Textbooks play a pivotal role in language classrooms in all types of educational institutions — state schools, colleges, language schools. Contemporary textbooks include all the necessary communicative activities for a successful lesson. However, most types of tasks are constantly repeated (students get bored of them, don’t they?) and in some cases, there is a need to implement some games into textbooks, change tasks to make them more appealing and lively.

In this article, we will present a number of techniques to liven the textbook material without changing its content. 

  • Gap-filling/Matching Activities 
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Source: English File, Student’s book, Pre-Intermediate, 3rd edition.

All textbooks are full of ‘fill the gap’ activities which are aimed at practising either grammar or vocabulary. So, a fill in the gap exercise can be turned into a communicative poster presentation activity. The teacher copies the sentences from the exercise on the poster and leaves the gaps. The words to be filled in the blank spaces are given to students, they don’t show their words. First, students mingle to ‘reveal’ the words. They need to give definitions if another student names the word it is stuck on the wall (two sets if you have two groups). Then, the teacher divides the class into two teams. The peers work together, talk to each other,  find the appropriate words to be filled in the gaps, explain their choice. The team who finishes the first and has the most correct answers is the winner. 

In the same way, the vocabulary definitions can be worked on through paper presentations. The teacher writes the words on the poster and sticks the definitions on the wall. Learners need to find and stick the definition to the right word. Add extra definitions or words. 

As an alternative to this game, the teacher can create different quizzes for vocabulary activities and create a competition out of a simple controlled practice activity. You can make your own crossword by using online crossword generator tools like Puzzle Maker.  Personally, I am a big fan of this tool. It is very user-friendly and handy. Apart from this, it enables the teacher to manipulate the textbook material.  

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Source: English File, Student’s book, Intermediate, 3rd edition.

If there is a task ‘fill the gap with the correct tense’, ask students to complete the gaps with a tense that they think makes the sentence true for their partner. Their partner does the same and then they compare and find the correct guesses. In the same way, they can do a controlled practice activity either by asking the question to the partner or completing the sentences from their perspective. For example, sentence number 10 below can be filled for me in this way “I usually cook fish twice a week, my kids love fish a lot”.

  • Recap of the Previous Grammar Material

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    Source: English File, Student’s book, Intermediate, 3rd edition.

Sometimes just completing ‘revise and check’ exercises is not enough. What else can be done here? The teacher can create a grammar quiz in which learners have to go through the exercise to find examples of different types of structures which they have covered. For example, find a comparative form, write as many adjectives as you can see, an example of a passive form, three different tenses, etc. This activity can be easily turned into a competition when students work in teams to find those structures. Learners work in pairs or small groups and need to support their answers by saying why this or that form is a Passive tense, a comparative form or why this or that word is an adjective. This is a nice activity to add extra fun and increase learners’ language awareness.

If we look at the vocabulary exercise, you can ask students to choose the most useful/complicated word. Then students read or listen to their partner’s personal reactions to words in the exercise/text (“I think this is the most useful word in the text because it is connected to my hobby”, “I chose this word just because I like the sound of it”, “This word could be useful, but I think its spelling and pronunciation are so difficult that I will never get the hang of it” etc), and try to find which words they mean.

Follow the link to read more on communicative activities and games on reading assignments.

Textbooks provide teachers with a structured path to cover lessons. However, teachers can modify them to have a full-scale use of the given materials through various games and activities. All the mentioned activities can serve a great way of adding a communicative element into the textbook material. Go ahead with implementing all of them into your practice.

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