Reviews of books (and occasionally other resources such as software and games) of special interest to English teachers, edited by Alex Case. New reviews are added regularly. If you would like to review books for Teflnet, please read this.
Grammar Sense 3 is a massive, multi-pronged attack to the question “How should I teach grammar?” 18 chapters each focus on one grammar point. At over 411 pages the book has room to teach each point’s form, meaning, and use in great detail. Reading, listening, speaking and writing exercises mean there is a lot to get through; using all this material effectively, especially without overwhelming students, will require careful planning. The book may need the teacher to be selective, but, if used well, can provide the grammar students need as well as a springboard to more meaningful communicative activities.
Each chapter is broken down into two parts. The first introduces the form. It does this through authentically-sourced readings, grammar tables and sentence building/completion exercises. The second half of each chapter delves into subtler points of use. It asks students to compare and analyze each grammar point’s different meanings. This knowledge is reinforced through speaking and writing exercises, and tested with critical thinking questions. Read on »
50 Steps to Improving Your Academic Writing offers students a step-by-step guide for creating well written and well-structured academic appropriate writings for non-native speakers of English. While addressing issues to writing and common problems students face when understanding the various steps involved in creating quality writing including: avoiding plagiarism, the differences in academic writing versus other forms of writing, using unfamiliar words, and other special topics necessary to create solid work. Speakers of other languages are able to focus on their specific needs and goals in order to improve their academic writing and the book is a great academic aid for students and teachers alike.
50 Steps to Improving Your Academic Writing is, as stated in the introduction, “…primarily intended for students who are new to or inexperienced in academic writing (5)” and focuses on university-level academic writing. It is primarily a self-study book made for students to use on their own, but teachers can also use it to help plan lessons. Read on »
The TKT Course: KAL Module from Cambridge is a book containing official preparation material for the Knowledge About Language test, written by an actual test item writer.
Although not as well known as the CELTA or some other four week TEFL courses (including by myself when I received this book), Cambridge’s range of TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) exams are becoming increasingly popular as preparation for longer and higher level courses, as an alternative to or qualification to take out of online courses, or a (more or less) internationally-recognized qualification for those who do not have the time or language level to get a CELTA or equivalent. The format and related jargon is a bit confusing because TKT KAL is not part Read on »
This title was of particular interest to me: I am head of an institution with a considerable number of ESOL learners at Pre-entry level, and there seems to be little suitable published material available for them. As well as being too high level, many materials are also cultural-specific: beginner-level course books tend to assume a working knowledge of Western culture and values, which is an incorrect assumption with many learners at Pre-entry level.
The book is divided up in the same way as most of the photocopiable Cambridge ESOL resources – theme-based chapters that each have three units (speaking and listening, reading, and writing). The themes have been chosen sensibly – starting with classroom language and college life, and progressing on to jobs and transport – and each section is mapped to the Adult ESOL Core Curriculum. Within the units themselves there is a lesson plan for each activity that includes resources needed and suggested differentiation activities. Read on »
As a PhD student and a newcomer to the world of research I found Replication Research in Applied Linguistics to be a useful extra textbook for research courses at universities along with other sources the professors introduced. Most of the time the doctoral students are encouraged to try to make a contribution to the overall knowledge of the field when it comes to selecting a topic for their research by doing something totally new. However, after reading this book, I found that we CAN contribute to the knowledge of the field even by doing appropriate replication studies, provided that we know the proper and accurate way of doing such research. If you want know how to replicate research and are eager to know the technical practices of replication in applied linguistics, then this book is written for you.
The book is organized carefully in three parts. First, we are introduced to the field by the editor of this collection with a comprehensible introduction to replication research in scientific thinking and practice, especially in applied linguistics. The book starts by explaining some introductory issues and then continues by explaining some practical aspects such as how to do and write replication research. The last part of the book provides two real examples of qualitative and quantitative replication research. Read on »
Michael Swan is well known in both the teaching and applied linguistics field and has written numerous articles and books over the years. This book is a compilation of his most cited and well-known articles. It has a generic index which lists the title of each article and is followed by an interesting Introduction written by Swan. The book is then divided into 2 parts. Part 1 contains eighteen pedagogic and academic articles which were published between 1985 and 2011. Most of them include a short introduction to the article telling readers about the context in which he originally wrote them and at times includes a reflection and how he would write it differently. Part 2 contains seven satirical pieces on the world of language teaching.
