TEFL Book Reviews

Reviews of books (and occasionally other resources such as software and games) of special interest to English teachers, edited by Alex Case.

Review ~ Exploring ELF
Reviewed May 2013 by Lara Promnitz-Hayashi | Filed under Linguistics
Exploring ELF

Exploring ELF

Exploring ELF has nothing to do with Santa’s little helpers but is in fact a new book in the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series, authored by Anna Mauranen and edited by Carol A. Chappelle and Susan Hunston. ELF stands for English as a Lingua Franca, a term which is becoming more widely recognized around the world, especially in the realms of academia among not only language researchers but also teachers. Exploring ELF covers a vast range of topics related to ELF and all are extremely relevant in the field of linguistics.

The book deals with different perspectives on ELF, academic speech as data, vocabulary in oral ELF, word grammar, discourse explicitness, and repetition and rephrasing, after the very interesting Introduction. I was a little apprehensive because it seemed quite long at fourteen pages. However, as I started to read it I was relieved to find that it is very interesting and informative. Mauranen introduces the world of ELF and its spread in a relatively easy manner and includes a number of references and studies relevant to ELF. She also outlines the chapters, making the book easier to navigate. The introduction ends with a detailed reference list which is extremely useful for anyone interested in ELF. I highly recommend looking at the introduction before diving into the book.
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Review ~ Breakthrough Plus 3
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Stephen Case | Filed under Level B
Breakthrough Plus 3

Breakthrough Plus 3

Breakthrough Plus 3 is an intermediate level, twelve-unit, multi-skills course. It is written by Miles Craven, who was one of the authors of the excellent Q:Skills series of listening and speaking books as well as the previous Breakthrough series. In style it is much like its predecessor Breakthrough. Each unit contains listening, speaking, reading and writing components based around a theme with fairly typical presentation and style. Four pages of each unit are spent on the presentation, form and practice of the unit’s core language point, while the last two “Expansion Pages” review and re-practice what has already been taught. Although it has parts focusing on all different skills, the main strength of this book is its easy to use and implement communicative activities.

Each unit follows the same pattern. Speculation on pictures and warm-up questions introduce the topic. The warm-up questions typically try to personalize the topic in some way by asking about the students’ own experiences or opinions on a topic. These questions provide a lead in to a recorded conversation on the topic, which in turn introduces new grammar and vocabulary for the unit. Brief vocabulary and grammar activities follow this to check comprehension.
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Review ~ The Roles of Language in CLIL
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Robert Lowe | Filed under Teaching, Young Learners
The Roles of Language in CLIL

The Roles of Language in CLIL

Content and Language Integrated Learning (“CLIL” for short) is currently an area which is arousing much interest among ELT researchers and practitioners. Building on strong communicative approaches such as task-based language teaching, CLIL classes combine the teaching of content with the learning of a language with a focus either more on the former or the latter, depending on the context and course. As the amount of research into CLIL grows and as more teachers find themselves teaching using the method, a study into how language is manifested and can be exploited for learning opportunities in in the CLIL classroom would seem a timely addition to the professional literature. The Roles of Language in CLIL has been written to fill that position.
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Review ~ Macmillan Factual Readers
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Stephen Case | Filed under Skills: Reading, Young Learners
Macmillan Factual Readers

Macmillan Factual Readers

For the most part, graded readers need to be level-appropriate, well written and, most importantly, interesting. Macmillan’s new series of Factual Readers for young learners match all of these requirements. The 40 book series is divided into six levels covering the five topics of natural science, history, people, wildlife and transport. Full of pictures, tables and diagrams that bring the topics to life, these books offer a good alternative to the plethora of narrative-based readers that usually fill most extensive reading libraries.

