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Topic 23 – The development of curriculum materials for English class. Criteria for the selection and use of textbooks. Authentic and adapted documents: limitations of use. The collaboration of students in the design of materials.

This topic deals with materials elaborated for and used in the English class. Criteria for for selecting coursebooks. Use and limitations of authentic and adapted materials, and students’ elaboration of their own materials for their use in English class.

MAKING CURRICULAR MATERIALS FOR ENGLISH LESSONS is a time-consuming process, so it’s not very common for teachers to produce all the materials they need for a whole cycle, or course. However, most of us, teachers, produce at least some of our own teaching materials, such as flashcards, worksheets, puppets, board games, etc.

According to Brewster, Ellis and Girard, there are several reasons for producing supplementary materials, even if we have a coursebook:

• We may feel that our coursebook doesn’t provide enough practice on a specific point, so we prepare some extra activities.

• Some of the materials in our coursebook may not be appropriate for our class.

• We want to foster a methodology which is not the one used by the course book authors.

• We may want to add some activities that are different from the ones in the course book for the sake of variety.

Flashcards for young learners are often made by using pictures and words. The pictures must be clearly recognizable and large enough for the whole class to see. Flashcards are very useful to teach vocabulary and make it possible for us to avoid using Spanish translation. By listening to the oral form of the word while looking at the flashcard, the students can understand what the word means.

Wordcards, with the written form of words, should have large, clear and black letters, and like picture-flashcards, they should be large enough for the whole class to see.

The use of flashcards to introduce vocabulary allows us to practise different structures. For example, What is this? Or Is this a monkey? To introduce / practise wh-questions and yes/no questions. In their answers, the children can practise the use of “it”. For example: It is a monkey or It’s a monkey and Yes it is or No, it isn’t

When we use pairs of flashcards, one with the picture or drawing and one with the written form of the word, it is better not to present them simultaneously. We should first present and practise the oral form of the word, and later –for example in the next class—we can present the written form. The reason for this is that if we present them together, the written form is going to interfere with the students’ pronunciation of the word. For example, we present a flashcard with a picture of a coat and together with that, we show the students a flashcard with C-O-A. T written on it, some of the children may internalise the sound /koat/ instead of /kout/. Another reason in favour of presenting the oral form fist and once the children know how to pronounce the word present the written form is that it is better to follow Stephen Krashen’s natural order hypothesis. This hypothesis says that students of second language should learn and develop the skills in the same order as they learn the first language. That is, listening speaking preceding reading /writing.

Another type of material that most of us, teachers, often produce is Worksheets. Worksheets can be used for all types of activities: matching exercises, listening comprehension exercises, etc. Worksheets, like any other material produced by the teacher, should be clear, simple and attractive. When we give students a worksheet, we should always give them clear instructions as to what they need to do with if. One advantage of worksheets is that every child can receive a photocopy.

We can use worksheets to organize both oral and written work, individually, in pairs or in groups.

An example of a worksheet would be the following: Information gap activities. We tell our pupils they are going to work in pairs. We give them a worksheet and tell them they cannot show their worksheet to each other. They have to share the information so as to complete the worksheet.


Nunan has given the following criteria for selecting course books:

1 – The course book makes clear the link between the classroom and the wider world.
2 – The course book fosters independent learning.
3 – The course book focuses our pupils on their learning process.
4 – The course book is readily available.
5 – The course book accords with our pupils’ needs.
6 – The course book can be used at more than one level of difficulty (heterogeneity)
7 – The pedagogical objectives of the materials are clear.

Harmer’s material evaluation form has seven parts. Each part is considered through a set of questions which may be answered “yes/no . The seven parts are:

– practical considerations
– layout and design
– activities
– skills
– language type
– subject and content
– guidance

In my own opinion, when choosing a course-book we need to consider the following:

· As regards contents: whether selected language develops the objectives

· As regards sequence: if contents are gradually presented according to their complexity. There should also be activities for the learning stages corresponding to presentation-practice-production. Also whether progression is adequate to the children’s cognitive stage of development.

· The four skills – L S R and W should be included, with more emphasis on L and S.

· The activities proposed should be realistic and communicative

· The topics should be relevant to pupils and adequate for their age.

· The Design or artwork in the book (illustrations) should be attractive and the instructions and presentations of new language should be clear.

· Also practical considerations such as price as well as availability of other materials such as CDs, work-books, videos, graded readings, teacher-book, activities for evaluation, etc.

The course-book should help teacher by providing an appropriately sequenced and structured programme, a wide range of material, economy of preparation time, practical teaching ideas, and a reference to checking and reviewing. In any case, teachers should adapt the coursebooks to their pupils’ needs.

Use and limitations of authentic and adapted materials

The materials we use in the class should reflect as far as possible the world outside the classroom, that is, they should have a degree of authenticity, and they should be relevant to students’ age interests.

Nunan describes authenticity as follows:

Authentic materials are usually defined as those which have been produced for purposes other than (distintos de, que no son) to teach language. They can be obtained from many different sources: video clips, recordings of real interactions, extracts from TV, radio and newspapers, signs, maps and charts, photographs and pictures, timetables and schedules, etc”

Adapted materials on the other hand are those that have been modified in some way with teaching in mind in order to make them “easier” for students. Graded readers are examples of adapted materials.

The main problem for the use of authentic materials in Primary Education is DIFFICULTY. For example, a cartoon that used English would be too difficult for our students. The same applies to TV Programmes for children produced in English-speaking countries and available in Spain through cable TV. Similarly, our students would find it very difficult to read children’s literature in the original version, that is, not a simplified version.

