Questions for Textbook Companies – 3

In this third article in this series, Robert begins a series of responses to Sarah’s questions. Sarah had said:

…the Department Chair has told us we are going to use Realidades. I used that book 5 years ago when I first started teaching and it hasn’t changed a bit. When I asked the sales rep about it she said, “We’ve updated the pictures but the basic layout is the same because that’s just what works.”….

Robert replied:

What does the textbook rep mean by “that’s just what works”? Works for what? Measured by what? Works for fluency or knowledge about the language? Measured by ability to produce the language naturally and fluidly in conversation with a native speaker or by discrete item tests prepared by the textbook company on its own material? What peer-reviewed studies show that students retain learned information beyond a limited time frame?

How does the textbook align with brain research that indicates teaching vocabulary, grammar, etc. in context that is compelling and meaningful is far superior to learning lists of words?

What is the textbook’s purpose? What should a student be able to do with facility at the end of one year? Two years? How does the textbook ensure that students are able to do this?

Since a mere 25 words comprise 33%, 100 words make up 50%, and 1,000 words form 89% of everyday written communication (see, what is the practical use of memorizing long lists of words out of context?

Since fluency depends on automaticity to function, how does the textbook’s approach lead to a student’s automatic use of language and language forms? If the idea is that memorization of forms leads to the ability to use them automatically, what research supports this claim? Substitution drills and worksheets rely on a behaviorist (Skinnerian) view of learning that has been shown to be false, at least as far as language acquisition is concerned. How does the textbook align with constructivist language acquisition?



2 thoughts on “Questions for Textbook Companies – 3”

    1. It’s really just another way of saying that students need to hear the target language until the words simply fall out of their mouths. Or as Hart Crane puts it, “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”

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