A checklist: Adapt, Incorporate, or Ditch a textbook activity?
Love the textbook or hate it?
Convinced you can’t teach well unless you pitch that textbook in the trash?
Convinced you can’t teach without it or you’ll lose your sanity?
Wherever you fall, if a textbook is a tool in your classroom, this post is for you.
Note that I believe a textbook is just that, a tool. It’s a tool like most others. Whether or not it’s effective is all in how you use it. Using a hammer to pound in a screw is going to be tough. Using a textbook’s discrete verb drill to get learners narrating a story is going to be tough. But not all textbooks or their activities are created equal. If you’re incorporating a textbook (or forced to adopt and use one like these teachers), keep reading!
Recently at the Texas Foreign Language Association I met with a small group of teachers for a 3-hour workshop called “Textbook as an AID: Adapt, Incorporate, Ditch.” In it, I advocated a three-prong approach to textbook use:
- Many textbook activities could be useful in your classroom with your students with a few simple tweaks. Choosing to adapt an activity slightly to make it more effective could save you a lot of time when the alternative might be to create your own.
- Sometimes the textbook authors simply get it right and ask learners to describe a sequence of pictures or put events from a story in order or another communicative interaction with comprehensible language. Just incorporate it. It’s not a sin. (If you insist, I won’t tell anyone you did.)
- Many textbook activities get it completely wrong. They’re catering to politicians who are spending the money or whatever, but if the activity is abysmal, ditch it. I kid you not: what you see here is an actual “Can-Do” statement from a nationally popular Spanish textbook. DITCH IT.
I asked the teachers at my workshop to help me develop a checklist for you. When we look at a textbook activity, how can we know what to do with it? Here’s the result of our brainstorming; I hope it helps you.
Did you catch that part at the bottom? We started a public wikispace where teachers using any language learning textbook anywhere can post their recommendations to either adapt, incorporate, or ditch an activity. We added at least one example of each kind for you to see as an example. Will you join the conversation there? Just click the image below.
If my email and Twitter feed mean anything, a lot of teachers are struggling with this issue, and so I’ll be proposing this topic for ACTFL ’16. I hope you talk with you about it next year in Boston!