This unit discussed on the course materials which can be divided to authentic and inauthentic. Authentic materials are real subjects from life such as TV guide, newspapers, magazines, songs, poems, brochures, menus, etc. The inauthentic materials are course books from publishers or created materials from instructors. Each type has its pros and cons. No single material alone meets all the teaching or learning needs. The instructor has to determine what fits the best for the course.
1) Authentic materials. As the authentic materials are from real life, they tend to be more interesting and attractive with a wide range of topics to appeal the students. Learners gain confidence when they understand the materials. However, the authentic materials are not graded for levels of students. They are more familiar to the native English speakers but the non-native English speakers may find the materials very hard to understand. Therefore the authentic materials are generally not for beginners, rather more for advanced students. They should be selected carefully and used properly for different tasks and levels.
2) Created materials. This type of materials are created by instructors. They are graded to match learners’ levels and often times designed to replace or supplement the materials from the course books. Created materials, in comparison to the course books, are more economic, interesting and relevant. Meanwhile, they can very well serve as a welcome change from the course book to give some freshness to the students. Furthermore, they can be made very artistic by talented instructors to add more merits to the materials and attract students’ interest. Yet, the created materials can be very time consuming to create and for the instructors who are less artistically gifted, creating artistic materials can be very challenging. Some students may not treat the created materials as serious, valuable course materials for a good care to prevent a loss or damage.
3) Course books. Course books are usually provided by the school and often consist of a set of materials including teacher’s manual, student’s book and student’s work book. Sometimes the package also comes with cassette, CD ROM, video and so on. Some other publishers may include additional materials such as learner dictionary, vocabulary flash cards, test books, etc. Nevertheless, like any form of teaching materials, the course books also have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that they are expected by the students; teaching is easy to start as the syllabus was already designed; the syllabus in the course books is graded to students’ levels; having the course books provides security for teacher, students and school; the books usually contain a balanced mix with vocabulary, grammar and skill work; they offer course continuity, progression and continual practice on the languages previously introduced; the materials in the course book have already been tried and tested before publication; they are designed to be attractive and appealing to the users’ eyes; moreover, the teacher’s book usually offers many good ideas for inexperienced teacher. On the other hand, the disadvantages of course books should also be acknowledged. They are not designed for every learner’s level. Students may not like the book which can discourage them from enthusiastically using the book. It could be costly that students may not buy the book. Instructor does not get to choose. Students or instructor may not like the publisher. Exclusive usage of the course books may make the learning boring or predictable. Because the materials were already established by the publisher, it can stop teacher from being creative and searching for other interesting topics or objects such as stories, poems, pictures, etc. The materials in the book may not be designed for use by every nationalities. They may be outdated and no longer attractive to students. In addition, it dictates the materials to be taught and may hinder teacher from analyzing particular problems that students may have and prevent the materials from being student centered.
If the instructor gets to choose the course books and before makes decision, he or she should carefully analyze them and get answers on 1) price, 2) availability, 3) up-to-date status, 4) attractiveness, 5) level of difficulty, 6) how well it fits students’ needs, 5) whether it has the mixed materials, offers progression and continuity, provides any activities and any ancillary materials, continually reviews the languages covered before, and whether the topic is interesting and relevant to the needs, etc.
After having identified the desirable course books, the instructor should determine how to best use the course book. The principles should be but not limited to: teach the course, rather than the book; choose the proper materials that fulfill learners’ need; decide what needs to be omitted, adapted, replaced or supplemented; create a balanced lesson based on the time allocated; approach the book critically and do some research and look for difficulties not stressed by the authors; still try out other interesting materials, vary activities rather than only base the book for whole lesson.
In conclusion, to decide what type of materials to use among the three types of the teaching materials, many factors have to be considered from students’ level of interest, skills, financial status, to the suitability of materials for the specific group of learners, instructor’s comfort level, etc. The key is to teach the lesson, teach the course, rather than the materials. Selecting the course materials should be focused on the learners’ best interest.