The presentation of these books is very similar to what one would find in books for young native English speakers like Guinness World Records books or a Time for Kids Almanac. The presentation of information is bold, clear and well illustrated. For kids interested in general knowledge and unusual facts (as I was when I was a kid) they are perfect. While some of the lower levels may be by necessity rather basic, there are still some wonderful little bits of trivia for kids to digest. The pictures often raise questions which motivate the kids to read and find out what they are about.
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Review ~ Business Advantage
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Clare Welch | Filed under Business Materials

Business people studying English as a second language have specific language needs, and it’s crucial that these language students can express themselves clearly and unambiguously in their working lives. Cambridge’s latest Business English course is dedicated to teaching English through authentic, realistic contexts and is engaging and practical for students of Business English.
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Review ~ English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate
Reviewed Apr 2013 by John Grant | Filed under Pronunciation
English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate Second Edition

English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate Second Edition

English Pronunciation in Use is back with a second edition and it’s updated, current and a joy to use. The author of the Intermediate version is Mark Hancock, whom many teachers will recognize from his indispensable Pronunciation Games, which is also published by CUP. He brings the same enthusiasm for the subject to Pronunciation in Use. This book deals with many of the pronunciation issues our students face at an intermediate level such as individual sounds, stress and intonation, and a final section focuses on listening and natural speech.

The first thing to note is the simplicity of the layout of the materials. There are 60 two-page units starting with basic issues like minimal pairs and moving onto more specific areas such as emphasizing corrections. Pronunciation explanations are on the left hand side and exercises are on the right. The explanations are easy to follow (a must for a self-study book) and the exercises offer specific practice for each pronunciation point.
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Review ~ English for Work and the Workplace
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Carmela Chateau | Filed under Business Materials, ESP Materials

English for Work and the Workplace examines the communicative language needs of workers worldwide. There are twelve articles in this book, written by teacher researchers based all over the world (with the notable exception of North America). The focus is varied, from local case studies and workplace needs assessment to more fundamental questions as to the status of language education in lifelong learning.
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Review ~ Genres across the Disciplines
Reviewed Apr 2013 by Adam Simpson | Filed under Linguistics, Skills: Writing
Genres across the Disciplines

Genres across the Disciplines

Why do university students write? What are they expected to write? To what extent do academics understand the process of setting a writing assignment, and – significantly – how proficient are they in creating appropriate prompts to elicit the kind of writing they expect? On first reading, none of these questions seem that demanding, nor might you expect them to have interesting answers. Nevertheless, it is precisely with such issues that Genres across the Disciplines concerns itself.

Those aspiring to read this title should know that it is intended for a fairly select audience. If, say, you’re currently doing an MA and at some point need to analyse student writing, this title will be at the top of your wish list. Indeed, it is with such an audience in mind, along with those tasked with preparing and assessing a writing-related curriculum and/or materials design, that this title has been written. As such, it presents the reader with what is ostensibly an unparalleled, forward-looking, corpus-based body of research into contemporary student writing in higher education.
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Review ~ Essential Teacher Knowledge
Reviewed Mar 2013 by Carmela Chateau | Filed under Teacher Training

Essential Teacher Knowledge provides almost everything a language teacher needs in 110 two-page units, providing of course that the language to be taught is English (even though many of the ideas are valid for language teaching in general). Each of the tasty nuggets of essential teaching knowledge is clearly presented, with up-to-the-minute illustrations and excellent use of highlighting and colour to guide you through the book.

To see what I mean, you can download a couple of sample sections from the Pearson ELT Facebook page. This also gives you an outline of the book, mapping it on to the Cambridge TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test). You can also see a two-minute presentation of the book by the author, Jeremy Harmer, explaining the philosophy of the book. I suppose my main regret is that he makes it all seem so easy – experienced teachers who have worked so hard to learn their trade will undoubtedly regret that this manual did not exist when they were starting out.
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Review ~ Managing Projects
Reviewed Mar 2013 by Jamie Lesley | Filed under Business Materials, Level B, Level C

managing-projectsPublished by Delta Publishing in conjunction with UK-based corporate trainers York Associates, Managing Projects is intended for learners at CEF level B2 to C1, and as such, is perhaps unsuitable for those not already at or moving towards a high level of English proficiency. It is principally viewed as a group learning resource but may also accommodate one-to-one teaching, as well as self-study. Its major selling points are its handling of cultural issues affecting work performance and communication, and its promotion of personalised goal-setting to monitor progress with learning diaries and action plans, both of which consolidate the learning process and encourage work-skills transfer. The book is one of a series of four entitled International Management English. It rests on the well-founded belief that to manage people and execute
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Review ~ Complete IELTS: Bands 5-6.5
Reviewed Mar 2013 by Margaret Bade | Filed under Exam Materials, Level B
Complete IELTS: Bands 5-6.5

