The Language Course is not Just a Book. It is a Complex Set of Educational Components

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Abstract

Beyond all doubt a coursebook is a key-element in the lesson preparation for a majority of teachers. It can be defined as “a guide for teachers” because it has special pedagogical recommendations and a developed syllabus with the balance of skills and language practice for learners during a particular lesson. This article highlights issues towards the use of a modern coursebook with interactive components in a classroom, advantages and disadvantages of E-books as well. The findings revealed that the coursebook consists of several elements, which are made not only for working with a teacher but also for self-study. A teacher should not only concentrate on a well-designed syllabus, but also monitor students’ progress and make necessary modifications of tasks and information for learners’ needs. There are at least four strategies that give teachers the idea of working with a coursebook. The paper is expected to broaden teachers’ knowledge about modern coursebooks and E-books.

General Information

Keywords: course book, student’s book, interactive components, media, E-book

Journal rubric: Chronicles of Scientific Life

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/langt.2019060409

For citation: Astashina M.S. The Language Course is not Just a Book. It is a Complex Set of Educational Components [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2019. Vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 64–69. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2019060409.

Full text

Beyond all doubt a coursebook is a key-element in the lesson preparation for a majority of teachers. It can be defined as “a guide for teachers” because it has special pedagogical recommendations and a developed syllabus with the balance of skills and language practice for learners during a particular lesson. This article highlights issues towards the use of a modern coursebook with interactive components in a classroom, advantages and disadvantages of E-books as well. The findings revealed that the coursebook consists of several elements, which are made not only for working with a teacher but also for self-study. A teacher should not only concentrate on a well-designed syllabus, but also monitor students’ progress and make necessary modifications of tasks and information for learners’ needs. There are at least four strategies that give teachers the idea of working with a coursebook. The paper is expected to broaden teachers’ knowledge about modern coursebooks and E-books.

Introduction.

The language is a means of communication. However, its functions are bigger than it seems to be. The language is a storage of human experience and knowledge, collected though centuries. Therefore, it is essential to study not only a foreign language itself but also be acquainted with other peoples’ culture. This can reduce the level of international conflicts, erasing because of misunderstanding between nations and nationalities. That is why learning at least one foreign language has become an obligatory demand to modern citizens of the world[2].

Particularly every teacher of foreign languages is interested in finding such educational tools and materials, which will allow his or her students to learn the language in a challenging and motivating way. Additionally, it is essential to build students’ language skills (all of them: listening, reading, speaking and writing skills) during almost every lesson, therefore different types of exercises should be regularly observed and practiced. Moreover, a theme has to be interesting for students and educational materials and vocabulary should correspond with their goals. At the same time, constantly changing world brings claims even to the educational sphere. People need to cope with the curriculum and acquire new skills and competences in a short period of time. That is why a teacher should be flexible and professional otherwise he or she will not meet the requirements. Fortunately, methodologists continuously analyze the current situation and design, adjusted to modern citizens’ needs. Therefore, a teacher nowadays has a possibility to work in very comfortable conditions as he or she gains access to unlimited educational material and tools. One of such pleasant findings is the complete coursebook for any subject. This article will mostly focus on the language course.

The course books in modern education.

The usefulness of coursebooks has been the reason of strong debates among methodologists and teachers. This issue appeared in the early 70s, when the opinions about the usage of these cultural artefacts were very controversial and polarized. For instance, in 1981 R. Allwright questioned coursebooks’ role, as he thought that “teaching” materials had to be changed into “learning” materials, leading to support for the notion of “learners” guides” to language learning, and for “ideas” and “rationale” books for teachers. However, some methodologists claimed that coursebooks were “methodological straitjackets” [9] while others proved their value as “agents of methodological change” [6] and defended their use [7]. Even in the 21st century this topic is still urgent. People argue about relative merits of coursebooks [1] and their benefits and restrictions [5]. Moreover, the usage of E­books (Electronic-books) in a classroom has been becoming one the thought-provoking discussions among teachers and methodologists. This topic will be observed below in this article.

