How to Choose Materials and Coursebooks for ESL Lessons

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You have a new ESL class and the school has told you that you can choose your own course book or materials. Sounds good, but now you are faced with the task of evaluating and selecting a book, a program or a syllabus. There are so many options out there, that all these choices can make it challenging to narrow down your selections. Here are some guidelines that will help you choose the right learning aids for your ESL students.

  • Assess your students learning objectives. A book based on living in America wouldn’t be appropriate for Business English students in Europe who don’t plan on relocating to the United States. If it’s a conversation class, the books and materials should focus on building vocabulary and fluency.

  • Evaluate your overall class objectives. If the class is exam-based, such as a TOEFL course (Test of English as a Foreign Language), then test preparation course books will be a priority. Lifestyle-oriented books and materials would be appropriate for students who are learning English as a hobby.

  • Select books and materials developed for specific genres, to teach students who are focused on learning English for a specific purpose (ESP), such a particular field of study or line of work. These often incorporate technical English that is typical of specific genres. Some examples include hotel and catering English books to teach hotel/tourism professionals, engineering English books to teach engineer students and legal English books for law students.

  • Narrow down your choices based on the specific skills and learning levels of your students. As an example, comprehensive course work material for general English would, ideally, offer four different levels that offer a progression over the duration of the course: elementary, pre-Intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate. One such course is the English File series. See the Resources section below for a link.

  • Take into account your own needs and teaching objectives. When evaluating a possible course book, consider whether or not it is loosely-structured enough for you to manipulate for your own purposes. Assess whether there is enough variation of activities and exercises to cover the key aspects of listening, reading and speaking.

  • Photo Credit Author: topfer - Image used courtesy of www.sxc.hu, under the stock.xchng lisence
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