During a talk with Anna Loseva she told me about the way she organizes education process without course books. I have heard so many times about the idea but dreaded imagining myself being lost without knowing which of the numerous directions to take or how not to miss out a significant part of syllabus. But listening to Anna I got so gripped by the kind of structure she used that I calmed down enough to try it out.
After a couple of months on the low course book diet there emerged some questions that disturb me the most. I would like to answer them myself first and if you have any experience in teaching coursebooklessly or have some information about it let’s spread the information exchange.
1. Do you base the course on topics, grammar, some random materials, communicative situations or something else?Personally, I am building the course around topics like “Travelling”, “Fashion” or others, but now I’ve thought about other options I am in two minds.
2. What are criteria for choosing vocabulary? How many vocab items do you pick? How are they connected? Since I have a topic, I think of necessary items to use in conversation on this topic, I try to include some idioms and phrasal verbs in each set of vocab that constitute around 10 words or phrases. They are obviously connected by the topic. I also may take a text on a topic and take vocab from this text that is good for remembering it better.
3. What parts of planning do your students participate in? My students took part in creating the set of topics which make up our syllabus and I sometimes ask them what they would like to discuss about the next topic (that’s what I have taken from our conversation with Anna). Students have agreed on the topics they like – here is motivation and playing safe in terms of issues students avoid talking about. Ideally, they have clear vision of their education process. But I have made a mistake offering them syllabus from different course books so that they marked the topics they would like to deal with. Doing that I thought it’ll be easy for me to get materials in case I get bogged down in finding proper resources. Eventually students struggled with unknown words and ticked topics a bit randomly. Thus, I can’t say it was a fully conscious choice which eliminates almost all positive consequences of it.
4. What are your major concerns about teaching course books free? I constantly have a fear that I am missing something. For example, that students won’t know some basic words or phrases or some tiny but important bits of grammar like ‘too’ and ‘enough’.
There is also an issue about “knowing where you are” since we don’t go from book to book now. Thus comes a question of assessment. Thanks God I don’t need to conduct and submit results of tests and other assessment means but still I’m interested in the matter.
5. What are the benefits you have noticed? I feel more flexible and the course looks like more tailored to the students’ needs and interests. I believe that my lessons became more communicative and students-centred, they also participate in planning, suggest some ideas and give me feedback more eagerly than before.
6. Are there any other issues to be mentioned? For the pre-intermediate course I sometimes choose upper-intermediate vocabulary and they remember it and even use. I tried some difficult grammar which is usually given at the end of pre-intermediate course and it went well (we needed it for communication purposes). Thus, I came to the conclusion that you can think out of the box choosing language items. Here though emerges the problem highlighted in 4.
I would like to give it a start by asking Vedrana Vojković
, Anna Loseva
and Mike Griffin
. Dear friends, if you have something to say and want to take part it would be fantastic. And, of course, spread it to gather more opinions, knowledge and experience.