To teach any language course, there must be five main components; students, a teacher, teaching materials, teaching methods, and some form of evaluation. Teaching materials include all kinds of resources that can be used to get the information across to the students, from traditional textbooks to a whole range of supplementary aids, including video and audio tapes, visual aids, computer software and games, to name a few.
Teachers will also use a selection of evaluation tools to check and assess learning, and provide feedback to the students. With such a great range of teaching aids available, never before has there been so many options for creative language learning, so there’s no longer any need for teachers to stick to the old fashioned method of only using a textbook.
When a teacher is making a decision about the kind of teaching aids to use in their classroom, they are usually faced with several options, from choosing a suitable published course, adapting an existing course, or making their own aids. While many courses still rely on the tried and tested method of delivering lessons with set textbooks as the basis of their language programme, teachers will usually adapt the content to make it more personal to their particular students by using teaching aids that have been commercially produced, produced by the institution in which they are teaching, or even by the teacher themselves.
A number of benefits have been identified for using teaching aids to supplement textbook learning, the main benefits of which are listed below.
- Teaching aids make lessons more enjoyable, and encourage learners to participate more
By using a range of teaching aids, such as audio and video tapes, online news broadcasts, flash cards or computer software programs, learners are encouraged to immerse themselves in the language rather than just see the language as a subject to be learned from a book.
- Teaching aids can be easily adapted to meet the needs of specific students
Sometimes the content of a course textbook will need to be modified as it’s not well suited to the current learners, perhaps because of their age, gender or their religious, social or cultural background. By choosing to use teaching aids to supplement textbook learning, the course can be more easily revised or adapted as the need arises.
In addition, aids can also be adapted to address the specific needs of a particular group of learners, such as helping learners who are experiencing problems with pronunciation.
- It’s easy to expand the course or add additional material
Sometimes it may be necessary to expand on the course content contained in textbooks. When this happens, supplementary materials can be very useful, especially to provide additional practice to improve grammar, vocabulary or to enable the students to become more familiar with taking certain kinds of tests, such as multiple choice questions.
- Aids can enable the teacher to link the lesson to the locality
Most textbooks are very generic. However, by using teaching aids teachers can modify the lessons to reflect the locality and its particular concerns and issues, making them of more relevance to the students.
- Content can be easily re-organised
Rather than follow the exact syllabus in a course book, teaching aids give the teacher the opportunity to reorganise the order in which the course is delivered, and to arrange it in a more suitable sequence for their particular students. Equally, the teacher may choose to substitute some of the learning activities of a particular unit with some of their own, based on the teaching aids they have available to them.
- Tasks can be modified
Teachers may want to modify some of the exercises and activities contained in traditional textbooks. For example, a listening activity can be created very easily using audio or video tapes, which the student can then download onto their computers or smartphones. These listening activities can be used in different ways to focus on a different aspect each time, or they can be used for personal practice.
- The teaching aids can be made to be more directly relevant to the needs of the students
Teaching aids which are produced by a specific language institution or by the teacher themselves are more likely to be directly relevant to their students’ needs. Such aids are more likely to reflect local content, issues and concerns, while helping the staff who deliver the lessons to develop a greater understanding of what makes an effective learning aid.
While many text books can be used without the need for adaptation, most learners find it beneficial to have access to a range of learning mediums when learning a foreign language. By using teaching aids, it’s possible to give the students a more realistic experience of learning a language, thus helping them to acquire fluency much more quickly.