Part 1 includes articles on a wide range of topics within the field of language teaching and theory. It covers topics such as English as a Lingua Franca, text-based teaching, grammar, language teaching versus teaching language, vocabulary, task-based instruction Read on »
Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom is a gentle polemic on the virtues and common sense practicalities of allowing students access to the benefits of a well-executed extensive reading program. Most of the book concerns itself with just that, how to set up and run an extensive reading program: the cost, the administration, and the pedagogical considerations. However, there are also examples of well-thought-out lesson plans and activities to engage students inside the classroom. A more fitting title might have been “Bringing Extensive Reading into the School”, but that in itself can be a challenging thing to do well. This book could certainly help avoid wasted time and money in setting up an effective library and program.
The first chapter outlines the authors’ strong belief in the advantages of extensive over intensive reading. For those teachers not sure of how “just reading” can be beneficial, this chapter lays out some convincing arguments for the adoption, in part at least, of extensive reading as a viable classroom activity. It stresses that a teacher’s role in such an extensive reading program is both to enthuse over the benefits of extensive readings and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in the classroom, and to orient and guide students through the levels of graded readers, all so that they gain the most benefit from a program. Read on »
Transcribing the Sound of English: a Phonetic Workbook for Words and Discourse, is designed for students of linguistics, and those who wish to learn how to write the sounds of English in a universal format. It offers something for everyone, from the complete linguistic novice, to the more experienced transcriber.
The book is divided into two parts: Words and Discourse. As a one-time student of linguistics, what I find particularly strong about this book is its presentation. The flow of information can be likened to a pyramid. It begins with a sweeping and simple look at individual phonemes, or sounds. As the text progresses, the information systematically moves from sounds in isolation, to sounds within words, to words within context (or the way in which they would naturally occur in spoken discourse). Since, of course, sounds rarely occur within isolation, the author builds upon each facet of the English sound system with increasing detail, affording the reader a most thorough explanation.
The first two chapters are great for students who are new to the topic, as they provide a comprehensive approach to transcribing the sounds of vowels and consonants. Both chapters include ‘quick tests’: short assessment exercises for the learner to gauge his or her progress. While these tests offer meaningful practice and useful measurement, the answers are not as accessible as some readers may like. Rather than included within the text like most workbooks, the Quick Tests’ answer keys are published on the accompanying website. This may be less than convenient for the learner who is away from his laptop or tablet. However, the keys are in pdf format, and thus easily printable. What is great about the website is that it includes an audio clip of each word and phrase included in the book. Thus, the learner can listen to the pronunciation, if need be, during transcription. Read on »
Ever since David Marsh and Anne Maljers ushered in the era of CLIL in 1994, this new methodology has remained a source of hot debate in ELT. While many teachers are suspicious of or indeed resistant to the very notion of Content and Language Integrated Learning, others view it as the future of language teaching. For those unfamiliar with the concept, CLIL is an approach which aims to marry the learning of content to the acquisition of an additional language, thus teaching both the subject and the language simultaneously. While several notable books have been written on this methodology, our profession has been crying out for a definitive guide to CLIL: it is with this mission in mind that Liz Dale and Rosie Tanner have created this book.
Turning to the content pages, it immediately becomes evident that CLIL Activities stands out when compared to other publications on the subject. This resource book has clearly been written by experienced CLIL practitioners. CLIL Activities is split into three parts; Background to CLIL; Subject pages, and; Practical activities. This no-nonsense layout serves to suck the reader in from the start: first you are told what this phenomenon is, you are then shown clearly how this might play out in your specific subject area, before finally you are given a large number of adaptable activities to help you in your teaching. Read on »
In this audio review of Techniques & Principles in Language Teaching you can hear Lara Promnitz-Hayashi and Jamie Dunstan discussing the book and giving their (on the whole favourable) reactions to it.
