ITTT tefl internationale

All you need to know about teaching English abroad!


How to Effectively Use a Textbook During an ESL Course

How to Effectively Use a Textbook During an ESL Course | ITTT | TEFL Blog

It is said that textbooks are either embraced or feared by a teacher. Attitudes aside, a textbook is often used as core material for the classroom in carrying out the syllabus. After the selection or assignment of a textbook, the teacher’s next task is to figure out how to effectively use it. The common ways of adapting a textbook to suit a specific class include omission, replacement, adaptation and supplementation, with the latter two being the most effective.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Katrina T.


The first way a teacher can adapt the textbook is through omission, that is, either through cutting out a whole activity, lesson, or parts of it. Omission is mainly used to exclude irrelevant material that is inappropriate to the student's age, interests, cultural background and their previous knowledge. An example of omission is the exclusion of reading material in the textbook that students do not like or find irrelevant. However, there are a few drawbacks to omitting material from the textbook, one of which is the student’s questioning of the teacher’s selection of the text and its value in their learning. Other drawbacks are the loss of unity within or between lessons as well as the loss of coverage of important language points. Solutions to this include, creating links between the parts of the material that are going to be used, independent study of omitted materials outside of class, and including the omitted language points in future activities. However, these solutions also have some drawbacks, particularly the added workload for the teacher in lesson planning and extra work for the students outside the classroom. Therefore, it can be argued that omission is an ineffective way to use the textbook.

Also read: Top Online Lesson Plan Resources for New and Advanced Teachers


Replacement consists of modifying steps or stages in a learning approach or changing the context or content. One example is replacing material that is deemed inappropriate to the learner’s age, interests, or cultural background, such as in the context of an American ESL classroom where a text on a British person is replaced with a text on a local sporting hero. Another example of the replacement of textbook material is replacing listening and textbook exercises and activities with live or recorded radio broadcasts in order to expose students to authentic language material. Yet, like omission, replacement can also be seen as an ineffective use of the textbook since the replacement materials can never duplicate the same structure and purpose as material made specifically for ESL students. Thus, learning objectives can be easily forgotten in favor of using more appropriate or authentic material.

Also read: How To Write The Perfect ESL Lesson Plan


Adaption is the extension and exploitation of the existing material. An example of adaption involves the teacher finding activities in other textbooks that are suitable for the learning objective of the lesson and adapting them to the course book material for a more localized or personalized approach. There are several purposes to adapting a textbook; one important purpose is to fit the material to the interests of students, the teacher’s own abilities, the lesson constraints and the learning context. It is also used to compensate for inaccuracies, out-of-date content, or lack of authenticity. There are two specific uses of adaption. The first use is to enhance learning through more of the same exercises or to alternate an original activity to take it in new directions in order to meet the needs, skills and objectives of the students and teachers. Secondly, is the use of adaption as variety in order to maintain student interest and provide contextual relevance. Thus, due to these purposes and specific uses of adaption, it can be argued that it is an effective use of the textbook since it is improving the learning experience of students without compromising learning objectives and context, or the needs, interests and skills of the students.

Also read: Guide to Writing Your First TEFL Syllabus


Supplementation is the addition of new materials in order to offset deficits in the original materials or to close the gap between the course book and the needs of students. It can be used by the teacher to expose the students to more textual materials or for more practice of a specific language point. It can also be used to provide differentiated materials to students with different competency levels or needs, and to increase the interest of students through more variety. There are two ways to supplement a textbook, the first is to use items from another published source and the second is for the teacher to create their own material. An example of the first method is to add activities from other published materials to use as practice material for dialogues in the textbook. Worksheets are an example of the second method as they allow the teacher to focus on skill development in specific areas that are not covered by the textbook. They also allow the teacher to personalize learning to make it more relevant to the students. Hence, the purposes and uses of supplementation make it an effective use of the textbook since learning objectives and context as well as the needs, skills and interests of the students are being met.

For answers to all the most common questions regarding TEFL take a look at our FAQ page.

Are you ready to teach English abroad?

Apply now & get certified to teach english abroad!

Speak with an ITTT advisor today to put together your personal plan for teaching English abroad.

Send us an email or call us toll-free at 1-800-490-0531 to speak with an ITTT advisor today.

Related Articles:

Listen to this blog post