15 more ways to adapt an overloaded textbook

1. Miss out some complications and exceptions
For example, cover exactly the same basic syllabus as in the students’ book but leave out things like explaining the difference between “Can I have some tea?” and “Can I have any tea?” etc.

2. Set a fixed time for each unit
And then move onto the next unit whether you have finished the previous one or not. As this is an easy system to explain and the students will still have the satisfaction of moving steadily through the book and getting to the end, this is often a popular method with the class.

3. Set a fixed time limit for each exercise
For example, “Answer as many questions as you can in 4 minutes, then we will check our answers”. Working in teams and giving points can add to the motivation to work quickly.

4. Replace it with something shorter
For example, find an internet article about the same thing as the text in the textbook and use that instead. Students can then read the textbook one as an optional homework if they are very interested in the topic or want extra language practice. You could also rewrite the textbook reading or grammar exercise to make it shorter and/ or easier.

5. Always leave the same kind of exercise out/ for homework
For example, don’t do warmers but always do a practice game near the beginning, or don’t do the second group of detailed comprehension questions.

6. Leave out a whole kind of language
For example, give up on phrasal verbs or ignore all the British and American English sections.

7. Concentrate on the speedy methods
For example, do lots of skimming and scanning activities and fewer detailed comprehension ones.

8. Use the answer key
For example, ask them to check their homework answers themselves and only ask if they have questions such as “Is this also possible?” or “Why is this wrong?” in the next class, or let quick students check with the answer key after finishing a textbook exercise in class and then ask you any questions they have before quickly going through the answers with everyone.

9. Set preparation work for homework
For example, writing 5 questions you would like answered by the reading, doing a Test Yourself section before the classroom grammar presentation, or brainstorming vocabulary about the topic area of the next unit (maybe with a dictionary).

10. Leave all revision for homework
For example, the exercise in the revision sections after every three or four units in the students’ book can be set over the next three or four weeks concurrently with practice of the new language points, or progress tests can be cut up and given a bit at a time as additional (possibly optional) homework.

11. Set up a special purposes class
For example, set up a weekly conversation class, or offer an optional class (with an additional fee?) for writing and leave all the textbook writing skills exercises for just the students who take that class. Please be aware of the danger of students thinking that they aren’t getting full value from their original classes if they need to spend more time or money to get rounded skills.

12. Prioritize skills
For example, one class might be uninterested in reading (this is common!) or already be good enough at that skill.

13. Skip the comprehension of language source texts
If most units of the textbook start with a reading or listening text that is mainly there to extract language from, you can use it for that purpose without having to go through the time consuming process of trying to treat it as reading or listening for its own sake. This is particularly true if the text is unrealistic (perhaps because the writers have stuck in an unrealistic large number of examples of the grammatical form that it is supposed to lead to) or uninteresting, or if the tasks that accompany it do not actually help develop reading and listening skills. If the students don’t mind skipping a whole page, you could just leave the text out. Alternatively, you could introduce the language another way and then read or listen just to pick up how many examples of that structure are in the text. Students can then go through the text one more time at home if they are particularly interested in it or want additional practice of the structure.

14. Have a syllabus for the whole term/ year
Just having a syllabus can be a great way of justifying skipping and rushing parts of the book. Ways of organising it include putting parts of the book into each day’s slot or writing the priorities for each week/ month/ term.

15. Revise all the way through and leave out the revision sections
For example, start a lesson on Past Continuous by revising Present Continuous with mimes or Past Simple with a storytelling activity, hopefully leading naturally onto a need to use the Past Continuous. If any students have problems remembering what should be revision, they can be set the revision activities or parts of the progress test for homework

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net September 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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