Evaluating and adapting textbooks

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Teaching Objectives:
1.       Why & what do teachers evaluate and adapt?
2.       How do teachers evaluate textbooks?
3.       How do teachers select textbooks?
4.       How do teachers adapt textbooks?

I. Why & what do teachers evaluate and adapt?

With the rapid ELT development in Chile, more and more textbooks have made their way to the market.Choosing the right textbook is becoming more and more important at all levels of ELT in schools. With the effort from textbook writers, ELT researchers and classroom teachers, textbook evaluation and selection have evolved from ad hoc to systematic action. Although most classroom teachers will not be involved in the production of textbooks, all teachers have the responsibility for textbookevaluation, selection and adaptation. In this unit, we will introduce some principles of textbook evaluation, selection, and adaptation.

So far we have been using the term “textbook”. However, the focus of this unit is far more than just textbooks. Nowadays, textbooks in traditional pedagogy have evolved into a great variety of resources used in language classroom such as audio cassettes, videos,CD-ROMs, dictionaries, grammar book, readers, workbook, teacher’s books, photocopied materials, flashcards, and other authentic materials, such as newspapers, photographs, advertisements, radio/TV programmes, etc. In many cases the term “materials” is used in place of “textbooks”, which refers to anything that is used by teachers or students to facilitate the learning of a language. The term “textbooks”is still widely used, but its reference has expanded from books to all the materials used around or independent of the books.

Task 1

Think about your English learning experience and make a list of the materials you used. Try to be as specific as possible. Then based on the list, answer the following questions: Did you particularly like or dislike any of them? Why? Were the materials on yourlist widely used? Are they still used now? When you are ready, go into groups and share your lists.
 II.  Evaluating textbooks

On a day to day basis, we often hear teachers say “Oh, this is a good textbook” or “Well, I don’t think my students will like this book”. These comments are usually based on ad hoc evaluation, that is, impressionistic evaluation based on intuitions, experience ofclassroom use or ‘just first impression”. Contrary to ad hoc evaluation, systematic evaluation of textbooks is based on specification of objectives, principles and procedures. An ideal systematic textbook evaluation would be a longitudinal one, which includes pre-use evaluation, whilst-use evaluation and post-use evaluation.

The core of systematic textbook evaluation is to examine how well a giventextbook matches the needs of a language programme and how effectively and efficiently it can realise the objectives of the programme. Therefore needs analysis has to be done prior to textbook evaluation. Due to space limitation, in this unit, we will focus on generai features of “good” textbooks and how to evaluate textbooks based on these features.

Features of good textbooks

Based onTomlinson’s (1998) conception of what constitutes effective language teaching materials, we believe good textbooks should have the following features.

❖ Good textbooks should attract the students’ curiosity, interest and attention. In order to do this, textbooks should have novelty, variety, attractive layout, appealing content, etc. Of course they should also make sure that learning reallytakes place when the students use the textbooks. It is not necessarily enough that students enjoy the textbooks.
❖ Textbooks should help students to feel at ease. The layout of presentation, tasks and activities, and texts and illustrations should all look friendly to the students so that they feel relaxed when seeing them.
❖ Textbooks should help students to develop confidence....
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