This book review was published in The English Connection, a publication of KOTESOL, Winter 2012, Volume 16, Issue 4. Thank you to the KOTESOL team who helped get this published.
A number of months ago, I was at the British Council in London for a seminar and asked to write a book review for the latest “Innovations in …” series. The “Innovations in …” series which was published in 2012 focuses on the teaching of migrants and refugees with various case studies. It is an interesting book and I would highly recommend this for those teachers which have an interest or involved in EAL or ESOL. You are able to read my latest review below. You can find more information about the “Innovations in English Language Teaching to Migrants and Refugees” at the following website. You will also be able to download a PDF version of this book from the link provided above.
“CLIL Activities” is written by Liz Dale and Rosie Tanner and published under the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series by Cambridge University Press. If you have taught young learners, you have probably heard a buzz word ‘CLIL’ bounding the teachers’ room. However, what is ‘CLIL’ and what does it actually mean? It is defined as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and the European Commission defines it as the “teaching a curricular subject through the medium of a language other than that normally used”. Here you can see the relationship between language learning through education and young learners. However, one should question whether there is a place for CLIL in an adult language learning setting. Nevertheless, “CLIL Activities” is intended for subject teachers who teach their subjects through English, language educators working within a bilingual context, or those that are training to become subject teachers or language educators in a bilingual context (p.1). The book is just over 280 pages and split into three sections. Part 1 (Background to CLIL) includes a comprehensive background to CLIL, Part 2 (Subject pages) focuses on subject matter with CLIL and Part 3 (Practical activities), which offers practical activities, is split into six chapters which include the following: Activating, Guiding understanding, Focus on language, Focus on speaking, Focus on writing, and Assessment, review and feedback. The book attempts to consider the benefits of a ‘multi-faceted’ approach with the teaching of CLIL. These benefits are also echoed on the European Commission’s website which are illustrated below.
|European Commission: CLIL’s Benefits (2012)|
Part 1: Background to CLIL
Part 2: Subject pages
Part 3: Practical activities
Written by Jim Scrivener, who has authored other popular ELT titles such as “Learning Teaching” and “Teaching English Grammar”, “Classroom Management Techniques” is one of the latest from the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series. The book itself is over 300 pages and is divided into seven chapters related to English language teaching with each chapter focusing on individual aspects of teaching: The classroom, The teacher, The learners, Key teacher interventions, Facilitating interaction, Establishing and maintaining appropriate behaviour and Lessons. The book is intended for teachers of varying experiences, native as well as non-native teachers, those that are teaching young learners as well as adults, those teaching monolingual or multilingual classes as well as those teachers that are experienced or newly qualified. Scrivener (2012) highlights that the book is expected to be referred rather than “to read from cover to cover” (p.4) but there are numerous cross-references where the reader can read more about particular areas in another chapter and this in itself suggests that some thought has gone into the structure of the book. Nevertheless, the first chapter focuses on the setting of the classroom.
Key teacher interventions
Establishing and maintaining appropriate behaviour
The book exposes 17 of the most misunderstood or misused rules in English grammar: from Apostrophe to Semicolon. The lovely illustrations complement the ‘easy-to-understand’ write-ups for each of the 17 grammar points (with some broken down further) and replaces a lot of the bulk of text found in some other grammar books.
Essentially, “Punctuation ..?” is a book aimed for improving English writers but can also be developed for use, even as a reference book, in the language classroom. The wonderful illustrations will give teachers some source, ideas and opportunities to develop for use on the board as well as provide some much needed difference for art-work in the classroom.
“Punctuation..?” is by no means a complete grammar dictionary, but the simplicity, and ease of grammar rules that it communicates, really complements a lot of grammar books, which are sometimes stuffed full of various rules, difficult to remember, even for the most professionally motivated teacher or student, and difficult to dissect. The book is suitable for a wide-range of ages and is probably one of the best gifts that a student or teacher could receive.
