Sunday, September 28, 2014

10 Essential books for Teaching English

1. The one book you absolutely need to get started:

How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer

This is the one: if you do no other reading before embarking, make sure you read this. This book is simply the complete manual of teaching English as a foreign language.

If you’re a native English speaker who’s worried about coming to terms with the grammar of the language this book will be a life saver, as it takes a practical approach, concentrating on examples of teaching and teaching practice rather than on detailed analysis of learning theory. Don’t start without this!

2. The other book you absolutely need to get started: 

Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener

This is the other one! Together with Jeremy Harmer’s book, Learning Teaching is the essential guide for your first years as a language teacher and will remain an invaluable resource for your continuing career.

Again, the really practical approach makes it a perfect introduction to teaching English as a foreign or second language.

3. The book to stop panicking about not knowing English grammar:

Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrott

Let’s face it… we need to talk about grammar! The beauty of Grammar for English Language Teachers is that it is designed to help trainee teachers develop their knowledge of English grammar systems.

It encourages teachers to appreciate factors that affect grammatical choices, as well as evaluating the kinds of ‘rules of thumb‘ that you’ll see presented to learners in course materials. The consolidation exercises provide an opportunity for you to test these rules against real language use and to evaluate classroom and reference materials. If you’re stressed by the prospect of having to teach grammar, buy this book!

4. The go-to-guide for all things Grammar:

Practical English Usage by Michael Swan

One thing I can guarantee you is that you will be asked questions about grammar that you can’t immediately answer… a state of being that will probably continue for many years! That’s where Practical English Usage comes to the rescue!

This classic reference guide succinctly – and comprehensively – addresses all of the problem points in the English language as encountered by learners and us as teachers. It gives information and advice that is practical, clear, reliable, and easy to find. Don’t leave home without it.

5. The reference guide to teacher training courses;

A Course in English Language Teaching by Penny Ur

What do you need to know about language teaching and what will you encounter? If you want a text that will act as an easy to read and easy going book reference guide discussing the various methods of teaching English, this is the book for you.

While this is ideal for your initial teacher training, it will remain a useful reference for when you become a fully-fledged teacher. The book combines theory and practice, with each unit containing tasks that encourage reflection and discussion, plus action tasks such as classroom observation and practice

6. The orientation:

The CELTA Course Trainee Book by Scott Thornbury and Peter Watkins

While the purpose of this post is primarily to list the books you should be reading before undertaking teaching, I hope the message is also coming through that you should get cracking in advance and not wait until you’ve started!

The course itself may probably represent the most difficult month of your life, so reading this title – which wasn’t available when I did my course, unfortunately – will enable you to orient yourself in advance and know exactly what to expect when you get started. A word of caution: reading this won’t enable you to take the course easily; you’ll still have a huge mountain to climb.

7. The comprehensive introduction to how to teach listening:

Teaching Listening Comprehension by Penny Ur

Listening isn’t something you’ll necessarily have given much thought in your non-language teacher phase of life… so be prepared for a bit of a shock when you have to teach listening in the classroom.

Luckily, the wonderful Penny Ur is here to help us with this fantastic text in which she defines the characteristics of real-life listening, analyses the problems encountered by language learners, and discusses the considerations involved in planning successful classroom listening practice. The book also contains loads of example tasks to give you plenty of ideas about how to deal with listening in class.

8. The comprehensive introduction to how to teach reading:

Developing Reading Skills: A Practical Guide to Reading Comprehension Exercises by Francoise Grellet

Reading isn’t something… aagghh, just see the above paragraph and replace the word ‘listening’ with ‘reading’! Developing Reading Skills is the kind of book that you’ll want to keep close at hand whenever you’re planning a reading lesson.

This is a comprehensive reference handbook offers a wide range of sample reading comprehension exercises which will enable you to incorporate meaningful reading into your lessons. I was using this book years after my certificate course when I did the DELTA and still refer to it on a fairly regular basis.

9. The ‘slow burner’:

Discover English by Rod Bolitho

Get your thinking caps on and be ready to be in this for the long haul. This is one of the first books I bought and it took a while for its usefulness to sink in.

Not the immediate go-to-guide that you’ll get with most of the titles I’ve mentioned here, Discover English operates as a language-awareness workbook which highlights and explores selected areas of grammar and vocabulary. The exercises are designed to confront myths and preconceived ideas, and to explore common areas of difficulty, while commentaries offer support to all users, especially English teachers. Think of this as a course for you to take to learn about the language :trust me, you’ll almost certainly need it!

10. What’s your number 10?

I’ve noticed that these lists tend to work best when I leave the final choice open to you.. so here you go! There have been some great suggestions so far.

10.1 Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur

David Harbinson recommends this title:
"I think it is especially good for new teachers who have no real idea about English grammar because it contains a lot of great activities that will help the teacher to discover the grammar along with the students."

10.2 Clear Speech: Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension in North American English by Judy Gilbert

Claudie Graner has this suggestion:
"Understanding the ‘content’ of pronunciation was the most difficult issue I faced as a beginner teacher. Grammar and methodology were familiar (I had learned grammar and been taught by progressive teachers!) but pronunciation was tabula rasa… this gave me somewhere to start."

10.3 Sound Foundations: English Pronunciation (Methodology) by Adrian Underhill

Sinead Laffan has this to say:
"Gimme, gimme, gimme! [Agreed... this would have been my 'natural' number 10 if I hadn't left it open to you all]"

10.4 Vocabulary in Language Teaching by Norbert Schmitt and Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching by Keith Folse

Gordz O’Doberman explains his choices:
"For me, trainee, novice and experienced teachers all need to be aware of the primacy of lexis in language learning (and teaching)."

Good reads everyone!