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











This text focuses on the importance about checking texts when teaching. It invites you to reflect the way some textbooks present contents, and the importance to think on students in our role as teachers, when choosing a book.

The text takes you to the past, making comparisons with the present; although technology has knocked at our doors, textbooks will always complement the activity of teaching, and teachers will always be the truly tool for keeping students involved and engaged in a learning process through the human contact.


Textbooks are useful and helpful when encouraging the participation of students who learn a foreign language, the exercise of teaching has to do with opportunities to increase language skills, and include activities that offer students the possibility to practice and improve while learning.  Textbooks are presented in different contexts, designs, and levels; books form part of the learning process.  Most of them present grammatical components through explanations, short examples, etc. Reading the world always precedes reading the word, and reading the world implies continually reading the world (Freire and Macedo chapter 1).  Exercises about reading, writing, listening, speaking, can be practiced on books.  In our context English is understood as a Foreign Language because it is a language we don’t have constant contact with, it is not presented in our society as a need, because we communicate in other language that is common for us and it is Spanish, our mother tongue. That’s why textbooks allow learners to feel contact with English, although they don’t perceive a whole environment full of English contents, the importance of a book well designed permits the understanding and motivation of a student to interact through practice.  Decodifying or reading the situations through pictures leads learners to a critical perception of the meaning of culture by leading them to understand how human practice or work transform the world. (Freire and Macedo,chapter 1).  Textbooks are tools that engage student’s learning process, and teachers are the human contact that facilitates the process, making learners acquire new knowledge and receive feedback.

Teacher’s guides or textbooks, become as a useful resource that help teachers to find answers from exercises, and explanations about the way they should develop activities in class; teacher’s guides are the route teachers need to follow when giving a class, because there are many contents that has to do with student’s book, it also is a tool for those who haven’t been teachers or haven’t study for being to, also for people that haven’t had the experience, teacher’s guides became the solution to solve the problem of the first class.  It explains step by step what you should do in order students develop contents, and understand a topic.  In this way the teacher should appropriate of theory and make learners encourage building up their knowledge through many activities in class which enhance learning.  These activities ought to be designed in terms of student’s abilities and learning strategies, they should be varied focused on different skill development and not just one.  In most cases the teacher with the help of teacher’s guide is who decides how much time and how many activities will focused on learning, but sometimes those activities are not appropriate in terms of students learning styles and strategies, for that reason teachers have to present sceneries where students feel confident and secure about learning. According to Krashen (1985) each learner will only learn from the new input when he/she is ready to learn, self confident learners learn faster.  Materials which are relevant to students will maximize the development and learning can be potentially improved if students feel at easy. (Krashen1985:82)

To deep on student’s background before start using a book is very important, it facilitates learning and makes learners feel confidence in the relation student-teacher; something that happens in the Affective Filter Hypothesis, Krashen (1992: 56) the atmosphere influences self steam, self confidence, and if it is not well adapted people can get mental block. Positive affective feedback will stop learners from speak entirely and raise their affective filter.

English’s levels which are presented on different books, make learners study according to their need, that is to say, is impossible to give a preschool student a book with contents of second grade, each age requires special emphasis and activities that help to develop competences as the communicative one, those abilities facilitates the understanding of new words, and become as a useful tool to teach pertinent contents which extended to grammar focus models, make students interact in English, achieving social situations and the various linguistic features.  Students have to memorize the words for the next session (Izadija and Abenia 2010).  Some textbooks use supplements of introductory material with notes which can be a source of cultural learning, as well as language learning.  The advantage of textbooks that have brief presentations of topics, vocabulary set on alphabetical order, can be interested for learners, most of the time when they find the meaning of them in Spanish, when it should be done in English. Giving students the meaning of a word or expression in the language they are studying, help them to force their mind to remember the word in another moment, that’s why there are examples, or similar issues to make comparisons, and acquire meaningful learning.  Using pictures, videos, realia, invite them to keep the lesson interesting and dynamic.

