Choosing the best English textbook

best English textbook

Teachers often ask me for help with choosing the best English textbook. There are plenty out there, and they often come with a workbook, a teacher’s book, audio materials, and supplements. Unfortunately, the whole pack can be pretty expensive. 


Why use a textbook?

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

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. In addition, it gives them an idea of progress, even if it’s just turning pages!


A textbook recommendation

It is hard to name the best English textbook, but Oxford Press’s Headway is a good staple. They update it all the time to stay current in terms of pictures and themes. In addition, they have an American version and a UK version.


You need more than the best English textbook to make learning interesting

Even if you have found the best English textbook, you don’t want to rely on it exclusively. Instead, you want students to think for themselves, working in groups, playing a language game in teams, doing a class quiz or grammar auction, rather than sitting in front of a book. Therefore, since you won’t be relying on the textbook for how you conduct your lessons, you can be a great teacher even if you have a dud! 


Be up to date

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you use the coursebook to plan your lessons and follow a logical path, it doesn’t matter if the topics and pictures are outdated.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 A book two years out of date is archaic as far as the average teen is concerned!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


Textbook tips

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

  • Do check that your students have not already worked through your chosen coursebook before buying 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  • A textbook with classic themes will never be outdated – though the pictures might be. For example, Big Ben and Westminster are historical London sights; they were and always will be. That said, if you are bored out of your mind teaching classes on Big Ben yet again, your boredom might be felt by the class, so maybe it’s time to work on a different theme.


Textbook-centric lessons

I made that word up, so it might not exist! Are you a teacher or someone who tells students what page to turn to?

Personally, 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. Instead, 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!

Get away from your book in class! Instead, use it as a guide, a reference, and for homework.

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 100% private and it’s just there in case I need to reply to you directly. You can put in a fake email if you like. What we want to hear are your comments.

The best preschool method

For a fantastic series of lesson plans, stories, flashcards and PowerPoints, please see my preschool and primary school curriculue. Free samples are available too, just enter your name and email to receive.

The best ESL Games books

2 thoughts on “Choosing the best English textbook”

  1. 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.

  2. 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

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