Experiences of an English Language Teacher

10 Recommended Books for the CELTA Course

It has been a number years since I took the CELTA Course, at least seven years since I actually completed the course at the British Council Seoul. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Native English Speaker Teachers (NESTS) and Non-Native English Speaker Teachers (NNESTS) resident in Korea wishing to develop professionally as teachers. We all shared our commitment to the profession and wanted to improve our skills as teachers. I enjoyed the course so much that I created a CELTA Group on Facebook to keep in touch with the other trainees. Anyhow, I have been thinking about books that were recommended before starting the course, as well as books that I have come across after the CELTA course, and I thought a blog post suggesting potential books to aid the CELTA trainee would suffice.

1. “Learning Teaching” by Jim Scrivener

The first book, Learning Teaching, that was recommended for trainees as part of pre-reading and preparation before as well as during the CELTA course. It is an incredible book which looks at teaching various skills (reading, writing, speaking, etc.) and proposed approaches for the classroom, which when learning to teach English to language learners, is invaluable. Also, there are sections within the book which assist teachers, both experienced and less experienced, which cover classroom management, various styles of teaching, methods and approaches to language teaching as well as professional development opportunities to consider. I remember the CELTA trainers advising that this book should be our bible during the course and we should attempt to read the various sections when required. Not only is it a useful book for before and during the CELTA course, but it has always been a book that I have constantly returned to, when getting ideas on developing a curriculum or planning courses and lessons.

2. “Advanced English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy

Another book which I had discovered invaluable as part of lesson planning, language awareness and teaching practice was Advanced English Grammar in Use. It was incredibly helpful when I wanted to look at particular grammar points in context and in more detail. For example, Raymond Murphy offers additional focus the use of the Present Simple in context with daily routines or habits. You could look at some of these suggestions and personalise it for your teaching practice. As well as the demonstrating of isolated grammar points, Advanced English Grammar in Use offers some thoughts on written grammar practice and this again could either be recreated and personalised in your teaching practice. If you are new to the teaching of grammar, you could purchase the lower levels of English Grammar in Use to better understand the premise behind certain grammar structures.

3. “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan

This was another book which was on my recommended reading list for the CELTA course and I ordered it specially from the UK and it was delivered a week later in Korea. It is incredibly informative and will help trainees with preparing lessons focused solely on key vocabulary and grammar. This book is very well organised alphabetically from ‘abbreviated styles‘ to ‘yes and no‘. I have used this book to prepare lessons on vocabulary for higher learners such as newspaper headlines as well as focus on grammar. When you combine this book with other recommended books in this post, it is really really useful and I would urge any potential CELTA trainee or experienced teacher to go and buy this book. It is most likely in most English teacher’s staffroom but it is one of those books that you will return to and those teachers that have completed the CELTA, who had not bought this book, should really purchase Practical English Usage.

4. “Teaching English Grammar” by Jim Scrivener

This is the second book by Scrivener that I am recommending but this is not to suggest that I swayed by his books. Although Teaching English Grammar had not been published when I took the CELTA course in 2008, I was introduced to it when it was first published. Had this been available in my course, it would have helped immensely during the lesson planning stage. Scrivener aids the reader through various things to consider when teaching areas of grammar with suggested context building activities, language practice ideas, suggested concept checking questions  (CCQs) as well as possible learner errors occurring for each grammar item. It is incredibly useful and despite not having this book during my CELTA days, it has been great to get some ideas for teaching.

5. “Grammar for English Language Teachers” by Martin Parrott

This is a wonderfully organised book which breaks down grammar into easy-to-understand chapters. As with some of the previous books which I have recommended, Grammar for English Language Teachers was recommended for the CELTA course as it could be referred to during the written assignments. As with previous reference books, this grammar book offers the reader the chance to consider some key aspects, provides the key forms of the referred grammar, typical difficulties for language learners, as well as some consolidation exercises to practice what has been learnt and improve your skills as a language teacher. When I speak to other teachers, they always tell me this is a good place to start when preparing lessons for teaching grammar.

