that the textbooks that the school currently uses are really really bad. Most of it is in French, which I don't understand, including the grammar sections. The books are written by French people and no native English speakers contributed from what I can tell. I don't really know what to do, partly because of my own inexperience, and because there isn't really a method to the book. I was wondering if you could suggest a way to cope with this horrible book (they are published by Nathan if that means anything to you) or if you could recommend a good textbook for French teenagers (2, 1er and Terminale). I am finding that many people here complain that they can't learn a foreign language, but with the textbooks that they are using I can understand why.


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How can I work with the textbook?

Unread postby Lucy » 14 Nov 2006, 18:04

Dear Kate,

I know how difficult it can be to teach with a course book that you don’t like. However, I’m not sure whether the school will allow you to change it if the students have already been provided with their copy of the book. Check this with the school but I’m afraid you might have to stick with it.

I’m not sure which textbook you are talking about but here are some ideas to help you use it (based on what I think is lacking in many teenage textbooks).

It’s important to use some sort of warmer activity at the beginning of classes. These are short activities (about 5 minutes) to get students speaking very quickly; try to make them fun and relevant to what you are about to teach. Teenagers get quite excited if you introduce an element of competition. You can use vocabulary quizzes, word bingo, hangman with words that are going to be encountered in the lesson. You can see my answer on 11 July 2004 for other ideas for warmers.

Students aged about 16 – 18 have usually studied many of the language constructions: e.g. tenses, set phrases. The problem is that they might know the language in theory but often have difficulty putting it into practice. This is where you play an important role: give the students plenty of opportunity to speak using the language they are studying. Briefly revise the language item and then use situations to practise the language. For this you can use books designed to give speaking practice.

For your problem of grammar explanations in French, you could use a good grammar book in English. Michael Swan has written some excellent ones aimed at teachers. Raymond Murphy has produced an excellent series for students. You might be able to convince the school to allow you to use these (and possibly buy them for you) as you don’t understand the French in the textbooks.

I also suggest you look at the following answers I have given in this forum:

Why do my students always speak Spanish? 12 March 2004

Using the vocabulary boxes in the course book December 13 2004

Vocabulary bag: 26 September 2004

Good luck,


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