Take a look at your foreign language textbook. How long has it been used in your department? Look at the publication date (the original one, not the new edition with new photos). Does foreign language education look the same today as it did when that book was published?
The reality is that when many of these books were first published they were based on current foreign language teaching trends at the time. But, times change. As much as we try to keep up with new research and do our best to modify our teaching to keep current many times we are restrained by textbooks that were published before the dawn of the age of communicative and proficiency-based foreign language teaching. If we continue to use (sometimes because we are mandated..I get it) these textbooks and accompanying materials we are unable to fully embrace proficiency.
The reality is that it takes years to write and publish a textbook and the cost of buying new textbooks needs to justify the investment, which means that the book will be used for many years. The issue here is that teaching changes quite a bit on a regular basis. So what is a teacher to do?
Several years ago I completed a graduate program in applied linguistics with a research focus on psycholinguistics and second language acquisition. I had already been teaching for ten years, but my understanding of technique and methodology changed so much throughout my research and studies. I was devoted to embracing communicative and proficiency-based language teaching, but, of course, the textbooks in my classroom were not going to be helpful. Don’t get me totally wrong here. There is surely a place to focus on the accuracy of language typically presented in traditional textbooks, but there was clearly a void when it came to proficiency. Back in 2009 I started googling around and found Teachers Pay Teachers. There I found materials from teachers who had also embraced proficiency-based language teaching and were making their materials available. For me the true genius and worth of Teachers Pay Teachers is that it allows educators to quickly and efficiently adapt to the changing climate of education and provides materials that respond to this change in a fraction of the the time and cost that it would take to write, publish and purchase a textbook. Teachers are dedicated to keeping up with teaching trends and methodology and now there is a way to share well-vetted resources with the larger teaching community.
If you have spent any time here on my blog, you know that I am dedicated to foreign language proficiency and bringing tips, tools and resources to teachers so that their students can rise in proficiency and communicate with confidence. I often present these ideas at conferences and throughout social media. The immediacy of sharing out in the constantly-changing world of education has been invaluable. Teachers are held accountable for emerging standards, curriculum, evaluations and expectations, but traditional resources, such as textbooks, can’t keep up. This is the beauty of Teachers Pay Teachers. The resources on the site are from teachers in our situation who are providing what we need to succeed. The fact that it is an open marketplace means that you can see the reviews of other teacher and determine very quickly the quality and usefulness of a product. Does this happen when it comes to textbooks?
I’m assuming if the title of this post piqued your interest that you are in fact interested in staying up-to-date in the changing world of foreign language teaching. I’m sure that you create great materials for your students in your classroom. Keep it up. Take a look around by blog by clicking on the categories to the right. You will see some interesting topics and new ways of approaching foreign language teaching. You’ll also see posts describing proficiency-based speaking and writing activities available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Read the comments and decide if these products will help you foster language proficiency in your classroom.
Here are some posts to get started:
- Is My Textbook Based on Proficiency?
- Foreign Language Lesson Planning
- 90%+ Target Language Use
- Student-Friendly Can Do Statements
- Balanced Approach to Fluency and Accuracy
- Chat Stations
- Powerpoint Writing Activities
- 10 Ways to Use Task Cards
- Tab Books
- Interactive Speaking Activities