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To become independent learners, students need to understand where learning resources are located.  Here are some tips for orienting students to resources in their textbooks and encouraging them to study on their own.

The Table of Contents

Pair Share

Have students work together to look at the Table of Contents and answer basic questions about the book, for example:

  • How many units are there?
  • Which unit is about (family/work/health)?
  • Is there an answer key?

 Treasure Hunt

Variation 1:  List the names of several sections of the book and have students identify the page numbers by looking at the table of contents. For example;

  • Unit 3:  _page 45_______
  • Word List:  page 291_______
  • Index:  page 45_______

 Variation 2:  Give students a page number and have students identify the name of the activity on the page.  For example: 

  • What’s on page 278?  __The audioscript __
  • What on page 118?  A reading about jobs

Unit Design


Have everyone in the class look at a specific unit in the book.  Make statements about the unit and have students decide whether it is true or false, for example:

  • There are three grammar lessons in this unit.
  • The Review section is on pages 45 and 46.
  • The answers for page 65 are on page 231 in the back of the book.


Draw symbols that your textbook uses and have students identify what they mean and then locate an example of the symbol in their book.  Common symbols are:

  • headphones or a speaker
  • a CD with track numbers
  • a computer screen for corresponding CD Rom practice
  • intonation lines for pronunciation
  • an image of two heads for a conversation activity
  • a box for checking off a goal

 Breaking the Color Code

Look at your textbook carefully.  Do certain colors always represent certain sections?  Perhaps all the goal setting activities have a green border.  Or perhaps all the pages in the back of the book are beige.  Study your book.  Write a list of the colors and what each color signals.  Then have your students break the color code.  Tell them a color and have them figure what kind of activity is always in that color.  For example:

Yellow:  Vocabulary Exercises

Purple: reading exercises

Green: answer key


 The Back of the Book

 Look it Up

In pairs, have students find the page number for various listings in the textbook  index.

 Problem Solving

Tell students about fictitious students with specific study needs.  Have students brainstorm how the fictitious student could use the textbook to improve his or her English. For example:

  • Case 1:  Reading in English is easy for Elsa but she has a hard time understanding what people say.  What can she do to improve her listening? (Possible response:  Listen to audio while she reads the audio script.)
  • Case 2:  Jean is very good at speaking English but he has a hard time spelling words.  What can he do to improve his spelling?  (Possible response:  study the word lists in the back of the book.)

 Don’t Tell – Only Ask

  1.  With listening activities, ask students to identify the track number and cue up the machine. 
  2. At the end of the listening activity ask students identify the page of the corresponding audio script. 
  3. When students finish a grammar activity, have them identify the corresponding page for the answer key. 

 Are there other ways you encourage your students to get to know their textbooks?