Harmer, (2001:151) suggests a five-stage procedure when teachers make their own teaching material. Focus is put on the making of the material rather than the actual use of it. The first stage is planning and to begin with all the material obviously needs to be comprehensible and attractive to the students.
In order for the material to achieve these criteria one can have Krashen’s Input Hypothesis (Brown, 2000:278) in mind when deciding how challenging the material should be for the students. This hypothesis argues that:
“[an] important condition for language acquisition to occur is that the acquirer understand (via hearing or reading) input language that contains structure ‘a bit beyond’ his or her current level of competence… If an acquirer is at stage or level i, the input he or she understands should contain i + 1.”
It is therefore important for the teacher who creates the material that he or she makes sure to present a language that the students can understand and that simultaneously challenges the students to make progress (Harmer, 2001:151).
Furthermore, topics must be chosen and also what activities are required from the students (reading, speaking, writing, etc). Aims ought to be considered as well and are very important. Trialling is the next stage and refers to trying out the material before it is used in the classroom. In order to do this, colleagues, a friend or a student can be asked for their opinions about the newly produced material. In this way spelling mistakes or vague instructions can be discovered in time. The third stage is evaluating which contributes to improving the material for future use and also provides ideas about the production of other materials. The following stage is classifying, (e.g. to categorise the material alphabetically) a useful process in order to access the material easily for future use. There could be as many ways of classifying as there are teachers. Lastly, there is record-keeping which reminds of classifying. It is very useful for long-term planning to have documentation of material and evaluations, especially if it is to be used in different classes (Harmer, 2001:151).
In his book Making the Most of Your Textbook, the author (Neville Grant, 1996:203-205) suggests four alternatives when the teacher decides the textbook is not appropriate. Firstly, he or she might simply decide to omit the lesson. That solves the problem of inappropriacy and allows him or her to get on with something else.
There’s nothing wrong with omitting lessons from textbooks. Teachers do it all the time, developing a kind of ‘pick and choose approach to what’s in front of them. However, if they omit too many pages, the students may begin to wonder why they are using the book in the first place, especially if they have bought it themselves.’
Grant’s second opinion is to replace the textbook lesson with one of the teacher’s own. This has obvious advantages: the teacher’s own material probably interests him or her more than the textbook and it may well be more appropriate for the students. If the teacher is dealing with the same language or topic, the students can still use the book to revise that particular language/vocabulary. But the same comments apply here as for omission. If too much of the textbook is replaces, both students and teacher my wonder if it is worth bothering wit it all.
The third opinion is to add to what is in the book. If the lesson is rather boring, too controlled, or if it gives no chance for students to use what they are learning in a personal kind of way, the teacher may want to add activities and exercises which extend the students engagement with the language or topic.
Addition is a good alternative since it uses the textbook’s strengths but marries them with the teacher’s own skills and perceptions of the class in front of him or her.
The final option is for the teacher to adapt what is in the book. If the reading text from the textbook is dealt with in a boring or uncreative way or if the teacher simply wants to deal with the material his or her way, he or she can adapt the lesson, using the same basic material, but doing it in his or her own style.
Using textbooks creatively is one of the premier teaching skills. However good the material is, most experienced teachers do not go through it word for word. Instead, they use the best bits, add to some exercises and add others. Sometimes, they replace textbook material with their own ideas, ideas from other teacher’s books, and occasionally they may omit the textbook lesson completely.