Complete IELTS: Bands 5-6.5

Complete IELTS: Bands 5-6.5, written by Guy Brook-Hart and Vanessa Jakeman and published by Cambridge University Press, is a welcome resource for teachers preparing students for the academic module of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) at the intermediate level (B2). The eight-unit Student’s Book is designed as a short course for IELTS preparation of around 50-60 classroom hours. It includes a full IELTS practice test as well as all grammar and vocabulary considered relevant to this level, informed by the Cambridge English Corpus, not to mention plenty of well-explained IELTS practice exercises in each unit. The full set of answers and CD-ROM are a bonus. There are also two Class Audio CDs which contain additional listening practice, as well as recordings for all the listening sections.

The 166 pages include a map of the units and an IELTS Academic Module: Content and Overview at the front, and at the back a speaking, writing and language reference (giving the additional descriptions of grammar covered in each unit) to give students more of what to expect “on test day”. A detailed word list of useful words from each unit is also provided here but some teachers could consider the detail given a little complex, and students might be better off finding the meaning for themselves.
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Review ~ Practice Teaching: A Reflective Approach
Reviewed Mar 2013 by Kay Gil | Filed under Teacher Training
Practice Teaching

Practice Teaching

Practice Teaching, A Reflective Approach is a practical guide for a teacher about to start their student teaching experience. It gives any novice teacher insight into this often daunting rite of passage for all teachers. This would be an excellent guide to anyone entering his or her teacher training course and could easily be used as a textbook for such a course.

This book is well laid out and speaks directly to the student teacher with detailed advice on how to approach the student teaching classroom. It examines the student teaching experience and asks the teacher to reflect on how this experience will form them as a teacher. This book reads like a playbook for teachers, giving advice on what to expect when being evaluated, how to plan a lesson and what to do when you are finally in your own classroom.
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Review ~ Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach
Reviewed Mar 2013 by Stephen Case | Filed under Skills: Speaking, Teaching
Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach

Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach

All English teachers are happy and proud when they get their students really talking. Engaging the students with a loud and lively conversation, discussion or debate is the goal of many an English language lesson. It can often be the most interesting part of the lesson, and, most importantly, can be exactly what an ESL/EFL student wants from their lesson.

Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach acknowledges this, but says that simply getting students to talk is not enough. The first two parts of the book give an overview of what fluent speaking means for a language learner, and the discourse and structure of speaking. The next two parts then show how to turn academic ideas into a functional framework for speaking activities, courses and assessments.

Parts one and two are a nice overview of research into speaking. There is information on psycholinguistic models of speech production, in-depth synopsis on learner speaking strategies, and information on what knowledge is needed to be a competent speaker of English. There are also detailed summaries of the features of pronunciation and intonation. This is then followed up with what facts conversation-analysis and corpus linguistics can tell us about how competent, fluent speakers communicate.
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Review ~ 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards
Reviewed Feb 2013 by Matthew Turner | Filed under Teaching
400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards

400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards

400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards is a practical resource book published by Macmillan Books for teachers as part of an accessible series edited by Adrian Underhill. This book follows other titles such as 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom and 700 Classroom Activities in providing an exhaustive set of ideas for the classroom. Written by Pete Sharma, Barney Barrett and Francis Jones, all of whom are established figures in the field computer-assisted language learning (CALL), 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards is aimed at providing users of IWBs with a wider scope of activities than they may already be aware of, or for newcomers or buyers of the apparatus who may be looking for ways or reasons to introduce the technology into their schools or classes.

