Using a materials bank as an alternative to coursebooks doesn’t mean ripping off published materials. There is a wealth of materials available online which don’t infringe copyright laws. A few examples are listed below. I’m not endorsing any of them, except One Stop English, just replying to the objection that if teachers don’t use a coursebook they risk breaking the law.
I’m sure readers can suggest more and better sources than these. Any search on “Materials for teaching English as a second language” or something similar will give you dozens of websites to explore – as if you didn’t know!
Of course, this is just one way to find materials. You can also do searches for video and audio material, grammar stuff, reading texts, case studies, simulations, games, quizzes, tests, etc.. too, and, respecting copyright laws, use them with learners, making worksheets where necessary. And there are obvious ways that teachers can share the materials they’ve made themselves, not just by blogging but by creating spaces on the internet where their materials are made available to teachers working in the same school or institution, the same city, and so on. The arrogant suggestion that these materials are amateurish and lacking the sophistication and expert knowledge displayed in coursebooks is insulting (sic) and evidently defensive.
It’s simply not true that there are no realistic alternatives to coursebooks. Neither is it true that finding and adapting materials is such an arduous process that it puts an unreasonable burden on teachers. Even at an individual level, teachers can find good materials quickly and easily these days. But, more importantly, any good ELT school or department can, with a relatively small initial outlay, help teachers assemble a good materials bank. All that’s needed is an appreciation of the benefits which accrue and the will to break free of the suffocating influence of the coursebook.
When I worked at ESADE Idiomas (a language school in Barcelona) before coursebooks took over everybody shared the materials they used, and there was a fantastic (chaotic and badly-organised, but nevertheless rich) materials bank of cassettes, printed worksheets, video tapes, lesson plans, case studies, etc. in the teachers room. There were even, now I remember, multiple copies on cassette of the BBC news at 8am with a worksheet – made by Nick Greenwood, God bless his cotton socks – available before noon every day. When I arrived in 1982, the teachers room in ESADE Idiomas was without doubt the best workplace I’ve ever been in. It was just fantastic. There was such a lively interchange of ideas going on about all aspects of ELT, and probably the most important single element in this invigorating scenario was the free flow of materials among us. I’m quite sure that the arrival of coursebooks in the early 90s had a very negative effect on all that interchange of creative ideas.
So don’t believe the coursebook writers when they tell you that they provide the best materials and that you’d be lost without them. Your teaching will, I fervently believe, improve enormously if you teach without relying on a coursebook.