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This title is everything I love in a book – easy to use, well laid-out, attractive materials with excellent instructions, and above all activities that actually work well and serve a useful purpose in the EFL classroom!
Photocopiable resource books have been around for some years, and are an invaluable item in the resource centres and libraries of all language schools. Although not a new idea, this one is a little different in that it aims to provide material which will develop problem solving and decision making skills in tandem with language skills. The rationale behind this is twofold. Firstly, the activities aim to engage learners in cognitively-challenging activity – something that is often missing from language courses simply because all our language learners have an intellectual capacity that far exceeds their level in the target language. Secondly, the activities use language to complete non-linguistic tasks, thus creating a genuinely communicative situation, often with real-life-type tasks. Read on »
This series of four books offers concise, useful practice of grammar. Each book has between 25 and 35 units offering two to three pages of grammar description and practice exercises. The material covered in the four books is presented clearly and develops logically, covering the key grammar usually focused on at A1-B1 level.
Compared to other grammar books on the market, I think this series offers a wider range of exercises but fewer grammar explanations. It has approximately a third of a page of grammar explanations, within the 2-3 pages of material for each grammar point presented. The books are colourful and visually appealing, using cartoons and other visuals to break up the grammar exercises. The activities themselves draw on a wide range of techniques including gap fills, matching exercises, labelling pictures, sentence ordering, crosswords and sentence correction. Read on »
This is a fantastic series of readers. I love them. However, let me continue this review in a more constructive light …
There are 23 books in the series and I feel they provide a nice mixture of traditional fairytales (Cinderella, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, etc) and more modern film samples (Toy Story, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, etc). These book are undoubtedly catering to the interests and enthusiasms of YLs (young learners) today and the bright visuals and links to popular films should ensure these readers are a hit with students.
There are six levels, offering a path of progression from the very start of learning English to entry to CEF A1++ and I felt the language used in the stories at each level corresponded well to student ability. There are 14-36 pages of story, depending on level. If anything, the stories are so long by L6 that maintaining children’s interest while reading over a series of classes could be challenging. Read on »
After reading this book I think I may have found the Rosetta stone for my ESP teaching in the field of public relations. The quality of the book is unquestionable (the series to which it belongs won the English Speaking Union’s English Language book award in 2009). The book’s methodology intends to provide skills-based graded practice for non-native-speaking learners. Its use is also quite flexible and teachers will be able to use it with students from upper-intermediate to proficiency level (CEF B2-C2 or IELTS 5.0-7.5+). The book has a sound design integrating contents, language skills and vocabulary.
The book is organized into twelve units including topics such as a definition of public relations, its main goals and scope (unit 1), a review of the common activities involved in the field (unit 2), jobs in public relations (unit 4), regulations, and legal matters and communication (units 5-7). The book also includes a vocabulary bank, some additional materials and the tapescripts. Read on »
Sociocognitive Perspectives on Language Use and Language Learning
Theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) have tended to converge on two main notions; that language learning is either primarily cognitive (informed by processes ongoing within the brain of the learner) or primarily social (emerging as a result of social interactions). Of course, researchers have long understood that these two domains must be to some extent interrelated, but the argument remains as to which is the driving influence behind SLA. This collection of edited papers seeks to integrate the two approaches, and provide a number of perspectives on the manner in which the social and the cognitive dimensions affect and interact with each other.
