ML2 – Second Language Literacies

A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín











In this text I am going to talk about some textbooks I have used in my process of learning and teaching a second language. How they had influenced in my learning and in my work from my experiences I had have through the long years.  Giving a critical point of view some the textbooks I have used during the process of acquiring a second language in order to communicate with it.   And at the same time write about different activities I did to develop and to practice the language in the classes as learner and as a teacher.

Keywords: Acquire, textbook, language, guide, and communicate.

A Different way of Seeing Textbooks

 The process of learning reading and writing a second language has several stage which people have to pass step by step to acquire their goals; which are to read and to write the letters of the alphabet in different form, like in texts, in books, in articles and speaking with others, also being a literacy person, and to learn the use of the language in a reflexive way for life; namely to practice the language in a functional way for life.

Many textbooks are used during the school days to do of this process a successful result, and I can say that most of them achieved the purpose, but in others cases it cannot be completed, may be because in the way of handle reading and writing a second language have to be taken into account the context that it is teaching or learning.  Also is very important the way of how the learning process is given, and how it is assumed by the students.

In addition of that, is not just to learn reading and writing, is to be a reflexive and conscious learner about the purpose of acquiring a second language, how the language could be used, where, and why it will be used. That means to be critical students because this can help us to have a huge view of the world and a point of view of a said word.  “What is this text trying to convince me of and why? (Secretariat Special Edition 2009).

As a student of a second language, I would like to give the point of view I have about some textbooks I have used during the process of learning this language.  First of all it is necessary to start with the first book I used when I was in the middle of the school. I was in sixth grade when I had the first contact with this beautiful language, and I was fascinated how my teacher spoke English; it was absolutely significant for me as Freire (and Macedo)“the memory of which I retained from the most remote of experiences. At that moment I thought that it was a great opportunity for me to speak another language. But it was not easy as I thought.

The problem for beginning to learn and read a second language is getting to the moment where they can learn from context, unfortunately it was the same problem I had in that moment.       However the teacher caught my attention for L2 in the classes, even though I was totally illiterate of it. But the curriculum and the plan of the classes were developed in a simple form because they were focused more in the vocabulary that in the used of the language. In addition of that, was the textbook I had for the classes, it was used most of the time for reading some dialogues and the vocabulary of the topic studied, but it did not have enough activities to be practicing the topics presented by the teacher.  On the other hand, the design of the textbook was not stimulated for my view because it lacked of colors and there were few pictures on it; that were necessary when the learners are young. As are visual narratives styles, as Chun (2009)

The teacher used to apply activities in which I had to use the textbook, but they had to be repeated constantly. One of them was the dialogues that the textbook had. All the students of the class had to memorize short conversations from it with a classmate and then do an oral presentation in pairs in front of the rest of the class, and the teacher evaluated us with this activity, Izadiia (and Abenia 2010) students have to memorize the words for the next session.     Another exercise that the textbook had, was an activity called “write the words”, it was about the filled of the blanks spaces in the sentences, this kind of activity was the only one that the textbook had to be produced by the students. Also it did not include activities to set in motion research to open opportunities for learning and practice the language in a communicative form with all students, or stimulated challenge in a search for alternative to explore all of the things that are involved into a language.

In a deep exploration to the textbook I am describing, I can say that it did not invited me to go beyond of the language, and I did not be conscious to the social reality of the L2 in the classroom for learning. The specific purpose for me was only to get a good note for the subject, because I was not interested in the context that the language was developed, may be because I did not know about it at that moment, and the approach of it was just the vocabulary that I was learning slightly; although anyway I enjoyed the English classes.

This is an example from the textbook.

Fill in the blanks in the following sentences with is, are, was, or were.

  1. There ________ a party last night.
  2. There ________ two women in the house now.
  3. There ________ a lot of notebooks on the desk now.
  4. There ________ a lot of flowers in the garden last year.
  5. There ________ a lot of people at school yesterday.

