How to Adapt your Coursebook to the Needs of Your Class

In the diverse landscape of English language education, acknowledging and adapting to the individual needs of foreign students is crucial for effective learning. While coursebooks serve as valuable resources, their generic nature may not always cater to the specific requirements of learners from various linguistic backgrounds.

In my experience, many learners do not actually have very good reading skills in their first language and, equally, many do not seem able to transfer them automatically. So I would still be in favour of activities which help learners to develop, or at least transfer, these skills. I also believe that learners need to have a task or a reason to read, and that comprehension questions can, at least partially, provide this. And good comprehension questions can guide the learner through the text, helping them to make sense of it. Having said this, it cannot be denied that coursebook readings tend to follow a fairly established formula:
1 Use a warm-up activity to introduce the topic.
2 Present a set of comprehension questions, using true/false, multiple choice or something else that isn’t too open-ended.
3 Get the students to read the text and answer the questions.
4 Conduct a follow-up discussion and/or do some language work.

This article explores strategies for educators to adapt English coursebooks to better suit the needs of their foreign students, fostering a more personalized and effective learning experience.

Understanding Diverse Linguistic Backgrounds

The first step in adapting an English coursebook is recognizing the diverse linguistic backgrounds of your students. Different languages have distinct grammatical structures, phonetics, and cultural nuances. By understanding these variations, educators can identify potential challenges and customize their approach to address specific linguistic difficulties. This awareness allows for the incorporation of targeted exercises, explanations, and examples in the coursebook that resonate with the students’ native languages.

Incorporating Culturally Relevant Content

Language is intricately connected to culture, and foreign students often find it beneficial when course materials reflect their cultural backgrounds. Adapting a coursebook to include culturally relevant content not only makes the learning experience more engaging but also helps students relate to and understand the language in a meaningful context. Including texts, dialogues, and activities that incorporate diverse cultural perspectives enriches the learning journey and promotes a sense of inclusivity.

Flexible Pace and Progression

Each student progresses through language learning at their own pace. Adapting a coursebook to accommodate different learning speeds is essential for ensuring that all students grasp the material thoroughly. Educators can supplement the coursebook with additional exercises for reinforcement or offer extra resources for those who require further practice. Recognizing the individual learning styles of students and providing flexibility in the pace of lessons allows for a more tailored and accommodating approach.

Customizing Language Skills Emphasis

English coursebooks typically cover the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing. However, foreign students may have specific strengths or weaknesses in these areas based on their linguistic backgrounds. Adapting the coursebook to place emphasis on the skills that students need the most can significantly enhance their language proficiency. For instance, if a group of students struggles with speaking skills, the coursebook can be adjusted to include more conversational activities and pronunciation exercises.

Integration of Technology and Multimedia

Modernizing course content by integrating technology and multimedia resources can greatly benefit foreign students. Interactive online platforms, audiovisual materials, and language learning apps provide additional avenues for practicing and reinforcing language skills. By supplementing the coursebook with digital resources, educators can create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that appeals to the diverse learning preferences of their students.

Encouraging Collaborative Learning

Adapting a coursebook to promote collaborative learning experiences can be particularly effective for foreign students. Group activities, pair work, and collaborative projects encourage students to interact with their peers, fostering language development through real-life communication. These interactive elements not only make the learning process more enjoyable but also provide students with opportunities to learn from each other’s linguistic strengths and weaknesses.

Regular Feedback and Assessment

To further tailor the coursebook to the needs of foreign students, regular feedback and assessment are essential. Evaluating students’ progress allows educators to identify areas that require additional attention and adjust the coursebook accordingly. This feedback loop enables instructors to refine their teaching methods and customize the course materials based on the evolving needs of the learners.


Whatever coursebook you use, there are likely to be a lot of comprehension questions. I don’t think you’re wasting time with them, but any activity done in the same way every time can become a little tired and shabby. Maybe it is time to reboot your comprehension activities, rather than booting them out.  Adapting an English coursebook to meet the unique needs of foreign students involves a dynamic and responsive approach to language education. By understanding the diverse linguistic backgrounds, incorporating culturally relevant content, allowing flexible pacing, customizing language skills emphasis, integrating technology, promoting collaborative learning, and providing regular feedback, educators can create a more personalized and effective learning experience. The goal is to empower foreign students with the linguistic tools they need to thrive in an English-speaking environment while appreciating and embracing their diverse backgrounds.

1. Cotterall, S ‘Developing reading strategies through small-group interaction’ RELC Journal 21 (2) 199
2. Lynch, T Communication in the Language Classroom OUP 1996


prof. Ovidiu Leonard Vintilă

Colegiul Tehnic Costin D. Nenițescu, Pitești (Argeş) , România
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