Nevertheless, modern coursebooks are not just only books for a student or a teacher. It is a developed “educational system”, which is suitable not only for working in a class but also for self-study. The course generally consists of a Student’s book, a workbook, a teacher’s book and audio material. It is possible sometimes to find a Reader, a Tests Book and other Supplementary or Extra exercises. The educational program in a coursebook is divided into Units, which introduce the theme, lexis and grammar rules. The content of the course depends on students’ demands (for instance, which language students need to study: English for Specific Purposes or Business English or English for Academic Purposes or English for the International Certificate etc.). The usage of the designed language course helps to overcome these challenges. Furthermore, well-organized and planned educational process offered by a coursebook (which is usually scheduled a year in advance) will let teachers spend less time on preparation for classes. Working with the language coursebook, a teacher gets access to interrelated tasks (in the Student’s book and in the Workbook). This gives him or her the brilliant opportunity to pay students’ attention to the usage of a particular lexeme or a grammar rule in various spoken and written texts. Without a coursebook this can be to some extent complicated, because a teacher has to find an appropriate text or a recording and modify it if the content of this message does not correspond to students’ level of the language. One of the great advantages of a designed coursebook is the grammar, vocabulary and skills syllabuses revised in line with the Global Scale of English or other language standart. Moreover, authentic texts (for listening and reading tasks) make the educational process more fascinating and close to real situations. Students might listen to native speakers or just fluent language speakers, getting used to various accents and ways of pronunciation. In addition, each modern coursebook has audio scrips for all recordings in both books (a Student’s book, a Workbook, and even in Extra activities). Looking through them, students can understand their mistakes; learn new vocabulary and phrases from real speech. The exercises in both books force students to use these language units in his or her own speech. Moreover, the workbook included into the language course consists of tasks, which aimed at revising the material and self-control work. This helps a teacher to control student’s skill and understanding of the material.

Interactive components.

At the beginning of the technological revolution, computers were inaccessible for most people or provided some kinds of entertainment. Nowadays the situation has changed. Almost every family can supply all members with electronic devices. Moreover, technology has become an obligatory part of human’s life. That is why the education should follow modern trends and include digital environment into educational process.

Methodologists and IT-specialists develop educational software for the coursebooks to help “digital imigrants” (teachers) make their lessons enjoyable and up-to-date for “digital natives” (students) [8]. One of such inventions is an interactive whiteboard (IWB). It is touch-sensitive, multi-purpose surface, which is usually attached to a laptop or a computer and a set of loudspeakers. On an interactive whiteboard it is possible to draw or write with a special pen as on an ordinary chalkboard, view videos, images and presentations (using a board as a large computer monitor), use commercial interactive whiteboard materials. Animated pages and interactive exercises for IWB can be a part of a coursebook and make the course come alive. For example, ActiveTeach (for the coursebook “Speakout” by Pearson). Audio and video material from this component is fully integrated with time- coded scripting. Moreover, it makes the navigation of the Language bank and the Vocabulary bank easier as it has clear and great pictures. In addition, it provides excellent prompts for language activities and contains grammar and vocabulary review games. Furthermore, a teacher can use an IWB as an assessment element as ActiveTeach has an assessment package containing all the courses tests [5].

Furthermore, nowadays such educational approaches as Blended Learning and Flipped Classroom are becoming the branch of studies. Modern methodologists and IT-specialists create educational software for coursebooks. For instance, MyEnglishLab (for the coursebook “Speakout” by Pearson) provides a fully blended and personalized learning environment that benefits both learners and teachers. MyEnglishLab is an interactive Workbook, which gives an instant feedback and automatic grades. Moreover, it supplies a learner with tips and reference material and encourages students to work out answers themselves as it highlights mistakes they are making. Additionally, this blended environment consists of unit and achievement tests, mid- and end of the course tests, which help student to monitor their progress. Students can work alone at home or at school as a part of a class activity.

Advantages and disadvantages of E-books.

The 21st century allows Internet users get the access to a variety of academic material. Nowadays people can read even a very rare book on their electronic device if it is possible to download it. The tendency of electronic books, or e-Books, is turning into a new way of reading, which has a broad list of advantages. This penetrates even into the education. The usage of e-Books as textbooks in the classroom at schools is becoming a new paradigm especially in developing countries. E-books reduce the daily burden of carrying heavy conventional textbooks for both learners and teachers. These books enable students to grow healthily without any damaging effects such as lower back pain, poor posture, spinal deformity over time and back problems in adulthood. Moreover, e-Books can make the educational process fun and may develop learners’ autonomy due to friendly functions of an electronic device; attractive graphics; enlarged text size; plug-in speakers, etc. In addition, the usage of electronic educational material economize parents’ money and minimize education expenditure because of free download of books from the Internet [3]. Furthermore, this tendency is environmentally friendly as there is less plastic and paper waste than from the usage of traditional books when they cannot be used again.

