Use Textbooks and Other Resources Purposefully

An EFF curriculum is shaped by student purposes, goals, needs, interests, and questions. It can go in myriad directions, depending on what students want to know and be able to do. Teachers need a set of resources that will build competence in the EFF Standards as students work toward these varied goals. It should include an ever-evolving array of authentic materials (school memos, newspaper headlines, etc.), student- and teacher-created materials and activities (reading materials, discussion and reflection questions, picture prompts, etc.) and textbook lessons.

What is the role of textbooks within EFF? Textbooks can offer important knowledge and skill practice for adult students. However, rather than being the center of the lesson, their role is generally to supplement authentic learning activities with focused practice in particular areas – e.g. practice in effective reading strategies for ABE students, test-taking skills for GED candidates, vocabulary review for English learners, or computation practice for math students.

EFF-friendly textbooks might also support contextualized teaching by situating their skill practice exercises within specific contexts, as well. For example, writing texts might guide students through the writing process by helping them identify a particular purpose, task, and audience (a context) within which to practice. ESOL texts might start each chapter with a piece of immigrant writing, using it as the contextual base for varied language practice activities.

Questions to Help You Evaluate Whether a Text is EFF-Friendly

Does the text:

  1. Support a purposeful approach?
    • Does the content reflect learner interests, aspirations or questions?

  2. Support a constructivist approach?
    • Does it ask students to consider their past experience and knowledge?
    • Relate lessons to applications/situations that are familiar and relevant to students?

  3. Support a contextual approach?
    • Present skills in context? Ask students to practice and apply skills to real tasks?
    • Teach not only the mechanics of the skill, but awareness of the strategies that allow you to use it in varied situations?
    • Are skills taught as part of an integrated process or taught in isolation?

  4. Approach skill development in ways that are consistent with the EFF standards?
    • Do the materials offer opportunities to grapple with cognitively complex tasks and solve problems?
    • Do they engage students in monitoring whether they're using the skill effectively and think about what they might do to make adjustments?
Ways to use Textbook Lessons
  1. Make the purpose of the textbook lesson transparent Ask: Why did we use this lesson? How does it relate to our goals? To the EFF standard we’re working on? Brainstorm the ways you could apply what you just learned in real life.
  2. Compare textbook depictions of real-life contexts to students’ own experience Ask: How realistic was the story/example/problem in the lesson? How does it compare to your experience? Is this what you’ll have to do in the real situation?
  3. Involve students in browsing the textbook and noting the parts that relate to what they’ve said they want to learn.