As materials are so important in language teaching, it is necessary to take a look at some of the relevant characteristics to the development of materials which should expose learners to authentic situations, and provide opportunities to use the target language.  Teachers can help develop student´s faculties in critical analysis by asking students several key questions (Mai-Junko 2013).  Textbooks include a process that goes through a receptive and a productive period, because of the range of differences and similarities that can be encountered along the way, and because it will prepare teachers for future journeys.  However, in spite of all variations, it is possible to find descriptions of grammar structures, the ones that are explained as a recipe and its ingredients, it makes students feel bored and confused when they have to face other grammar structure related to another grammatical tense.  Simply exposing students to a new language outside the context is not enough, they need to understand in terms of pedagogical processes, Edward Behrman (2006) suggests that the specific types of lessons examine power relationships that are found in language and literature and that these practices show students that language is never neutral; if teachers also learn about these processes they can be in a better position to develop their own classroom’s experiences.

Margie S. Berns, (1984) an expert in the field of communicative language teaching, writes in explaining Firth’s view that “language is interaction; it is interpersonal activity and has a clear relationship with society. In this light, language study has to look at the use (function) of language in context, both its linguistic context (what is uttered before and after a given piece of discourse) and its social, or situational, context (who is speaking, what their social roles are, why they have  come to get her to speak) (Berns1984:5).
A traditional view of the language teaching and learning process is one in which the learner is expected to receive external knowledge transmitted by teachers or books. However current views of this process include more interaction with information flowing not only from teachers to learners, but also among learners. Dialogues presented on textbooks are written to create interactions inside the classroom, offering foreign language environments, and although interaction makes language meaningful, sometimes it loses attention because what is suggested in a classroom is to memorize the dialog and repeat it once and again.  It is important take care of giving wrong instructions to students, that is to say review the text before class, check the terms and expressions used in the dialogue is very important, examine textbooks dialogs to determine if open-ended activities are included in order students construct and act-out dialogs containing cultural issues; class has to rise students motivation; dialogues cannot be presented with old topics, readings that doesn’t reflect actual reality for learners.  Today students enjoy reading topics that make part of their identity such as fashion, sports, music and so on; during classes is easy to see people unmotivated, sleeping over chairs, feeling uncomfortable with language because is difficult for them being understood by others in a foreign language.  Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (1997) note that with a new work life comes a new language.

Receive external knowledge transmitted by books can call learners attention; but it depends of teacher management of class.  Offering a guide in the learning process, being immerse in actual concepts, and researching all the time, as a way to find and to discover new ways of teaching can solve students’ expectations to find the answer about something that is a problem for them, “Learning English”.  One of the theorists that talks about the importance of teaching, is Kumaravadivelu, on his writing about the Post method Condition, he refers the relation between theorizers and teachers by empowering teachers with knowledge, skill and autonomy, providing a meaningful interaction that will enable theory and practice, increasing the potential to know not only how to teach, but also how to act autonomously, giving the teacher the opportunity to reflect about their teaching practice, making learners autonomous decision makers.  Kress (1997) says text is closer to the actual way children communicate when they rely on the things they use, and the objects they make.

The interaction between the student and the study tools (textbooks) is the chance for learners to work on learning process, they can think and reflect about the pedagogical implications that all these strategies can have when in the classroom. Being in a class without the use of a book, actually is not a problem, learning today can occur beyond the classroom, changes and opportunities for literacy practices respond to new demands as technological changes; reading and writing solve problems and discover realities, they form part of literacy and students face empowerment of it using textbooks and complement with technological devices that make they use both abilities in daily life actions.  Literacy and literacy teaching need to adopt and change in order to respond to what will be expected In the near future (Cope and Kalanzits, 2000).  Today’s changing media and technology, allow students to make connections with the literature or content being studied, that’s why textbooks should provide the context for students to confront social issues.  Students have the opportunity to critique themes and issues similar to those found in traditional texts, but they can also look at other mediums.  Furthermore, teachers who use supplementary texts can encourage conversations about social issues that may be covered in the curriculum of schools.  According to Morrell (2000), offering students the opportunity to review appropriate Internet resources, songs, television programming, and advertisements, as well as many other visual mediums, students have exposure to popular texts they can analyze outside of school as well.