However, not all authentic materials are excluded on account of their difficulty. Some examples of authentic material that we can use with our primary education students are nursery rhymes –for our youngest students—and songs for all students in any of the cycles of Primary Education.

Lo que viene a continuacion está también en el tema 17.

( tema 17) A nursery rhyme is a TRADITIONAL song or poem taught to young children, originally in the nursery. Learning nursery rhymes helps native children acquire vocabulary skills and some help develop rudimentary counting skills. Nursery rhymes are passed down by oral tradition from one generation to the next. The best known examples originated in or since the 17th century. Some however are substantially older, “Baa Baa Black Sheep” exists in written records as far back the Middle Ages. One of the most famous collections is that of Mother Goose. Some well known nursery rhymes originated in the United States, such as “Mary had a little lamb”.

Some nursery rhymes are linked to events in history. For example, “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” (alternatively “Ring-a-ring of Rosies”) is believed to be a metaphorical reference to the Great Plague that hit London in the 17th century (1665) killing thousands of people. A similar example in Spanish culture would be the song Mambrú se fue a la guerra… which has French origin and was composed by French soldiers in the 18th centruy to celebrate the death of the Duke of Marlborough –Mambrú- who had defeated the French army on several occasions.

There are many nursery rhymes. Some of the best-known are: APRENDE UNOS CUANTOS…. Georgie Porgie Baaa baaa black sheep Humpty dumpty Little Miss Muffet Jack and Jill Rain Rain go away Hey Diddle Diddle Hickory Dickory Dock I’m a Little Teapot Itsy Bitsy Spider Ladybird Ladybird Little Bo Peep London Bridge is falling down Three Blind Mice Twinkle twinkle little star Mary Had a Little Lamb Oranges and Lemons

Another interesting type of authentic material that we can use in English class is songs.

For practical purposes, we can divide songs into three broad types:

Action songs, which more or less follow the TPR approach. The idea is that if our pupils can move and do what is said in the song, matching words to actions, language is learnt more effectively.

Traditional songs have the advantage of being authentic songs which belong to popular culture. They are well known and extended among English speaking children. They include: proverbs, superstitious rhyming, tongue twisters, riddles, lullabies (nanas), etc. Nursery rhymes can be included in the category “traditional songs”. Traditional songs of any of these kinds provide an awareness of different cultural references. This works in favour of our children’s acquisition of socio-cultural competence, which is one of the five subcompetences established by Canale and Swain. As examples of traditional songs we have: Old MacDonald had a farm, ….da más ejemplos….

Pop songs, or modern, fashinable songs, are perhaps more adequate for older pupils, especially third cycle of primary education. They have the advantage of giving our students a big sense of achievement. And, of course, they are highly motivating. Some examples of modern songs that we can teach our older students are: …da algún ejemplo…

Now we will see WHY songs, and nursery rhymes rhymes are important in English class. According to many scholars, songs — in their different varieties– are among the best ways of teaching a foreign language. One reason for this is that singing can build students’ confidence because it allows them to enjoy a degree of fluency in English before they have achieved it in speaking. Another reason, of course, is that by using songs, we introduce authentic material in the class bringing students closer to the culture of the target language. But there are many other good reasons, among them we have the following:

  • Songs, rhymes, and also chants are wonderful means of teaching stress and intonation patterns of English.
  • Play and music are a source of motivation, interest and enjoyment.
  • Games, including musical ones, constitute a context for language use for children.
  • Music and rhythm make it much easier to imitate and remember language than words which are just ‘spoken’–if we teach children a song, it somehow ‘sticks’.
  • We can use a song or a chant to teach children the sounds and rhythm of English, to reinforce structures and vocabulary, or as Total Physical Response activities.
  • A song is a very strong means of triggering emotions
    • That contributes to socialization (a song is collective)
    • That appeals to the ear (one listens to himself while singing)
    • That produces pleasure (reproduction of a sound, enjoyment of the rhythm)
    • And that helps to develop an aesthetic feelings and tastes.
  • Songs contain words and expressions of high frequency and offer repetition.
  • Singing helps to acquire a sense of rhythm.
  • It facilitates memorizing when it is associated with a linguistic item.
  • if used properly by the teacher, plays and songs are excellent means whereby children have fun and at the same time acquire a language.

Motivation is a strong factor in favour of using songs in the English classroom. Children are motivated by the music, by the variety of rhythms, by the instrumentation (guitar, contrabass, percussions), by the different voices involved (Masculine, feminine, child, adult) and by the themes (boys/girls, circus, family, animals, etc.). The great advantage of songs is the possibility of “being remembered”.

What songs should we choose for the classroom?
We should choose songs that :

– Contain simple, easily understood lyrics

– Link with a topic or vocabulary that the students are studying in class

– Are repetitive

– Children can easily do actions to accompany the song (to help emphasize meaning)

An finally, a few words on students’ elaboration of their own materials for their use in English class Having students make their own material is one way of getting involved in their own learning process. Beginners can make, for example, their own minicards with drawings on them representing the vocabulary learnt and they can later use those cards to play bingo, memory games, etc. Older pupils can also produce materials to be used in English class, such as board games, posters, etc. They can create their own small, or large-scale projects. A project is a group of activities aimed at producing something in the new language. A project can be created in many different ways; a good way to start can be by brainstorming to choose a topic. The important aspect is to make the students feel that they are taking part in the creation process.

As a conclusion, I would say that the materials used in English class should appeal to students and at the same time they should help the teacher and the students attain the objectives set for the course.


Brewster J., Ellis., Girard D. (1992) The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. Penguin English.

Halliwell, S. 1992. Teaching English in the Primary Classroom. Longman.

Nunan D., Understanding Language Classrooms: A Guide for Teacher-Initiated Action. Prentice-Hall

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