The book is divided into three sections. The first deals with the theoretical perspectives advanced by researchers into sociocognition, while the second takes a more empirical route, presenting studies into the interpersonal and intrapersonal functions of sociocognition among learners. Perhaps for most prospective readers the final section, concerned as it is with the practical classroom applications of sociocognitive perspectives, will be the most important and anticipated. Each of these three sections will be Read on »
The Instant Academic Skills photocopiable resource pack is a much needed collection of materials for busy instructors’ academic preparation courses. This resource book is the latest offering from the Cambridge Copy Collection, which has brought us such favorite titles as Instant IELTS and Pronunciation Games. It can be used as the basis of a whole course, or even better as a great supplementary book for prepared materials. The materials are aimed at Upper Intermediate to Advanced students, meaning it would suitable for students from a level of 5.5 on IELTS or who had passed the Cambridge FCE.
The book is clearly organized into thirty ready-to-teach lessons which are in five separate general areas: Business, Health and Medicine, Science and Technology, The Arts, and Education. Each area is covered in three units containing two lessons. A lesson has three worksheets and a page with the teacher’s notes. The notes include step-by-step instructions on how to use the material, along with suggested follow up activities. The teacher’s notes are conveniently opposite the worksheets so you don’t have to root around the back for the answers. Read on »
The English Vocabulary in Use books have been around for a long time and are, I feel, invaluable classroom resources, so I was eager to see how the latest edition fared.
As in previous editions, the book is comprised of stand-alone units offering clear explanations and practice exercises which are ideal for supplementary class materials or self-study practice.
The book has 100 Units practising different vocabulary areas. There are 35 general topic-based units covering areas such as the weather, describing people, education, food, health, crime, money, and many more. The next nine units then look in more detail at feelings and actions, covering beliefs, likes, feelings and senses. These units also dealt with commenting on problematic situations and ways of offering praise and criticism, which I felt were useful areas to cover. Basic concepts, including time, quantity, dimensions, texture, are covered in the next ten-unit section. Linking words, word formation, words and pronunciation, (un)countable nouns and phrasal verbs all have individual sections of at least three units each after that. The final section introduces variety and style and looks at (in)formal language, similes, proverbs Read on »
Oxford are the first, but probably won’t be the last, to start moving their readers series to the iPhone and iPad (but no Android versions yet). In February this year, these faithful adaptations of the original books topped the iTunes charts in Japan (a chart typically dominated by TOIEC and Brain Training). It’s easy to see why. With many on sale now for as little as 85 yen (one dollar) they represent great value for money. They are easy to navigate, beautifully presented, and wonderfully illustrated. If students are looking for a convenient, digital alternative then these come highly recommended. All levels and tastes are catered for, with 55 books from levels 1 to 6 of the series available.
The app versions come with some nice extra features. Complete audio is included. This can either be listened to as you read or played like an audio book. Another addition to the app is a glossary of new keywords, which can be highlighted in the text and tapped on to Read on »
The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching
Need a book that has a number of good articles covering the important issues and approaches in current language teaching? The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching could be what you are looking for. This book is a compilation of short up-to-date papers covering a wide range of topics in second language teaching. The book begins with a very informative Introduction written by the editors. Many people usually skip the introduction and dive straight into the content, but with this book it is highly recommended to read this part first as it is very interesting and extremely informative, giving an overview of the issues relevant to pedagogy and methodology today. It is written in a way that even readers new to the field can understand, tells you where to find the relevant articles, and ends with a list of additional references. Following the introduction, the book contains 30 papers or “chapters” which are divided into five sections. They are well-categorized, making it easy to jump around the book for chapters relevant to your interest. The editors have written brief useful introductions at the beginning of each section. Read on »
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System taken by many students who need an English exam in order to study or work in English speaking countries. The IELTS Language Practice book is aimed at students of all levels preparing to take the IELTS exam.
IELTS Language Practice can be used as preparation for the IELTS exam. It is divided into sections covering grammar, units based on different vocabulary themes (e.g. on the natural world, the arts and attitude and opinion), and sections that focus on topic-linked words and phrases, including sections on academic essay writing.
The first 40 units deal with different aspects of grammar with three to four pages dedicated to each aspect such as the various tenses, articles, and modal verbs. Each section starts with an explanation and examples, followed by exercises. The explanations Read on »
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