Language teaching with textbooks

a woman wearing a vest over a dress shirt holding a book
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Are you using published course books (including textbook, workbook, and teacher’s guide) in your language courses? Or are you compiling your own material based on various sources? The use of professionally produced and published course books and learning materials has been a point of debate for many years. We found an interesting contribution to this discussion in Steve Smith’s blog: Language Teacher Toolkit

There are of course arguments both for and against the use of course books. Teachers sometimes report that although a course book gives structure to a language course it sometimes fails to cater for specific needs, it offers limited variation in terms of activities and tasks, and a notion that the course book needs to be covered in its entirety can cause undue stress. At the same time, a course book offers structure and progression in terms of content (topics and themes) and language features (vocabulary and grammar). The texts have been carefully selected to match a certain proficiency level, and the activities are designed to help the pupils engage with the material. Not least, for a novice teacher, a course book will provide a stable base for planning. 

To find out a bit more about the all the considerations that go into the production of professionally developed course books we had an interesting conversation with Charlotte Rosen Svensson, an experienced teaching materials developer at Studentlitteratur. 


This time we have a couple of recent articles that resonate with some of the points brought up in our interview with an English textbook developer in Sweden (see below).

Firiady, M. (2018). Communicative language teaching through speaking activities designed in a textbook. LLT Journal, 21(1), 104-113.

Huang, P. (2019). Textbook interaction: A study of the language and cultural contextualisation of English learning textbooks. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 21, 87-99.

And as an extra treat, take a look at this do-it-yourself textbook from the amazing Paul Nation’s resource pages: What you need to know to learn a foreign language (English)


Our interview in this module looks at language teaching textbooks from the inside, from the perspective of a Swedish textbook publisher. Charlotte Rosen Svensson is a textbook developer with Studentlitteratur.


Questions to discuss

  1. If you’re using published textbooks, to what extent do the texts and activities meet the needs of the classes you teach?
  2. If you’re using your own material or compile material from various sources, what are some of the design/planning challenges you encounter, and how do you solve them?
  3. Text selection is a central issue in any language course. What are your thoughts on this and the need to reflect the many areas and contexts in which the target language is used?
  4. What are your thoughts on vocabulary lists of various kinds (lists by chapter, glossed words in the margin of the text, alphabetical word lists, etc)? How do you use word lists in textbooks, and/or how do you deal with vocabulary issues in texts that you select yourself?

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