Choosing a textbook

group of people around a book
20 Sep Shelley Vernon 2 Comments

Teachers often ask me for help with choosing a textbook. There are a lot out there, and often, they come with a workbook, a teacher's book, audio materials and supplements. The whole pack can be pretty expensive. 


A textbook is like a road map. It tells you what to teach, in a logical order. It means you don't forget to teach something, like possessive pronouns, or something else you may overlook. There are so many aspects to a language, it's easy enough to forget to teach something!

chart with vocabulary and grammar topics

Also, some students, especially adults, like to have a book. It gives them something concrete to hold on to and serves as a record of what they are supposed to know. It gives them an idea of progress, even if it's just turning pages in the book!


English textbook with Big ben, phone box, umbrella and union jack

  • Oxford Press's Headway is a good staple and it's updated all the time, to stay current in terms of pictures and themes. They have an American version and a UK version.

  • That said, to help your students learn, you really want them thinking for themselves, working in groups, playing a language game in teams, doing a class quizz or grammar auction, rather than sitting there in front of a book. Therefore, since you won't be relying on the textbook for how you conduct your lessons, the choice of book is less important. 

  • Why not go along to your local library and see if you can borrow a textbook. If you are using the textbook to plan your lessons and follow a logical path then it doesn't matter if the topics and pictures are out of date. But if you are planning on giving copies to your students, then you need to have the latest. A book that is two years out of date is archaic as far as the average teen is concerned! (Just tell them it's a history lesson.)

old books to imply out of date textbooks

Here are a few more tips before you choose your textbook:


  • Do check that your students have not already worked through your chosen textbook before you buy it.

  • Never buy a book for a student until you have had the first lesson. There's no way of knowing a student's level until then, and usually, students have a lower level than they are supposed to.

  • A textbook with classic themes will never be out of date - though the pictures might be. For example, Big Ben and Westminster are historical London sights, they were and they always will be. That said, if you are bored out of your mind teaching classes on Big Ben yet again, your boredom might well be felt by the class, so maybe it's time to work on a different theme.


Are you a teacher or someone who tells students what page to turn to?

active teacher not using a textbookPersonally, I don't rely on a textbook to run my lessons. My first job as a TEFL teacher was a nightmare, but I guess it was a golden learning opportunity for me. We didn't have a textbook. We were given a grammar book, with no pictures, no texts, simply the grammar that was to be taught that day. The teacher had to build a lesson out of that from scratch. As a new teacher, it was hard work. Back then, oh boy, I spent so much time preparing it made my hourly salary ridiculous. I'd have earned more stacking shelves at the supermarket. Since then I discovered teaching with games, student-centered activities and skits, and that first job would be a walk in the park today!


So, once you have your textbook, please don't spend the lessons slavishly reading every bit of it and filling in all the blanks. A student can do that on their own. Instead, take the theme of the textbook unit and do interactive activities and games. I have plenty so feel free to drop me a line and tell me who you are teaching and what you need, and I'll recommend the best resource for you from my games books, stories or skits.


Please feel free to comment on how you use textbooks below - lots of teachers read this blog and they would LOVE to hear from you. You have to put in your email, but it's safe, it's 100% private, it's just there in case I need to reply to you directly.




I definitely agree that the textbook is not si relevant in the development of a class. Of course that depends on your working experiencie. The more experience You have, the less You need to rely on a textbook. However, it can ve very useful when you are short of time to choose the material for every class. Thank you for sharing your impressions on the subject.
Dear Gabriela, Thanks for your comment. I agree with you absolutely. A textbook can be extremely useful, and not just for the teacher. Students often like to have a record of what they are learning. I would use one always in conjunction with games and activities, and often get students to read the textbook for homework, or use it as a base for activities. I just don't like classes where everyone sits there passively while someone reads out a paragraph in the textbook. It's pretty boring! But I agree with you that they are very useful. All the best Shelley

Leave a reply

Follow blog

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Join 2,450 other followers

Blog categories