The student is at the core of the teaching process; he is and will be the most important element in the class. But he is not the only one and to neglect the other possible involvements would be lack of professionalism. The teacher is also essential, and nowdays he seems to be more like an organiser and his main job is to make students speak; he is not anymore the one who should do the talking. A conversation can start in multiple ways and it can be generated by different classroom situations. There are things that an educator can bring in the classroom to help his teaching approach, materials that, used properly, can be of utmost significance.
Graham Crookes and Craig Chaudron divide them into two large groups: nontechnical aids and technical aids: “ the former include the chalkboard, realia, flashcards, magazine pictures, and charts. The latter include the overhead projector, audio and video recordings, CD-ROM, and internet.” (Crookes and Chaudron, in Celce, 2001: 30)
A common classical classroom can be equipped by language teachers with the help of the materials they are using to provide support when teaching. Some of these aids are part of the classroom proper, like the blackboard, some are given to students, like the course book, while some others are brought in by the teacher himself. Very much depends on the teacher’s willingness and desire to improve his lesson in any possible way. Some find it absolutely necessary to carry different items with them; some others are not quite the same. One reason for this is the fact that these apparatuses can be bulky in some cases and they become really uncomfortable at times.
Anyway, one important thing to keep in mind is that students are different kinds of learners: some are visual learners, and, due to this, some part of the lesson should consist of images or anything that students “see” or “watch”; some others are auditory learners, and, here, you ought to take into account the fact that the teacher speaking is not enough, because the educator is not necessarily a native speaker and because a single person doing all the talking is a limitating experience; the last category is kinesthetic learners- those for whom the essential thing is to touch objects and to feel them. This last category is difficult to be taken care of, especially in Romanian schools, dominated by prejudices. It is hard to imagine that taking students out of the classroom regularly or allowing them to move round the classroom and touch objects, whether brought in by the teacher or not, would be a tolerated attitude on the long term.
The Course Book
In our society and culture, the textbook would have to be the basis of teaching. Not following a textbook would be considered at least strange. In other countries, though, the role of textbook has been questioned, not few being those who state that we could do without them. But our students expect them, some with curiosity, others with boredom, still others with enthusiasm and so on. We can remember their first reactions when they get them; they start looking at the pictures, because these will tell them what subjects they will be dealing with. The teacher’s role is very important here; he or she chooses the textbook so he has to make sure it is useful for students. In order to be accepted, a coursebook has to respect some requirements. The first and foremost condition a coursebook has to observe is to be in accordance with the syllabus. Then, it should be adapted to students’ level. They should be neither too easy nor too difficult for the pupils. Also, the topics are essential. If they have no relevance to students, one can also forget about using them. They should be culturally relevant to the learners, as having texts and activities about unknown subjects and people can be rather demotivating. Anyway, these textbooks come with advantages and disadvantages. We will mention some here.
The most important advantage comes with just a word: choice. The teacher can choose the units, exercises, texts and so on. Only he knows what is suitable for his class.
Many course books nowadays are very well built, all units, besides being very attractive to teenagers, respecting the idea that all the specific skills should be enclosed: reading, speaking, listening, and writing. The texts are well chosen to be of interest to students; most of the exercises come with a follow up in which students have to apply what they have learned; speaking is suggested in exciting role play exercises resembling real life situations; listening is crucial in a textbook, so important care is given to choosing the right situations, voices, intonations and professional editing; writing relies on formal and informal letters, messages, e-mails etc.
Most if not all textbooks come with a detailed teacher’s book which is of real help not only to young teachers but also to more experienced ones. There are given suggestions for different activities and plenty of advice for teachers. One can also find possible mistakes in teaching or learning that the teacher or students may encounter and solutions are given to these problems. Another good thing is the activity book which can help students to spend more time on topics they feel the need to insist on. Last but not least, modern textbooks come with a CD, DVD or cassette where the listening is in accordance with the topic of the unit.