It was a pleasure to receive a copy of “English Grammar Today”, which is written by Carter, McCarthy, Mark and O’Keefe, and was keen to put it to good use. I have found that this grammar resource book really useful with mainly adult language learners and there are some great material in the workbook which complements coursebooks. Anyhow, my most recent book review was published in the IATEFL Voices magazine and really appreciate everyone that helped. It has really made my birthday receiving IATEFL Voices through the post.
It was a wonderful feeling to finally have “Digital Play” (DELTA Publishing), land on my doormat and I was keen to start reading the book. The book is co-authored by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley and interestingly Graham has a “Digital Play” blog which contains a wide source of teaching ideas and posts dedicated to digital learning in English language teaching. Meanwhile Kyle has created a Wikispace dedicated to teaching pedagogy and the incorporation of popular online and console gaming and it has been awarded an Edublog Award.
Nevertheless, “Digital Play” is predictably split into three sections each called Part A, Part B and Part C. As with other books in the DELTA Teacher Development Series, Part A provides some background knowledge to technology and gaming with language learning, Part B offers a range of activities and lessons to incorporate digital play within the classroom and finally Part C suggests areas of reflection and consideration for schools and educators to consider syllabus design and the inclusion of digital play in language classrooms.
The key concept behind the inclusion of digital games and language learning is not necessarily new but there are some terms, such as ‘edutainment’, which “cause some educators to shudder” (Mawer & Stanley 2011, p.7) and have some negativity associated with them. When I was teaching in South Korea, edutainment was offered to many language learners and it was considered by many students to be more beneficial than the traditional language classroom. However, many teachers based in Korea negatively viewed edutainment and that the teacher was considered to be more of an entertainer than a teacher. Nevertheless, if language lessons are considered by the learner to be entertaining, it would be plausible to suggest that the learner’s affective filter is reduced and the lesson (or the key purpose) is more memorable. The authors also suggest that many learners’ lives are dominated by computer games, the internet and game consoles with “much of [the learners’] … talking about them with friends” (p.7). Furthermore, the authors consider, within Part A, the appropriateness of computer games and society with various issues such as violence and stereotypes. The interesting response to violence within computer games, among many, view “the relationship between violent computer games and aggressive behaviour” (p.8) as clear. More recently, a scientific study attempted to link computer games to changes within childrens’ brains that causes detrimental effects (Telegraph 2011). However, there is an awareness that some games, particularly those that have an educational benefit, which assists children or language learners such as “treating post-traumatic stress disorder, boosting intelligence and developing the memory” (Telegraph 2011). Mawer & Stanley (2011) highlight the educational benefits of computer games and digital play within the language classroom and suggest that many schools have been slow to respond to advances within technology: “pupils sitting in rows with textbooks” (p.9). This is also supported by Sir Ken Robinson talking about changing the paradigms of education:
Much of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about the disadvantages of the 19th century structure of education is also expressed within Part A of the book and it is wonderful to see Mawer & Stanley (2011) consider changing the traditional language classroom to the benefits of their learners. Nevertheless, towards the end of the first section of the book, Mawer & Stanley (2011) provide a glossary as well as a guide to digital play, pages 21 to 32, in the language classroom, which is invaluable for those new to incorporating games in their lessons.
The following section of the book offers various ideas and activities for the reader to consider when deciding on using digital play within the language classroom. The authors provide activities for the connected as well as the non-connected classroom, with four chapters within this part of the book and over 90 lesson suggestions for activities. Personally, I found the book a great source of inspiration and I decided to prepare my own lesson with the use of an iPad, iPod or iPhone based game within my personal classroom. When combining the book with Stanley’s blog of Digital Play, there are over 100 teaching activities and ideas to consider. It is such a wealth of information, possibly too much for the new teacher, but well worth the investment to read and consider for future lessons. One of my favourite lessons available on Stanley’s blog was related to gaming soundtracks and can really prompt students to converse in a subject that is of immediate interest to them.
The final section of the book provides some further information to consider and reflect upon, such as classroom management (setting up the classroom, classroom layout, etc) for using digital play with learners. Other areas of this section include pedagogy and references to further reading, which also complements the first section of the book.
