You can see it in their faces. The textbook is too easy. They breeze through the readings, dialogs and exercises. A task that should take 15 minutes is done in five. What now?
Should you change the textbook? In some cases, you’re not in a position to change it. And in most cases, it’s not even necessary. Most of the time, the textbook is easy in the beginning, either because your students are false, not real beginners, or because the textbook starts with a review of the basics before going into the new topics.
So, don’t trash the textbook just yet – you’ll probably have more use for it later. Here’s what to do when the textbook activities are not challenging enough for your students.
8 Ways to Improve an Easy Textbook
Add Fun Extras
So you’ve finished the first unit in record time and now have some time for supplementary activities. You see the ones supplied at the end of the unit/book are exactly like the ones they’ve just finished in class. Skip them. Devise your own.
For example, the book has an exercise they may complete to review the past forms of irregular verbs. Skip the exercise and give them a Past Simple Board Game to play instead. And if simply saying the verb in past is too easy, have them make a full sentence AND ask a question with verb.
So, if you find your class finishes textbook activities way too fast, simply add some more and consolidate their knowledge further.
The textbook has a list of 10 irregular past participles students must know. Expand the list to include 20 in all. Give them exercises to practice the new participles, as well as those included in the book.
The same strategy goes for any grammar point. Have they mastered negative tag questions? Introduce affirmative tag questions (it doesn’t matter if you “have to” teach it in another chapter, the best moment to teach it may be now).
Change the Cultural Context
Say your class has just read a very simple text about a girl’s daily activities: the time she gets up, goes to school, when and what she eats for dinner, etc… After the usual reading comprehension questions, ask the class how many of these activities would be different in their countries. Do they also have eggs and bacon for breakfast in their country? Do they eat dinner at 6 pm, too?
Say you’ve read an email someone has written. Take a closer look at the greeting, closing and vocabulary used. Is it formal or informal? If the email is informal, what words would make it more formal? What can they change to make it more business-like? Or give it a friendlier tone? There are lots of things in the textbook that you can put under closer inspection. Explore feelings. Does the writer of the email sound angry? Irritated? Bored? Excited? What words would convey a different feeling? (For example, I request versus I demand a prompt reply)
Work on Fluency
Use textbook items as a springboard for activities that will help them improve accuracy and fluency. If the textbook topic for the day is vocabulary for parts of a house and the things in it, give them a decorating magazine with lots of glossy pictures, and have each student describe a room and the furniture in it. Or have students brainstorm what houses will be like in the future.
Remember the 3 P’s? Presentation, practice and performance? If the presentation and practice included in the textbook are too easy, give them lots of performance activities like free-speaking tasks.
Use it for Homework
If some exercises in the textbook are too dull, assign them for homework. Students will still get the work done, but class time will be used for more interactive, collaborative, fun activities.
Compare Similar Structures
If you’re teaching the Future Continuous, compare it to the Past and Present Continuous. In which cases would you use each? If you’re teaching the First Conditional, compare it to the Zero Conditional.
Brainstorm MORE Options
You’re going over polite requests and the textbook has three examples:
- Would you please…?
- Could you please…?
- Would you mind…?
Brainstorm more ways of making polite requests (I was wondering if you could…, Can you help me…, etc..) Which are more formal/informal?
It’s not hard to make an easy textbook more challenging. Put the ball in your students’ court.
Ask them for ideas, get them to expand, use their abilities to your advantage. Focus on the communicative goal and help them achieve it.
You may use the textbook and follow it to a tee (the straightforward route), or take little detours and show them what else there is to see (the scenic route). Both routes will get your students to their destination, but the scenic route is much more enjoyable and probably more enriching.