6. “The Book of Pronunciation” by Jonathan Marks and Tim Bowen

There are a few books that focus solely on pronunciation and after my CELTA course, I purchased Sound Foundations, by Adrian Underhill. I just found this book a little too theoretical yet with a bit more reading and focus, there were some suggested practical ideas and they were great. I do in fact recommend Sound Foundations for those that are interested in pronunciation as an area. However, with The Book of Pronunciation, the authors have created some fantastic ideas for isolated lessons on a range of pronunciation areas such as homophones, stress, intonation, as well as many other areas. This book offers some interesting areas which CELTA trainees could incorporate as part of their lesson and had I acquired this book before my training, I would have been able to experiment during teaching practice.

7. “An A-Z of ELT” by Scott Thornbury

When you start your CELTA course, there is a lot of acronyms you need to get your head around; TTT, STT, CCQs, ICQs, PPP, etc. It can all be a bit overwhelming to be honest and you have a lot of other things to think about such as your lesson planning, assignments and input sessions that you need to attend. Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT offers a quick reference for all those hard-to-learn acronyms and abbreviations, and as everything is in alphabetical order you can find terms quite quickly.  As well as this, the book provides the trainee some background reading into some of the theories and ideas behind language acquisition and learning. Once you have finished the CELTA, Thornbury’s book can be referred to as you develop as a teacher and is also recommended for the DELTA, should you decide a few years later to do this.

8. “Classroom Management Techniques” by Jim Scrivener

Apologies but this is going to be the third and final book that I recommend which is written by Scrivener, but to be honest his books are great for those individuals undertaking or wishing to undertake the CELTA. Nevertheless, one key element which is focused on the CELTA course is the area of classroom management which is heavily focused upon during the observed teaching practice. I remember the trainers telling me to improve my instructions and reducing teacher talking time (TTT). Of course it is useful to receive such feedback about classroom management but there was minimal reading with relation to this. However, with Scrivener’s latest publication, Classroom Management Techniques, he hopes to fill this void. The book is easy to read with some great illustrations, and it great for any teacher training sessions which I focus on with experienced teachers. There are many areas that Scrivener focuses on which include; the classroom, the teacher, the learner, lessons, etc. As with previous recommendations, this book is invaluable for the day-to-day running of a course and it offers some wonderful ideas to think about should you have trouble with a class or selected learners. At the end of each chapter, there are some questions for reflection on particular areas of classroom management. Unfortunately, this book had not been published when I took the CELTA course but it was one of those books that I purchased immediately as soon as it was available.

9. “ABC of Common Grammatical Errors” by Nigel Turton

This book, by Nigel Turton, seems to be in short supply but if you can get your hands on ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, it would be highly recommended. The book is organised alphabetically with particular words and grammar forms. Nigel illustrates some common errors – these could unsuitable words, word order or grammatical errors – as well as their corrections in a systematic and organised way. This book can be easily referred to during the CELTA course to assist in anticipated errors for students and this could be written into lesson plans.  It would also assist in the developing awareness while teaching English and the potential pitfalls that language learners may encounter. With this book, you will be armed to to write your lesson plans in the best way possible. Get this book and you will not regret it. However, what this book lacks in possible errors that particular nationalities may encounter is recommended by the final book in this post.

10. “Learner English” by Michael Swan

This is the final book for this list and also the second recommended in this post which is written by Michael Swan. Learner English, much like ABC of Common Grammatical Errors, is a highly informative book which prepares trainees in teaching and possible errors and first language interference possible language learners may encounter while acquiring English. Swan’s book focuses on potential phonological and grammatical errors based upon particular language speakers and this is invaluable for trainee teachers or those teachers new to particular speakers of a language. Each focus on language speaker, such as Arabic, has a general breakdown of phonological areas which are common in their first language and those phonological sounds which are not transferred to English. As well as this, the book also covers grammar and sentence construction with a literal and more reader-friendly translation to aid readers in judging how particular nationalities create sentences in their own language and better anticipate potential first language interference. As with other books, this book will help teachers develop their awareness of teaching various learners as well as monolingual groups of students. It is really useful and I would always recommend this book to trainee and experienced teachers.