Finally, “Digital Play” has become one of my most popular books to refer to when planning or reflecting on the use of technology in my own classroom and I would recommend any experienced, or non-experienced, teacher to consider purchasing it in the future. It is a great book that complements other DELTA Teacher Development Series such as “Teaching Online” or “Teaching Unplugged” and is a wonderful resource for any budding technophiles.
It was a pleasure to receive a copy of “Learning One-to-One” (2010) written by Ingrid Wisniewska and is published by Cambridge University Press. As with many of the other Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers, this book offers many wonderful ideas for teaching one-to-one based lessons. I would recommend any newly qualified or veteran teacher to purchase this book as it provides a new perspective on one-to-one lessons. Furthermore, I was offered the opportunity to write this book review for the first Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research and was provided some invaluable advice from Darren Elliott (who also has a really insightful blog) during the review writing process. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book for its simplicity and valuable ideas it provides for any teachers. My full book review is available to read below.
“Teaching Unplugged”, written by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, published by DELTA Publishing and part of the DELTA Teacher Development Series. The blurb on the back describes the book as “the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT”. As with the previous book review, “Teaching Online” by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield, “Teaching Unplugged” contains three individual parts; Part A, Part B and Part C.
T: well then, Jorge … did you have a good weekend?S: yesT: what did you do?S: I got married.T: [smiling] you got married. (0.7) you certainly had a good weekend then. (0.5) [laughter and buzz of conversation]“Teaching Unplugged” (2009) by Meddings and Thornbury (pg. 11)
Each lesson provided, breaks down a lesson plan with different areas to consider prior to the lesson (Think about it and Get it ready), during the lesson (Set it up, Let it run and Round it off) and after the lesson (Follow-up). As with each lesson chapter in Part B, there are tips and techniques to assist the teacher. In total there are 97 lessons provided over the five chapters in this Part, which is plenty for the teacher to start practising with.
Having started my MA in English Language Teaching course last month, there were some essential reading lists that I received prior to the course. One of those books that I bought was Second Language Acquisition written by Rod Ellis with H. G. Widdowson as Series Editor. The book is published by Oxford University Press (OUP), was first published in 1997 and is part of the Oxford Introductions to Language Study series.
The book splits the topic in to 10 chapters about SLA and intoduces past and present language acquisition theories. The theories introduced are written in a style which is easy to understand, for example Behavourist learning theory, L1 transfer, etc. The Preface of the book justifies the reason quite well;
There are many people that take an interest in language without being academically engaged in linguistics per se. Such people may recognise the importance of understanding language for their own lines of enquiry, or for their own practical purposes, or quite simply for making them aware of something which figures so centrally in their everyday lifes.
The Preface is pivatol for the book; it would benefit not just academics seeking to understand theories, concepts, etc written in an easy to understand fashion but will also assist language teachers to identify why particular teaching practice is adopted in the classroom. Questions that would be answered could include; Why do we teach in a student-centred basis? What was the reason for parrot-fashion teaching? Are errors something we should correct in class? The chapters cover a range of areas in SLA including Social Aspects of Interlanguage, Individual Differences in L2 Acquisition and The Nature of Learner Language. The chapters will go someway to answer the questions raised above but if readers would require more theory and are more academically inclined, then the book may not suit these particular readers. However, the book is split into four sections with one focused on References.
The References do offer readers the opportunity to look at particular points in more detail and the author breaks down the technicality of reading in a easy, medium or hard context (with the use of blocks; the more blocks the harder it is). The References is split between chapters, so if one had read a chapter about The Nature of Learner Language and read about learner errors, when refering to the References section one could read more about this when looking at ‘The Significance of Learners’ Errors’ in International Review of Applied Linguisitics (1967), pages 161-169.
I would recommend this book for those teachers that are interested in learning more about the supportive theories and understandings of language acquisition as it could answer some questions about teaching in a class environment. It is highly invaluable also for those that are undertaking a post-graduate course at University or currently working towards DELTA-related qualification.