Course books should correspond to learners’ needs. They should match the aims and objectives of the approved syllabus or of the language-learning programme in terms of language content, skills and communicative strategies. It is very important that course books should facilitate learners’ progress and take them forward as effectively as possible towards achieving the objectives. (Bălan, 2003:271)
Learner-generated materials are a rich source for any teacher. They closely reflect students’ needs and interests. They turn students into direct partners of the teacher and, appropriately used, they may enhance their motivation and progress.
Alternative stories mentioned above are such learner-generated materials. Other examples of learner-generated materials are:
- transcripts of conversations on different topics, which can be done either by teacher or by a class scribe on large chart or on the board. In the first case they can be used in a sequence of classes for developing language awareness, for error correction sessions, or language clinics, for designing remedial tasks, or for teaching functions, expanding vocabulary, etc.;
- homework, which may also be turned into teaching material;
- skits, or short sketches/improvisations on different topics/situations, can be successfully exploited in class to improve both writing and speaking. The teacher may check the accuracy of such productions beforehand or may ask the rest of the students, the audience, to identify possible errors (lexical choice, structures, appropiacy of register, pronunciation, etc).
There has been and still is a lot of indication nowadays that students’ influence is rather limited when it comes to the choice of material and method of working in the English classroom. And this is the case despite the fact that according to the Swedish syllabus concerning English as a subject every student has a responsibility for his or her language acquisition (Eriksson & Jacobsson 2001:8).
The most important thing teachers can do in (Woodward’s, 2001:16) view is to get to know their students. The reason for this is obvious; the more teachers can find out about their learners, the more information they have to help them to make choices in topics and material. Students can be involved in the decisions as well; they can be asked about what topics and materials they are interested in (Woodward’s, 2001:16).
Eriksson and Jacobsson, (2001:9) claim that students experience increased motivation and more efficient acquisition if teachers give them more influence on what method and material to use. Tornberg, (2001:46) points out that there are good reasons to believe that if students for example are allowed to decide the topic of a conversation themselves and they are in control of the course of it, their motivation and engagement in the conversation can be influenced in a positive way. Furthermore, it makes sense that students experience their acquisition as more meaningful if they participate in the planning process and consider for themselves what goals to achieve. In addition, if students are included in the decision making, the teach-ing stands a better chance of being individualised because who knows better what level to work at than the students themselves (Eriksson and Jacobsson, 2001:9)? However, as many teachers have experienced, it is not always possible to observe every single student’s needs.
Most teachers agree that it is sensible to include students in the planning process, mainly because of the reasons mentioned above. However, adding students in the process does not always work out satisfactorily. Teachers might meet resistance from their students because some of them are frustrated and anxious when they have to make their own decisions, where as others have difficulties in getting started and planning what, how and when to do it. Consequently, some students could be very reluctant to taking responsibility for their acquisition. In addition, there are always students who seize the opportunity of making as little effort as possible. Even students who have positive attitudes towards making their own decisions about what and how to learn, might feel lost if they do not know what is expected of them. Moreover, it makes it even more difficult for a teacher if the colleagues do not believe in including students in the process; therefore support from fellow teachers could be very important (Eriksson and Jacobsson, 2001:9).