Nevertheless, E-books have some drawbacks. Unfortunately, most users of electronic books read texts on small mobile devices. Anyhow, these awesome devices still have flaws and limitations, which irritate eyes and cause some problems with sight. Talking about the teaching process itself, teachers and educators may not be adequately trained to conduct lessons with an e-Book and students may play or surf the Internet instead of completing tasks. However, some people find reading printed books more comfortable and pleasant than reading an E-book due to impossibility of making notes and comments helping to understand and analyze the text [3].

The best usage of the coursebook

How do teachers actually make the best use of the course book? Well, there are some factors that need to be kept into consideration when using this type on material.

Firstly, the coursebook helps teachers to create a balanced lesson in terms of the range of grammar or vocabulary skills that are being taught and actual types of material.

Secondly, it is recommended to avoid usage of the coursebook all the time, particularly with such activities, which can be created with additional materials. The syllabus is generally simple and does not correspond to actual needs of a particular class.

Thirdly, it is impossible to rely 100% on the information that is presented in the book. The information is contained in a book might not be the best way for students to understand it, therefore a teacher has to change that material to make it more comprehensible for students.

Finally, students may need more work in one particular area than the book actually presents. That is why a teacher should think carefully about additional or extra exercises and information within a lesson.

Therefore, there are four different possible approaches to use the coursebook. A teacher may omit or select certain parts of the material presented in the book. He or she can work on or take away the whole lesson or maybe even two or three lessons in a row. Moreover, it is possible to replace the material within the book with what is more suitable for the class. In addition, a teacher may supplement additional exercises, tasks and information in areas, where students need more help or explanation[10].

Conclusion.

The coursebook is a great pedagogical tool, which can be used during the educational process. Moreover, modern language courses consist of various elements or components designed to make the language acquisition pleasant and entertaining. Electronic and technological devices can diversify the learning process and develop learners’ autonomy. Nevertheless, teachers can opt to use the coursebook and change the material from it by adapting the program and exercises for specific purposes in each particular class. Concerning the teachers’ difficulties in using modern textbook, there are at two main difficulties faced by teachers. The first is limited aids for teaching of the usage of interactive components, blended platforms and different electronic devices used in the educational process. The second difficulty is the usage of an E-book in a classroom. The modern world makes new claims and teachers should follow these rules to maintain their qualification and competence. Otherwise, they will not be able to teach their students and solve pedagogical and educational problems during a lesson.

References

  1. Allwright R. L. What do we want teaching materials for? // ELT Journal. 1981. Volume 36/1. Pp. 5-18.
  2. Burlakova I.I. The Impact of Globalization on the Russian Language // Language Art, Vol 3 No 3 (2018): Shiraz, Iran. Pp. 93-106.
  3. Embong A. M., Noor A. M., Hashim H. M., Ali R. M., Shaari Z. H. E-Books as Textbooks in the Classroom. // Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2012. Volume 47. Pp. 1802-1809.
  4. Harmer J. Coursebooks a Human,Cultural and Linguistic Disaster. // Keynote. 2001. Volume 10, 3. Pp. 5-10.
  5. Harmer J. The practice of English. Pearson Education Limitided. 2007. 448 p.
  6. Hutchinson T., Torres E. The textbook as agent of change. // ELT Journal. 1994. Volume 48/4. Pp. 315-328.
  7. O'Neill R. Why use textbooks? // ELT Journal. 1982. Volume J6. Pp. 104-111.
  8. Scrivener J. Learning Teaching. The essential guide to English Language teaching. – Macmillan Publishers Limited. 2011. 414 p.
  9. Tice J. Textbook straitjacket. // Practical English teaching. 1991. Volume 11/3. Pp. 2-23
  10. Coursebooks and materials - Best Use of the Coursebook [Elektronnyiy resurs] URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpfU8Nyi2yQ (Accessed: 11.11.2018).

Information About the Authors

Maria S. Astashina, PhD student, lecturer at the Department of Linguodidactics and Intercultural Communication of the Institute of Foreign Languages, Modern Communications and Management, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1673-3271, e-mail: astashinams@mgppu.ru

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