The core of the book is divided into four chapters, all dealing with different aspects of IWB usage. These chapters are preceded by a foreword by the authors and a brief introduction, which include a helpful assortment of explanations about the many IWB features there are as well as a page detailing the benefits of using IWBs. The authors also shed brief light on the challenges facing IWB users and some forecasts of their uses in the future. The four chapters of activities which follow are all preceded by a pair of case studies displaying firsthand experiences of IWB in action.
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Review ~ International Negotiations
Reviewed Feb 2013 by Rory Banwell | Filed under Business Materials
International Negotiations

International Negotiations

International Negotiations by Mark Powell is a textbook focused on learners who want to look at the area of business negotiations. Published by Cambridge University Press, as part of the Cambridge Business Skills series, it should interest any ESP teacher or learner looking for a comprehensive guide through this complicated area of business. The course book takes learners through the whole negotiating process from preparation to finishing the deal.

It is described by Cambridge University Press as a short course (15-20 hours) and it is aimed at learners from intermediate to advanced. My initial impression however is that in order to cope with the pace of the course and nature of the language, learners will need to have a fair grasp of the English language.
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Review ~ The Company Words Keep
Reviewed Feb 2013 by Vanessa Pasini | Filed under Vocabulary
The Company Words Keep

The Company Words Keep

In The Company Words Keep the authors, Paul Davis and Hanna Kryszewska, put forward a strong case for adopting a more lexical approach to language acquisition. The title is divided into three main parts: part A outlines the theory behind the book, B sets out a number of exercises to be used in the classroom and the third encourages the instructor to reflect on his/her lessons and his/her learners. It also has suggestions of how to continue professional development in this area. To get the most out of this title in a language college setting, it would benefit from a workshop session led by someone who has read and cherry-picked activities relevant to the learners and equipment available. I found this book encouraged me to be more conscious of the elements of lexical approach that I was already incorporating in my teaching. Some of the exercises will probably be familiar to more experienced teachers (depending on the teaching methodology and coursebooks used) but there are so many activities that there’s bound to be something new.
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Review ~ Oxford English Grammar Course
Reviewed Jan 2013 by Robert Lowe | Filed under Grammar
Oxford English Grammar Course

Oxford English Grammar Course

Michael Swan’s name is well known among language teachers, particularly for his grammar guides such as Practical English Usage, which are liberated from bookshops en masse at the start of each new CELTA course. These books are very popular among teachers because they provide stripped down explanations of grammar points, presented in a comprehensible way, which can then by relayed to students. In the Oxford English Grammar Course series, Swan, along with Catherine Walter, have combined these kinds of short grammar explanations with the self-study elements of their earlier self-study books such as How English Works to produce a full three-level grammar course for self-study and for classroom use. The books are available at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels, and are designed to guide learners from the reasonably simple grammar of English to its more advanced elements.
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Review ~ Strategic Reading 2
Reviewed Jan 2013 by David Truxal | Filed under Skills: Reading
Strategic Reading 2

Strategic Reading 2

Prolifically varied is a term that could be used to describe Jack Richard’s writing output in the last 30 or so years, as he has authored or co-authored numerous professional books for English language teachers as well as many widely used textbooks for English language students. Samuela Eckstut-Didier has also authored or co-authored many textbooks for English language students ranging from grammar-based books to integrated skills books to reading and vocabulary building books. Here, the two have collaborated to produce a useful and enjoyable reading textbook that can be used for self-study or incorporated into the classroom.

Strategic Reading 2 is aimed at high-intermediate young adult and adult learners of English. It is designed to develop reading fluency through the use of a variety of authentic texts including newspapers, magazines, books and web sites. The book is divided into 12 units with three readings per unit
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Review ~ Grammar Sense 3
Reviewed Jan 2013 by Stephen Case | Filed under Grammar
Grammar Sense 3

Grammar Sense 3

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.
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50 Steps to Improving Your Academic Writing

50 Steps to Improving Your Academic Writing

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.
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