What are you doing to prepare for the coming academic year? Harvey Chan, Associate Editor for Oxford University Press USA, picks his top 5 professional development books every ELT teacher should read this summer.
Just like musicians gearing up for the upcoming concert season, teachers need to mentally rehearse and reanalyze their teaching to prepare for the upcoming school year. Just as how the strings of a guitar can get rusty and its effectiveness can erode over time, instructors must constantly download the newest software updates for their technological devices. And like the myriads of scales, majors, and minors that make up the foundational core of music theory; theoretical principles in teaching methodology and Second Language Acquisition should lie at the heart of every pedagogical decision teachers make, both within and outside of the classroom. To gear up for the upcoming school year, here are five essential books for language teachers with the collective promise that everyone in their audience will sing their praises.
Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching with DVD (4th ed.). Pearson Longman ELT.
Found in many ESL-training courses, this guide initiates those new to the field with everything they need to know about teaching in the classroom. Harmer takes teachers-to-be through the theoretical (major tenets in SLA to a methodological review) to the practical stages (classroom management, course and syllabus design) of teaching. An accompanying DVD also showcases nine native and non-native teachers in action, their execution of the principles outlined in the book, and personal reflections on the topic and methodology of the preceding lesson; giving readers a guided demonstration of what the performance should actually look like on stage.
Larsen-Freeman, D. & Marti Anderson. (2011). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.
Covering the classic to the contemporary, this comprehensive and historic overview of language teaching methods aims to equip teachers with and expose them to a wide array of methods used in language learning classrooms all over. A descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, approach that enables language teachers to analyze, reflect, and personalize on these techniques; Larsen-Freeman and Anderson cover everything from the nostalgic Grammar-Translation and Audio-Lingual Method to modern practices including Task-based Language Teaching and the Participatory Approach. New to this edition include a deeper examination of the political facets of language teaching, and the advent and application of technology in the classroom.
Celce-Murcia, M & Diane Larsen-Freeman. (1998). The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher’s Course (2nd ed.). Heinle ELT.
For those who sweat at the thought of being thrown a curveball-of-a-grammar question, or those searching for ways to make grammar points stick to students’ memory (since they always seem to be forgotten in student writing), this technical reference guide explains in great detail all things grammar under the sun. Not a single grammar topic escapes Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman’s careful scrutiny as they thoroughly explain each one with suggested activities for learners at varying levels and references for reading, all while anchoring each concept in a cyclical model of “Form-Meaning-Use”.
Lightbown, P. M. & Nina Spada. (2013). How Languages Are Learned (4th ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.
If you’re more interested in the inner workings of language learning, rather than of the language classroom, without being inundated with technical terminology and dense explanations; this book may just be the answer, coming pretty close to being a college-course substitute. The authors, Lightbown and Spada, take readers on a journey from how babies and children learn languages (First Language Acquisition) to how adults do so (Second Language Acquisition), with different variables, such as age, motivation, and personality, sprinkled throughout. A chapter discussion on how these theories play out in actuality in the classroom, supplementary activities and discussion questions for teacher reflection, and chapter summaries are new to the fourth edition, and prove to be refreshing and useful for educators.
Meddings, L. & Scott Thornbury. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Delta Publishing.
First introduced by Scott Thornbury in an article whose responses and comments reverberated through the online ELT community; this non-methodological method seeks to purify the learning experience by placing students at the heart of the interaction, and tapping into their beliefs, values, and experiences. Just like the mellow and minimalistic glow of the TV show from which the book takes inspiration, Meddings and Thornbury seek to strip teaching of all its irrelevant distractions and shiny embellishments, such as coursebooks, handouts, and A/V materials. Teaching Unplugged is broken down into three, easily-digestable parts that include an elaboration of the teaching philosophy, easy-to-apply activities, and practical implications outside the normal ELT classroom.