On several of the blogs that I follow, the teachers have specifically stated that they don't use textbooks and many don't use vocabulary lists of any kind. While I have to admit, I love teaching without a textbook, and I had the freedom to do so at my previous school; however, I think it is important to recognize that many of us simply don't have that freedom at our school as extreme curriculum consistency is demanded of us. So, what to do if you have to follow a prescribed or semi-rigid curriculum that is dictated by the school, colleagues, district, state etc.? Here are some of the things that I do to appease both the prescribed curriculum, and keep my class as authentic or semi-authentic as possible.
1) I spend tons of time looking for articles, websites, and songs that coincide with the vocabulary or grammar that is being taught in the chapter.
2) I devise projects that require the students to use the prescribed grammar and vocabulary, yet give the students the freedom to choose how to complete and design their project. Note, I use projects in addition to the paper/pencil tests that are dictated by the school.
3) I try to ask questions during the speaking portion of the class that uses the vocabulary. I will admit sometimes it is hard to make the text wholly relevant, but I do my best. For example, for the health care unit, I asked my students to talk and write about an injury that they or a family member have had vs. using the textbook exercises involving fictitious characters hurting themselves.
4) I ask the students to find internet articles, songs, etc. that are relevant to the topic and I give them extra credit for bringing authentic texts into the classroom and sharing them with me. Sometimes, I will assign this as homework, and then the students will share the information that they found with each other.
5) I try to use the cultural blurbs in the chapter as the focal point, as opposed to a side-note that is hardly or barely mentioned in class. I will teach my students about the cultural aspect presented in the chapter, and then if possible look for authentic materials that both involve the focus country and the grammar or vocabulary being covered.
6) I make my students use the vocabulary words in sentences that they create on their quizzes and tests so they are not simply translating or matching, and I hold them accountable for previously learned vocabulary words.
How do you keep your class as authentic as possible while using a mandated textbook?