When the Book Is Not Enough: 6 Simple Ways to Supplement Your Textbook Lesson Plans

When the Book Is Not Enough: 6 Simple Ways to Supplement Your Textbook Lesson Plans

Don’t you love it when you have the perfect lesson plans simply given to you?

When you can follow along in the book and just do the exercises the curriculum’s author set forth? When you don’t have to supplement at all? Yeah, it’s never happened to me either. Even the best curriculums and lesson plans need supplementing. Don’t you wish you had a tool that could make this easier? That could show you just what you need to add and how? Well, here you have it. No matter what you have or don’t have in your curriculum, here is a step by step process to figure out what you need and how to supplement what you have.

6 Simple Ways to Supplement Your Textbook Lesson Plans

  1. 1

    Read the Curriculum

    As you might expect, the first step is to read the curriculum. You have to know what you have before you know what you need. As you read, you’ll have to have your goals in mind, what you want your students to learn. While you are reading, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Is the curriculum at the appropriate level for your students? Just because you are teaching an intermediate class doesn’t mean your students are intermediate level. Give the activities a hard look and determine if your students will be able to successfully learn the material through these activities. Eliminate any that are too hard or too easy for your class.
    2. Does it cover reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar? It might not need to if you are teaching only one area of language. But more likely than not, you can’t draw lines so clearly on what areas of English you are responsible for teaching your students. Plus, language flows together. Reading is connected to writing, listening to grammar, etc. You can’t truly isolate one aspect of language from another. If you notice any areas of instruction that aren’t covered in the lessons you are given, make note of it.
    3. Do the given activities touch on different learning styles? Are students working on their own and in groups? Is it communicative? Is there something visual? Aural? Kinesthetic? Logical? Social? Solitary? Each of these is a valid learning style, so make note if one or more of them isn’t included in the activities you have.

    Once you ask yourself these questions, you will have a good idea of where you need to supplement. Make notes of any area that isn’t covered in the given curriculum, or if it’s easier make yourself a check list with your goals, the different areas of language instruction, and the different learning styles. Check each one off the list as you read through the curriculum and what you have left on the list are the types of activities you need to supplement.

  2. 2

    Choose Activities to Cover the Missing Language Skills Areas

    This step is so easy to write down, but the actual doing of it can take some time. Depending on what you have on your missing items list, you may only need a few supplemental activities or you may need a lot of them. Here are some ideas for activities you can do in each of the language skills areas.

    Reading – If you don’t have reading covered in your curriculum, consider adding an activity like the following. Read a newspaper article or short story and answer questions on the material. Do research online. Have students look up answers to questions in books you have in your classroom.

    Writing – If you need to add a writing exercise, try the following. Have students write a summary of something they read or heard. Have them write a letter to someone associated with what you are studying. Have them support their opinion in writing or write an essay that discussed the topic. Have them write an email or memo.

    Listening – Do your students need more listening practice than is included in the curriculum? Show a video, movie, news clip, or play a song. Challenge students to listen for specific words, information, or to use the information they hear in a response.

    Speaking – There are tons of ways to get your students talking, but here are some easy ideas. Have students discuss the topic, have them practice a dialogue, play a game, talk about a picture, or plan an event. Let them interview each other or, even better, native speakers to cover listening and speaking at once.

    Vocabulary – For any new words students encounter in their reading or listening materials, have them look up words in the dictionary, determine meaning from context, match words to synonyms or antonyms, or break words down into roots and affixes and learn the meanings of those.

    Grammar – If you need additional grammar practice for your students, give them worksheets, exercises in the book, have them make corrections to something you write, or have them edit a classmate’s composition. You can also take time in the computer lab to do exercises online or play a grammar game on any of many ESL websites.

  3. 3

    Choose Activities to Cover the Missing Learning Styles

    You’ve read through the curriculum. Is there something to look at? Listen to? Touch and manipulate? Do students have a chance to talk to each other? Do they have a chance to work on their own? Is there music involved in the lesson? Hopefully your curriculum connects with several different learning styles. If not, supplement with one of these ideas.

    1. Visual/Spatial – Write notes on the board, have students read information or gather it from a chart.
    2. Aural/Auditory/Musical – Make sure you tell your students what you want them to learn in addition to reading it. Put the language skills or vocabulary you are teaching to song. Or have students listen to a recorded dialogue and use it as a model for their own speech.
    3. Verbal/Linguistic – Here is some good news for all of you language teachers out there. If you are teaching just about any aspect of language, you have covered this learning style. For students who learn this way, languages come easy – both spoken and in writing. You probably won’t’ have to add anything to your lesson plans to accommodate these learners. Just remember that not every language learner will pick up on what you are teaching as quickly as your verbal learners will.
    4. Physical/Kinesthetic - Are your students doing something? Are they moving? To aid these learners, use manipulatives in class, play games that include movement, or try the Total Physical Response technique.
    5. Mathematical/Logical – Give these students a puzzle to solve with the skills or information you are teaching. Have them solve a problem. Use the discovery instruction method. Students who learn this way want to figure out things on their own.
    6. Social/Interpersonal – Students who learn this way like to talk, and that’s good news for the language teacher. Include some type of discussion or group project in your lesson plans to make sure these students are getting what they need.
    7. Solitary/Intrapersonal – Students who learn this way need time to work on their own. You might add doing worksheets or writing about their own opinions for these students and of course giving homework.
  4. 4

    Tweak Exercises As Needed to Meet the Strengths and Struggles of This Specific Group of Students

    Only you can know what your students are capable. Make your activities a little harder or a little easier. Add steps to the process or take some away. Or if you are lucky, leave them just where they are.

  5. 5

    Check for Practical Application and Add If Necessary

    Practical language use is realistic language use. Make sure you have a connection to real life language use in at least one of your planned activities. If not, add one or more. Have students read something written for native speakers. Have them talk to strangers on the street. Or maybe have them write a letter or make a phone call.

  6. 6

    Plan a Warm Up and Some Fillers If They Aren’t Included

    Don’t expect your students to jump right in to the deep end when it comes to what you want to teach. Plan one or two activities to warm them up. Do a review, play a game, do an ice breaker, give students a problem to solve, or plan a discussion on today’s topic.

    While you are at it, make sure you have a couple of fillers in your back pocket for those times when your lesson doesn’t take as long as you anticipated or it takes too long to go on to the next thing in today’s class. Busy Teacher has tons of resources for warmers and fillers.

That’s it.

Six steps and you are ready to go confident that your students are learning everything you intend them to learn and that every student will connect with the material in meaningful ways. You are ready to conquer the world, well at least teach this week’s lesson.

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