So this is my top ten list of recommended books for the CELTA but what books would you recommend? Do you have any favourite books that you like to refer to on a daily or weekly basis? What books do you always read? As always, leave your comments below.


  1. Amy

    New headway advanced?

    • Martin Sketchley

      Amy, I was looking more at teacher trainee books which would look at the practical element of the CELTA rather than coursebooks but New Headway is a useful book for lessons but I much prefer Speakout with their authentic listening extracts.

  2. Ghazali

    Dear Martin,
    Thank you so much for sharing such a useful information. I am working in Saudi Arabia and planning to do CELTA. So this information is really helpful for me. So thanks once again.
    I shall appreciate if you advise me any other useful tip regarding CELTA.

    With kind regards,

    • Martin Sketchley

      Ghazali, I am so glad that this blog post is useful and I shall think about another future post about the CELTA and some tips. However, a fellow colleague has posted a bit about the CELTA course on his blog as well, so I would recommend you check his blog post out as well: http://www.eltplanning.com

      Best of luck with your CELTA course, should you decide to do it, and I look forward to hearing updates.

      • Talha Atif

        I’m also resident in Saudia and an english teacher. I want to do either celta or delta, as you have mentioned in your post that you are Also planning to do celta, can you please guide me which institutes are offering these programes in Saudia. Is it any online course and how to Subscribe for it.

      • Kiran Shah

        Hi! Martin! This is Kiran Shah from Pakistan. Dying to go for CELTA. I really need to search from outside my country as no open centre yet in Pakistan. I have just completed my all TKT modules. I have been teaching English language since 12 years. Someone, was recommending me to go for CELTA from Turkey as its going to cost me less. Please recommend me for my CELTA. I will do see the blog you recommended there. Do I need to go through all these books before enrolling myself for CELTA. Do add me on Linkidin “Teachers Hub” t o stay connected. I’ll be grateful.Wishes!!!

    • Amer Shafique

      Assalamu alaikum,

      As you live in Saudi Arabia and prepare yourself for CELTA, I’m also interested in doing this course, so if you can manage to help me regarding this, I’ll be highly obliged.

  3. Great list, Martin! I also include the following great books in our program: Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones, Keep Talking: Communicative Fluency Activities for Language Teaching by Friederike Klippel, Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, and Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle.

    • Martin Sketchley

      Annette, those are also some great books that you recommend. Perhaps I should do a blog post of my all-time favourite books in the future (something non-CELTA related).

      • Annette Thompson


        I’m glad you liked my book suggestions. In my experience, most CELTA TESOL TEFL candidates aren’t college education majors, so they need to learn a lot more than ELT strategies, and I don’t mean boring theory. I believe that how to be an engaging, motivational teacher of any subject is a skill that can be taught, though it comes more easily to some. We can equip tomorrow’s English language teachers to not only successfully teach their students English, but also to be memorable role models who inspire previously unmotivated students, make teaching as a profession seem fun, and spread our countries’ values of equality, compassion, and inherent self worth. (Cue national anthem. Lol)

        Annette Thompson
        @TeacherAnnette on Twitter

  4. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  5. Hi Martin,

    Great comprehensive list! Practice English Usage would certainly be my number one. I found myself consulting it many times during my CELTA.
    I’d like to suggest 700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour and Maria Popova for your list. It can be really helpful for planning the quick practice activities that you need in class and definitely a book I would have loved to have for the CELTA.


    • Martin Sketchley

      David, the book by Seymour and Popova is great and is something which I refer to from time to time to get some inspiration. I agree that it would have helped me to get some wonderful ideas for the CELTA course. Unfortunately, I kind of restricted myself with a list of ten recommended books.

  6. Reblogged this on CELTA in Ecuador – Cuenca.

  7. hi martine, i am waiting for next one and this was great list…

    • Martin Sketchley

      Thank you and I’m glad you liked it. My name is Martin not Martine by the way.

