It's no accident that so many textbooks cover the same old topics. Family, hobbies, education, work and all the rest of them are exam and textbook staples precisely because they are real-life conversational staples as well. The problem starts when teacher, students or both are bored by the topic because they've covered it so many times before: when Unit 1 is predictably going to be family and talking about yourself, when food is inevitably the topic for teaching countable and uncountable nouns (yawn), and when you realise that you could actually teach that lesson on the environment (using future forms or conditionals) in your sleep, because you've done the same thing so many times before.
This is for those times. Here are some techniques for adapting typical ELT activities, and a few less obvious ways of approaching traditional topics.