Every time I go on holiday I usually spend at least one - child free – day in Edinburgh. And every time, without fail, I end up whiling away a couple of hours in Blackwells on the city's the South Bridge.
Blackwells is a truly fine book shop, and with all its nooks and crannies has an intimacy that eludes other larger retailers. This visit, I balanced a pile of ELT books on the arm of a comfortable sofa, and perused my selection while spring rain pounded the windows and turned passing shoppers in the streets below into a cheerful blur.
I was looking for inspiration, as I am currently writing a chapter for an elementary level ESOL course book of my own. Ever since I started teaching (back in 1998) I have been pretty much a one-book woman. As a shy young novice teacher, the Headway series swept me off my feet with its instructive and helpful Teacher’s book and flashy graphics. Later on that same year, I was too often embarrassed by its bad cover versions of great songs and its royal family obsession and finally dumped it in order to go solo.
Over the years, I had many a flirtation with younger, trendier models, but there was always something missing. Imagine my delight when, on joining the ESOL team here in Shetland, I found out that their course book of choice was, indeed, Headway. What is it I love so much about this book? As I scanned the competition in Blackwells, I thought I knew the answer. Compared with so many other student books, the layout is wonderfully clear. So many rival publications are just too cluttered and confusing. Or are they? Is my admiration of Headway’s structure and layout just another old habit?
So, what has this helped me to decide about the course book I am planning? Like Headway, it will have nice graphics and uncluttered pages. It will also have units of four or five pages rather than two. But – (and this is a big but Mr and Mrs Soars…) there will be no fawning texts on hard working royals. No Madonna (or any other a-list star, for that matter) reading comprehension exercises, and - this, I swear - no more Beatles classics murdered forever for the sake of a five minute gap fill.