The Textbook As An Aid To Learning

Did you know that the textbook itself can be an aid to learning?

by Louis Alexander

The very word 'textbook' immediately conjures up in our minds a heavy tome crammed full of information, posing a formidable challenge to our ability to learn. Language textbooks used to be like this too before they began to change radically in the late sixties. Up until then, language textbooks were essentially grammar books, packed with information. They were full of long texts and facts about language without much thought given to performance in language: the ability to understand and to speak, to read and to write. Today language courses are devoted exclusively to enhancing performance. Even where information is given, it is intended to develop performance and is not an end in itself.

Here are just a few of the ways in which the Coursebooks and Companions in Direct English are designed to be an aid to learning:

The Coursebooks are short, with just nine units in each book (109 pages). This means that psychologically they are not too challenging. As a learner, you feel that you can get through a book relatively quickly, that you won't be overwhelmed by it.

Both Coursebooks and Companions have a small page size (94mm x 94mm) so again, they are not too challenging. By comparison, many modern classroom courses have A4 page sizes and may run to more than 150 pages each. Some of them weigh a ton!

The Coursebooks have plenty of empty space in the pages, so they are not densely crammed with print. Again, the intention is to make them easy on the eye and accessible.

The Coursebooks and Companions have four-page layouts. The first two facing pages are concerned with the text and its presentation; the second two facing pages are concerned with language practice.

The spiral binding of both books means that the relevant pages of the Companions can be set exactly side by side with the relevant pages of the Coursebooks to make language study easy.
The Coursebooks are beautifully illustrated in full colour and the representational drawings accompanying the texts vividly bring to mind the video presentations.

The book covers are colour-coded at each level so the stages of the course are self-defining.
The numbering of the Units (nine in each book) is clearly labelled, together with the three lessons that constitute each Unit. So each book neatly presents 27 lessons in 9 x 3 modules which are reduplicated in each succeeding book. This makes it easy for the learner to regulate the amount of material to be covered in a logical progression.

Companions 1-6 are translated into the learner's mother tongue, so there is never a problem of communication.

The Introduction to each group of three lessons in the Companions sums up the aims of the Unit, so the learner knows precisely what is to be achieved. The new vocabulary is presented at the end of each Unit.

At the end of each Companion, there are Progress Tests followed by Answers; solutions to the listening comprehension questions given before each presentation of the text; a list of common irregular verbs; and finally, a bilingual glossary with phonetic transcriptions. This critical apparatus gives the learner total control over everything that is taught in the Coursebook.

None of these factors has occurred by accident. Every single one is the result of a deliberate decision to make the books friendly and easy to use, so they are an aid to learning.


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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