All of the lessons I studied in this textbook were memorized for presenting an evaluation but I never made an effort to develop the language in an interactive or respective communication into the classroom. I think that the teacher did the thing how she thought was the best for the group. But I never was immersed in an interactive class in which culture was considered as an essential material to have been taken into account for learning the language, leaving the teacher’s perspectives and concerns unexplored. (Mai-Yun Ko 2013)

Nevertheless this textbook had another activities about some questions to be answering from a short reading that it had.

But I did not took advantages of them that is why, I am not sure how they were developed in the classroom or what was the teacher instructions with them. “Teachers can help develop students’ faculties in critical analysis by asking students several key questions”.  (Christian W Chun 2009).

I think that most of the process of learning L2 in the middle and high school days, was centered in the acquisition of some vocabulary and in the correct pronunciation of it. But I did not had in the process of reading and writing a second language an appropriate guide, including the textbooks that helped me to encourage and incorporates both oral and written elements to be used on discourse analysis or in writing critical texts. Now I figure out that when I finished high school I was lacked of creativity about language acquisition, motivation and the importance of having an open mind in front of the process of reading and learning a second language. However the process to acquire L2, just had begun.

From that moment until now I had been in contact with several textbooks as a student and as a teacher. Most of them with variety activities to be developed in different ways and I can say that many of them are focused in the grammar. This is important but is not the priority when you are a beginning learner,  in addition of that learning is a spontaneous and structured process in which students are steady and are involved on it, that is why if it is focused only in grammar, does not allow a functional use of the language. Fortunately others textbooks have allowed me to be closer of the new possibilities, and in front of this, I have taken advantages of some of them in my own process of learning a second language. One of the most relevant activities I have practiced is when the culture of the language is immersed. As a learner and as a teacher of the L2 and the practiced of this kind of activities I can say that they can be useful as a strategy to engage students in the build of the knowledge to the language context (Luke A 2012).

Nowadays almost all the text books are full of information about customs, traditions, values, stories and others manifestations of culture that are transmitted to a large extent through language, allowing the students the use of the language and be closer to the cultural context as  Schachtera and Craiga (2013) ,by testing them  students have another point of view of language, and the process of learning is helping to develop thinking skills and empower the interest of students and the possibility to take responsibility for their own learning, this can help to make sense of their world I mean, students are able to identify what language is for and how to use it competently, and use of it from their own experience or situations and interact in order to interpret, ask questions, comment and to give value about their ideas or reflections from a point of view.

Teacher as a guide, textbooks, and the knowledge of the language culture go hand in hand to develop the necessary skills of the student in order to develop and acquire the purpose in a second language to finally achieve the learning language in a functional way to be a communicative person in that language, but to be a critical literacy is a complex process of creative meaning and depend on the each effort. (Hammond and Macken 1999)

“Perhaps most importantly, we have also found that any effective

Critical literacy program has a long lead time in an ESL classroom.

Engaging with the meanings of texts requires much time and effort on

the part of both teacher and students”.


2 comments on “A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING THE TEXTBOOKS-By Cristina Tabares H

  1. Claudia Cañas Mejía
    September 12, 2013

    Hi Cristina!
    It is so important what you say about one of the main objectives of textbooks that it is to develop the basic literacy; at least for elementary students but not always the textbooks and teachers help the students to acquire a critical literacy. According to Lau (2012) “critical literacy takes learners beyond the development of Basic literacy skills such as decoding, predicting, and summarizing and asks them to become critical consumers of the information they receive”. In most of the schools, we are just teaching our students the basic literacy that was what we consider they needed to continue their social and academic life.

    Claudia Cañas M.

  2. Ruben Palacio
    September 12, 2013

    My dear Cristina,
    I agree with you that acquiring a language entails more than pure grammar or vocabulary and those are sometimes the principal aims of our English textbooks. I believe we as professors are responsible for interpreting the content of those books and delivering it to our students in the best way possible. Taking into account their needs and experiences so that they might be fully involved in learning this wonderful language.

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This entry was posted on September 10, 2013 by in Assignments.
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