In the first of a two-part series, Julietta Schoenmann, a teacher and teacher trainer, presents the benefits of using a Teacher’s Book to help plan and execute your lessons. Please note, this article contains references to the New English File Teacher’s Book series.
Do you remember when you first started teaching? Were you like me and treated your teacher’s book like a bible – the all-knowing, multi-purpose guide to all things pedagogical? Did you follow its advice carefully and rarely deviate from what it suggested for….ooh……the first year of your teaching career?! Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. But there’s no doubt that a good teacher’s book can:
- save us time when it comes to lesson planning
- offer ideas for bringing a topic alive
- provide a wealth of extra materials to give our students practice in the areas of language they find challenging.
What’s more, the introduction to a teacher’s book often has a detailed outline of the methodological approach that the course book takes – very handy for those potentially awkward moments when students come up to you at the end of the lesson and ask why you don’t teach more grammar, etc. You can explain your rationale for teaching in the way that you do, supported by the evidence found in the introduction.
Also useful is the information included on how the student’s book is organised – what you can find in each unit, what other materials are available like CD-ROMs or workbooks and what resources are included at the back of the book. I cringe every time I remember a student who came up to me after about three months of classes and said he hadn’t realised there was a grammar reference section at the back of his course book. After that embarrassing experience I decided to help students on the first day of term find their way round their new course book with an orientation quiz. E.g. What topic can you find on page 76? Or What useful section is located on pages 157-158? This sort of quiz is quick and easy to make if you use the teacher’s book to help you.
So what do you use your teacher’s book for and how can it help you to plan and deliver effective lessons? Let’s think about lesson planning first….
We all know that feeling – 24 teaching hours a week, different classes at different levels and NO TIME to prepare! Many of us therefore rely on the teacher’s book for guidance and inspiration. In one school I worked for I can recall having to squeeze more units into a term than was educationally comfortable but a quick glance at the teacher’s book and what were the key language items included for that unit helped me to select what was essential and discard the rest.
How many times have you been sitting at your desk trying to think of the best way to begin the lesson? Can’t think of a good lead-in to a reading text that mentions colours several times in the story, for example? (NEF Pre-intermediate 2D) The teacher’s book gives you a hand by suggesting you begin the lesson by asking the class to brainstorm all the songs they know with colours in their title e.g. Yellow Submarine. You then write them on the board and get your students to tell you who sang it. Simple idea but guaranteed to get the lesson off to a great start!
Then there are those occasional moments when you’re presenting a new structure to your class and a problem crops up, something that you couldn’t anticipate – for example, the way students have difficulty in remembering not to invert the subject and verb when forming indirect questions. (NEF Intermediate 7B) But the good news is that the teacher’s book flags this up so you can be prepared for these sorts of trouble spots well ahead of the lesson.
How do you use a Teacher’s Book? To prepare for lessons? To point students to useful additional materials? Or for something infinitely more creative? Share your thoughts below.