Humanising Your Coursebook

Title: Humanising Your Coursebook
Author: Mario Rinvolucri
Publisher: English Teaching Professional/DELTA Publishing
Consists of: Teacher Resource Book
Summary: "something completely different"
Reviewed by: Alex Case
Review date: June 2002

Humanising Your CoursebookThis book aims to help you "extend, enliven and enrich your coursebook" by offering 95 activities organised into "Ice Breakers and Warm Up Activities", "Grammar", "Vocabulary", "Reading", "Writing", "Listening", "Speaking" and "Looking Backwards and Forwards (in the book)". It's especially designed for people who are repeating the same textbook, and need to vary it a bit for their own sanity. What makes it different from other supplementary teaching books is where its ideas come from—they are all influenced by a "humanistic" approach to English teaching. This basically boils down to treating your students as individuals rather than "the class". This aim is difficult to argue with, of course, but the origins of the approach can make some people wary of a "touchy feely" approach, sometimes claiming a "humanistic class" can be more like a therapy session than a traditional language class. The author, Mario Rinvolucri, has long been one of the most famous exponents of this approach, and some of his ideas (such as drawing around your partner's foot, in this book) are somewhat responsible for the idea people have of "humanistic" teaching. However, the way he has linked his humanistic principles into areas as diverse as letter writing and dictation over the years has provided other people with a perfect opportunity to explore this area more fully. In this book, he has also used ideas from the more recent (and scientific sounding) areas of Multiple Intelligences (the idea that people think best in entirely different ways to each other, and a way of classifying people into intelligence types) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (a way of helping yourself change the way you think, recently very popular).

For me the best thing about the book was how quick and easy it was to use. If you are sitting there 10 minutes before a lesson with a full lesson plan but a sinking feeling about doing the same old thing, you can (as the book suggests) simply reach for your copy and find an idea for your class. As most activities require little preparation, you could well be able to try that new thing out in that class at 9 o’clock. Ideas I used in exactly this way included "Filling a foot" (the idea I mentioned above, but I got them to draw around their own hands instead) and "Who are you?" from the icebreakers section. The other sections such as "Grammar" were just as quick to refer to, but I found it more useful to look at them when I already had a lesson plan but needed a little "spice", than when I was looking for something to base a lesson round. This was partly because I wasn't brave enough to try some of the activities (e.g. the meditation-like "Breathing Sentences Out") and partly because there was obviously only room in the book for one activity for each language point, some of which weren't entirely new (e.g. Dictogloss).

If you use activities from this book, you are almost certain to add something different to your classes. I'm not really a "touchy-feely" kind of person, so I wanted to try some of these as a personal challenge and to expand my range, and because after 7 years of teaching I could certainly do with a change! This book has helped me to experiment a bit more over the last couple of weeks, and if you or your students need exactly that I'd recommend this book for you.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesAlex Case has worked as an EFL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Director of Studies and EFL Editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, the UK and Japan. Alex Case is Reviews Editor of TEFL.net.