Friday, 7 September 2012

Materials Overload

The new academic year is almost upon us here in Turkey and it will be one with many changes, both on a national level and within my school as year groups are restructured and English teaching hours are changed. As a result, my school is using new course books this year, books we have spent the last few days patiently waiting for to see exactly what we have to work with (or without as the case may be).

And today, we discovered this is what we have to deal with:

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What you see are ‘Teacher Resource Packs’ for second and third grade teachers. Contained within are flashcards (in both print and CD-ROM formats), poster packs, game cards and a cartoon story on DVD. In between columns, you can just about see activity books with grammar practice and reading and writing booklets just out of shot. Oh, and there’s no sign of the main course book or the teacher’s book yet.

Personally, I would not relish working with such an amount of material but I just reminded myself that I will not be teaching those grades and moved on.

Having moved on past the visual obstruction of the ‘triple towers’, I came across this sight:

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These are the books I will be using… What you see are teacher’s books (30 for each level even though there are only 3 or 4 teachers who will use them), poster packs, vocabulary cards, audio CDs, teacher CD-ROMs, student CD-ROMs, DVDs, assessment packs, teacher resource packs and practice books. The main course book and a further set of CDs are still to come…

Two thoughts immediately entered my head: What a waste and what am I going to do with all this? I am sure most of what you see will hardly be used. With the limited hours we have each week and the additional readers and preparation for the Cambridge YLE tests, there is simply no way all of this can be used. Some might say “it’s better to have too much than too little” but isn’t this a bit over the top? We are in danger of collapsing beneath the weight of our syllabus. In fact, the table is also in danger of collapsing!

And it seems like overkill both in terms of the amount of material provided and the amount of paper and packaging used:

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It’s been more than a decade since Scott Thornbury challenged the dependence on pre-prepared material in the world of EFL and I think I’ll leave you with his words which resonate with me right now more than ever before:

But where is the story? Where is the inner life of the student in all this? Where is real communication? More often as not, it is buried under an avalanche of photocopies, visual aids, transparencies, MTV clips and cuisennaire rods. Somewhere in there we lost the plot.

Thornbury, 2000

2 comments:

  1. Hi Dave.
    A daunting set of skyscrapers indeed. And of course I'm pro-Dogme like most of your readers.

    But...
    as the year progresses, do keep me informed if you do stumble upon some diamonds in the rust. I'm sure even the worst books have a couple of nice ideas.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alan and thanks for the comment.

      You are right of course - I'm sure there are very good, well-thought out activities in the books. Indeed, the 'skyscraper' ones look very attractive with cartoon characters that I'm sure the kids will love and a comprehensive online game that goes with it. The books I will use, while a little less appealing visually, have some very nice project ideas that I will be making use of. The main shock/problem remains the volume of stuff though - how did we get to the point where this much was needed? More materila = less room for creativity for both the teacher and the students...

      But I will keep you posted on the high and lows of working through the rust and the diamonds ;)

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