Last year our course book for primary level learners was Incredible English. This was the first coursebook I ever used for teaching primary learners, and I have to say I thought it was great. It seemed like the perfect book for a novice primary EFL teacher. Here are just a few of its great features…
- Fun stories (in comic form) that really engage the learners
- A standard structure to units which helps learners know what to expect in a lesson
- A separate workbook which means the coursebook isn’t full of dull gap fills
- Some excellent online and interactive tasks
- Dialogues which are easy to extend and exploit
- Nice visuals, not too cluttered layout
I’m just listing random points here. Above all though, it seems clear to me that Incredible English was written by experienced teachers of young learners. I mean, you’d hope that was the case (!), but some of the previous coursebooks I’ve used just don’t feel they’ve been written by a practising teacher… Hmm, that sounds so damning…
Our new primary product (in-house) is good too – I don’t want to put it down. But there are things I miss about Incredible English, and the stories are one of them.
Our story lessons were definitely my favourite, and the easiest to plan. Bear in mind that when I used this book I was totally new to teaching primary. Incredible English took some of that fear away – I couldn’t believe how engaged the students were in a simple comic. Actually, when I first flicked through the book I thought the stories were a bit naff, but they worked perfectly in my context. What’s more, they were a vehicle for introducing new grammar structures/vocabulary – they most certainly served their purpose. What activities did my students like doing?
- Performing the story. They loved putting on the voices of each character
- Guessing the story. They liked performing the story by completing blank speech bubbles themselves. This was good for developing skills like inferencing.
- Listening gap fills – really, they LIKED them!
- Rip and runs – correcting a list of wrong sentences (developing scanning skills)
- Q + A – writing comprehension questions about the story for other pairs/groups
- Guess the missing word/name the character who said the phrase/put the words in the order they appear in the story, etc. Endless games and challenges.
And the best three things about the story, purely from a teacher’s perspective
- They can lead to a pronunciation focus, especially intonation. I always find it tough to find ways I can integrate this in YL classes
- Reading and listening. While this isn’t always beneficial, I think it’s great for YLs. Just watching them listen to the text and follow the comic, you can see them shaping the words, sometimes adding expressions when they don’t even realise it.
- My students used to actually ASK to do more activities based on the comic.
What motivated me to big up Incredible English?
On my materials development course there was a mention of makebeliefscomix, which is a great site for creating your own comics. It triggered memories from last year about just how well comics had worked for my learners before.
If this master’s course has taught me anything, it’s that I criticise coursebooks too much. I recognise the role this book has had in my development as a YL teacher, so cheers Phillips et al.
How can I bring comics back into my primary classes?
Well, we have a couple of module booklets to get through each term and I’m not sure I have time to include comics, which is a shame. I will try though, and makebeliefscomix might help. However, I currently work with Grammarman himself (Brian Boyd), so maybe I can persuade him to write some stories related to each module. I would try myself but let’s just say I’m not the most artistic! I’d love to have enough time to allow students to make the comics themselves, alas.
Have you used Incredible English? Do you use comics/stories in class? Please share your own experiences!