  8. Antonio Arjona Martín

    Hello Martin

    Thank you for your list. I will buy some of these books for my English lessons and for the CELTA course I decided to do this summer somewhere on the British Isles. I am an English and German teacher at my academy.

    I am still looking for an Institute to do so and would very much appreciate if you could recommend a place to do a full-time 4 weeks CELTA course or similar.


  9. Ali

    Hi Martin,

    I don’t mean to sound asinine but I’ll be leaving for my CELTA course in a couple of months. I’ve read the little introductions you’ve given for the books above but what would be the one book you’d recommend to people that are just about to start their careers as English teachers or are heading for the CELTA course? Thank you.

    • Martin Sketchley

      “Learning Teaching” is the one book I’d recommend anyone to read prior to your CELTA course.

      • Ali

        Thanks so much, Martin. God Bless.

  10. Nasreen

    Hi…silly question really. The ‘Advanced English Grammar’ book that you mentioned is stated to have been written by Raymond Murphy. But the image and the Amazon link point out to Martin Hewings. Has he merely edited the new edition? Murphy hasn’t written an Advanced version to his English grammar books. Please help!

    • Liam

      Hi Nasreen, it’s not a silly question at all. Raymond Murphy wrote the two basic English grammar books which have become the bibles of English teaching.( In particular I could not do without Essential Grammar in Use for my elementary and pre-elementary courses.) As a result the name ‘Murphy’ has become associated with all of the Grammar in Use books, even though, as you correctly state, the Advanced book was actually written by Martin Hewings. I don’t know what Mr Hewings thinks of this! The Advanced version is also, I can confirm, excellent and worth investing in. I hope that answers your question.

  11. Nice, clear post, Martin! And great work on setting up the Facebook group as well. It’s good fun interacting with prospective teachers on there. Thornbury’s book came out around the same time I was doing the CELTA back in 2007 so I didn’t get to use it. Wish it had been around back then – would have been so helpful! Cheers, Steve.

    • A typo in my previous comment – can’t see how to edit it! Please excuse me, on a blog about teaching English of all places 🙂

  12. Hey Martin,

    Thanks for the post. I clicked through the first five books on the list and discovered none of them were published in Kindle format. That’s about the only format I read these days – immediate deliver and easy to annotate – so was disappointed.

    I did search your site for kindle book recommendations but only found one: The Ultimate Guide to CELTA and because it was listed with Kindle Unlimited, I managed to receive it for free through the Amazon US site.

    Would love to see a list of recommended books that are available in Kindle. Just a thought.

  13. Hi.
    Your list is very informative and useful for CELTA candidates, who have actively decided to pursue the CELTA courses.
    As my own experience, The CELTA Course by Scott Thornbury from Cambridge University Press is one of my recommended resources for taking the CELTA course.
    Another great resource that I recommend is Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips by Cambridge University Press.
    Another resource that I suggest is How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer.

  14. Judie Hudson

    Hi Martin,
    A very good list, but can CELTA candidates really be expected to buy each of the 10 books on your list? Surely, as Cambridge requires, centres should have a well stocked library with access to borrow 8/10 of the books on your list? As a CELTA tutor, I require all prospective candidates to have one methodology book (Scrivener or Harmer) and one language analysis book (Swan or A to Z).

  15. Great help! thanks for the list of books.

  16. Laura

    Here’s a new grammar book that has been getting some very positiveeviews
    A Descriptive Grammar of English by Andrew Rossiter.
    Just recently it’s had a great write-up in Voices, the flagship magazine of IATEFL, which wrote
    “Andrew Rossiter’s A Descriptive Grammar of English by Example should be included on your list of reference material. It reviews language as it is not only written but also spoken, and will cater for learners from upper-intermediate to advanced levels. The format presented is user-friendly, and unveils the mysteries behind how grammatical features are applied.
    ….. This book is a huge step forward, and having the English language laid out in such a user-friendly approach is a welcome treat for non-native teachers and learners.”
    More details on https://linguapress.com/grammar/descriptive-grammar-english.htm

Leave a Reply to Martin SketchleyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 ELT Experiences

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