Friday, April 26, 2013

Working with ELT Materials - part four

 Working with ELT Materials

Part four – adapting coursebooks

In our previous article, we looked at issues to consider when evaluating coursebooks. An effective evaluation will ensure that the books which you choose to adopt are suitable for your students, but they still won’t fully meet all of your students’ needs. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your lessons, you should think of the published materials as being a basis providing raw material for the lessons, and adapt this material in various ways.

Forms of adaptation

One practical reason for adapting the coursebook is to ensure that you have the right amount of material for the length of each class period, and also for the total length of the course over the school year. This can be achieved on the one hand by extending activities or adding extra ones, or on the other hand by shortening some activities or omitting some completely. Supplementing the material in the book may also bring several other benefits.

However recent your coursebook is, it still won’t be completely up-to-date with the latest trends, so you might find that a lesson on popular music or current fashion can be made much more interesting by adding material from other sources, such as the current issue of a popular magazine. Topics in the lessons can be adapted to your students’ interests so that they will find them more engaging, and can also be localized to relate to places, people and events that the students are familiar with. Increased variety of material can also add more choice and promote student autonomy.

Supplementing the coursebook with materials from other sources can also enable you to adjust the balance of work on the different skills, for example by adding more listening material. Most coursebook packages contain only two or three hours of listening material for a whole year, so it’s very useful to add to this, particularly with authentic materials or activities that combine listening with speaking. Pronunciation is another area that tends to be neglected in coursebooks and that you might want to give more emphasis. And although most courses provide plenty of work on grammar, they don’t necessarily focus on the grammar topics that your students struggle with, so some supplementary grammar activities can be helpful.

Many of the adaptations that we make are simple changes to the format and presentation of the materials. By presenting activities in ways that are more visually attractive, we make the lesson more memorable and enjoyable. It’s important to cater for all learning styles, particularly through adding in kinaesthetic activities that tend to be neglected in the books. Simple adaptations to the format can make activities more workable, or promote pair- and group-work. They can be used to vary the level of difficulty in the activities, which can be helpful in catering for the different needs in a mixed ability class.


Authors and publishers are forced to make several compromises in trying to produce materials that appeal to as many teachers and students as possible in a global market. However good their materials are, they can never be a perfect match for your students, as the authors don’t know your students. This means that we should be flexible in the way we use the coursebooks, and treat them as an outline on which we can base our lesson plans rather than a script that we must follow slavishly. One of the compromises that authors make is to try to design materials in such a way that they provide sufficient support and guidance for novice teachers while allowing more experienced teachers to exercise their own skill and judgment. In choosing materials, consider the amount of flexibility they provide, and in using them, try to develop your own creativity. Remember also that there are many resources available beyond the coursebook, and we’ll start looking at these in our next article.

 © Peter Beech 2013

Foreign Language Experience

During the TEFL course, we provide the opportunity for you to experience a language lesson from the perspective of the learners. The lessons are designed to illustrate the communicative approach to teaching, and show how this can be implemented even with complete beginners.

Here, the newest member of the Anglo-Hellenic team, Daria, teaches a Russian lesson during the TEFL course in Athens.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TEFL Greece course dates 2014

Here are TEFL Greece course dates for 2014:

February 10 – March 7                   Athens
March 17 – April 11                         Athens
April 28 - May 23                            Corinth
June 2 – June 27                            Corinth
July 7 – August 1                            Corinth
August 11 – September 5               Santorini  
September 15 - October 10            Corinth          
October 20 – November 14             Athens
November 24 – December 19         Athens

We're offering an early-bird discount of 100 euro on all enrollments for TEFL courses in 2014 that are received by 30 June 2013. 

Just enter the discount code "early-bird" in the enrollment form at 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vacancy for ELT Materials Sub-Editor - Athens, Greece

Job Description
This position is with Greece’s leading publisher of ELT materials located in Athens, Greece. Hours of work are 9 - 5 Monday to Friday or may also be part-time. Duties include sub-editing / editing / writing of English Language Teaching materials for a publishing company in Athens, Greece.

