Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Is a Course Book Really All You Need?

Adapting Course Book Materials in ELT

Commercially available course books: Most ESL and EFL programs use a commercially available course book. This however, is truly not the “end-all” solution for providing effective EFL learning materials. Since the vast majority of course books, of marketing necessity, need to be general enough to be useful across large regions of the world, there is a need to adapt specific content for our particular groups of learners. Learner first languages vary, cultures vary, idioms and expressions vary, grammatical elements and connected speech aspects vary. There certainly is no “one size fits all” course book.

A Valuable Didactic Base

While most well-produced course books do in fact provide a needed essential didactic base for ongoing instruction in EFL (or foreign language learning), the English language teacher would do well to have an arsenal of activities and adapted EFL materials in their repertoire. A virtual myriad of possibilities exist, but I have found a number of the following exercise and activity types to be consistently useful.

English as a Foreign Language Didactic Exercise Types

These can be readily adapted from course books to provide for the specific needs of your EFL or other foreign language learners.

COGNITIVE PAIRS – more commonly known as matching when two or more columns are related by the learner

CLOZE EXERCISE – fill in the blanks with missing words in numerically even blanks set into the text

FILL in the BLANKS – fill in the missing words selected for a particular grammatical aspect or part of speech

WORD or LETTER UNSCRAMBLE – re-order letters to form a word or re-order words to form a sentence or other grammatical element

RE-ORDERING a SEQUENCE – re-order words or phrases to form meaningful language elements

TRUE or FALSE – decide if a phrase or sentence is correct

GIVE a DESCRIPTION – verbally detail an object, scene or reference

EXPOSITORY WRITING – express an opinion, tell an anecdote or story, present or respond to an argument

COMPLETE the PHRASE or SENTENCE –complete a missing segment of a phrase or sentence

PROBLEM-SOLVING – express a solution to a problem or scenario

ERROR CORRECTION – find mistakes in a phrase, sentence or paragraph, then write, select or provide the proper form or information

COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS – answer posed questions in a way which demonstrates knowledge of a theme or topic in a reading selection

WRITE the QUESTION – a “right-brained” activity designed to exploit mechanisms of abstract thinking

COMPLETE a CHART or GRAPH – change textual information into a graphic form without altering the original meaning

MAKE a COMPARISON - demonstrate differences between two or more items, situations, etc.

SELECT an ITEM FROM a GROUP – choose which word or phrase is alien to a group of words or phrases and explain your choice in rational or abstract terms

RE-WRITE or RE-STATE – paraphrase a phrase, expression or statement using an alternative lexical set

GIVE an OPINION – argue for or against a presented position or statement supplying necessary proofs, evidences and justifications to support your position

DRAMATIZATION – enact a situation or scenario in a way which demonstrates the ability to manipulate language and / or grammatical structures

COMBINE EXERCISE TYPES – two or more of the previous activity / exercise types can be combined for increased complexity, realism or language skill level demonstration

Elements EFL Activity Types

In the next part of this article post series we’ll go into further detail on the elements of these exercise and activity types. How they each function and with which types of language learners specifically, will be considered as well as incorporating adapted course book material into a course book lesson plan to enrich the learning experience.

See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Can You REALLY Learn a Foreign Language While You Sleep?" by requesting the title at:

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