Most text guides today deal with topics related to MCE (European common Framework), specific contents focused on knowledge’s levels, but long ago they just were related to work on the simple use of language, it is easy to go back and see books without color, all they printed in black and white, with large lists of verbs and vocabulary at the end of the book; something important to keep in mind because it is important to say that visual aids help learners connect with explanations. Grammar is better understood when it is presented in context, and with situations that make we use it, than when it is explained in isolated tables presented at the beginning of each unit. Text guides can create an appropriate environment for students to feel comfortable and ready to participate and enhance learning.  But some components as size letter, colors, printed pictures, influence on students to find the book interesting, especially when primary.  Many books presented in the process of teaching and learning are no designed thinking on students that have eyesight problems, it is referred to texts; explanations written on big letter call more attention, than those that are with a small one, the size letter make texts lose or gain importance, small letter make students feel bored.

Teachers must encourage the use of language using textbooks, but they also must allow students to improve their language level.  When someone is involved in such a process they must be aware of their learning styles , how they deal with new information, and how they can develop their skills.  Once students develop strategies in the classroom they can focus on working with new methodologies and also on consolidating the ones that have already shown up in one or another context. Classrooms should be places where the teacher is merely a facilitator and where most of the discussions about texts should be generated by the students, as a group of diverse perspectives, values and voices.

As a conclusion resources as teacher guides or textbooks at all levels should provide frequent exposure to authentic input which should be rich and varied.  In other words the input should vary in style, mode, medium, and purpose, providing opportunities for interaction among the learners in a variety of ways that might include planned and unplanned activities and situations.

Other issue to keep in mind is that choice of materials should not only rest with the teacher but with the students themselves.  Interaction becomes a learning experience in which students can work on their process and take responsibility for it.  Interaction among the students and the study tools is the chance for them to work in different activities, improve their learning process, gain fluency and develop different skills.


Behrman, E. (2006). Teaching about language, power, and text: A review of classroom    practices that support critical literacy, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

Berns, M. S. (1984). Functional approaches to language and language teaching

Addison-Wesley -S. Savignon & M. S. Berns.
Cohen, A. (1998) Strategies in learning and using a second language (first edition) Unites States of America. Longman Malaysia
Freire, P. (1987). Literacy and the pedagogy of empowerment. New York

Freire & D. Macedo Literacy: Reading the word and the world pp. 1-29.

Harmer, J (1991) The Practice of English Language Teaching (New edition) United States of America. Longman Publishing, New York.

Johnson, K. and Richards, J (1996) Understanding communication in second language classroom (second edition) New York, Cambridge University Press.

Levinson, S (1997) Pragmatics (New Edition) New York, Cambridge University Press

Morrell, E. (2000). Curriculum and popular culture: Building bridges and making waves. New Orleans, L.A.

Westport, CT: Heinemann; and McLaren, P. (1988). Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy and the politics of literacy. New York: Longman.

Wollman Pfaff, C. (1982) First and second language acquisition processes (second edition), Boston, Masachusetts. Heinle and Heinle publishers. [searched on September 7, 2013]



  1. Claudia Cañas Mejía
    October 9, 2013

    Hello Juliana! It is important what you say about the need to have good material in the classes and this is related witht the kind and quality of input they provide to the students. The New London Group (1996) states that all the voices in our classrooms need to be allowed to be heard in the classroom and these voices are produced because the students feel identified or attracted by those materials and they feel the need to express what they understand through them; also when the message is presented by different modes, all students can have the same opportunity to understand what the teachers want to say.

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