Applicants must have a degree (in any discipline) and speak English as their first language. Experience is preferred but not required. For citizens of the UK, Ireland or any other EU country, visas are not required.

Competitive salary depending on qualifications and experience. Furnished accommodation may be provided if required.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Job openings for Americans

Our Associates at Andrew Betsis ELT and Betsis Language Schools are currently offering job opportunities for US citizens on successful completion of the Anglo-Hellenic TEFL course.

The publishing company and schools are based in Piraeus, the port of Athens.

On successful completion of the TEFL course, eligible candidates will begin an internship at either the publishing company or the language school. At the publishing company, duties include authoring original English Language Teaching materials and also sub-editing. At the school, you will be teaching classes of teenagers.

As a US citizen, you are entitled to remain in Greece for ninety days without any visa, and the internship will be arranged to last for the remaining time after you complete the TEFL course.

On satisfactory completion of the internship, the company will sponsor you for a work visa to continue in permanent employment.

Please note that this opportunity is avilable only to US citizens whose first language is English. For further information, contact or see for more contact details.

Working with ELT Materials - part three

Working with ELT Materials

Part three – evaluating coursebooks

In our previous article, we looked at a few points that you should consider in your initial selection of course materials. Once you have narrowed down your choice, and obtained sample copies of the materials that you’re interested in, it’s time for a more detailed evaluation. Based on the previous article, we’ll assume that the materials you’re considering are up-to-date, include all the components that you require, and match the age and level of your students. What else should you look for in an examination of the candidates for adoption?

Design and layout
The first thing that you’ll notice is the design of the book, the style and layout, use of colour and type of illustrations. For example, some books for young children use cartoon characters, while others use pictures of real people. Some are bright and colourful, while others have a more serious and subdued image. This is a matter of personal preference, but you should start by choosing a package that you like the look of, and that you think your students will like. This applies equally to the design of the IWB software if you’ll be using it.

Amount of material
Another basic criterion is the length of the book. Most coursebooks are designed to provide material for about 100 – 120 hours of lessons, which is enough for three hours a week throughout the school year, but some books are designed for shorter courses. Apart from the total length of the course, you’ll also need to consider the arrangement of the material in units or lessons.At lower levels, each lesson is usually designed for a 50 – 60 minute class, while at higher levels most books have longer units that can be divided more flexibly. So depending on the number and length of the lessons you have with each class each week, you’ll need to ensure that the total amount of material and the way it’s divided fit your timetable. Don’t forget to plan for the time you’ll be using other additional components apart from the main coursebook.

Balance of skills
If your students are preparing for exams, obviously you’ll need to select materials that provide practice in the specific format. In any case, you’ll need to choose materials that provide an appropriate balance of activities for each of the four skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking – and also pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. What constitutes an appropriate balance will depend on the specific needs of your students. Do they really need to learn all about the rules of grammar, or would it be more beneficial to spend extra time on speaking practice? And in most cases, it will be beneficial if the work on the various skills is integrated, rather than practicing each one separately.

Methodology and syllabus design
Apart from the amount of work on each area of language, you should also consider the type of approach that the materials encourage, and whether this fits your style of teaching. Are the materials student-centred to promote autonomy, or do they require a lot of presentation by the teacher? Are there plenty of communicative activities, or is the emphasis on controlled practice? Is the course organized in terms of situations and topics, making natural use of the language that occurs in each context, or is the material all designed around the presentation of the grammar? Is there a lot of explicit focus on language, or are the topics and tasks designed to promote implicit language acquisition? Does the course make use of authentic materials, and does it cater for a variety of learning styles?

This was a very brief overview of some of the main issues to consider when evaluating a coursebook. However good a coursebook is, it will never be perfectly matched to the precise needs of your students, so there will always be a need for adaptation, and that’s the topic of our next article.

 © Peter Beech 2013