Reading Materials

Not actually about reading for students but my personal top however-many-it-is list of things that teachers and specifically ESOL teachers should read. I’ve aimed for some categories, but these are very loose! There’s no specific order except the order they popped into my head.

Reflect, NRDC journal, every single one, but especially: issues 1-3, issue 5, issue 6, and issue 10.

NRDC Effective Practice Report here:

NIACE / NRDC: Developing Teaching & Learning Practitioner Guides: ESOL, Melanie Cooke & Celia Roberts – a sort of summary of the above report without all the stats and some really good ideas. And less than £4 from NIACE here:

Building on both of the above plus adding loads of really interesting discussions is James Simpson & Melanie Cooke’s ESOL: A Critical Guide, (2009, OUP), with lots and lots of largely research driven ideas and discussion – the word critical in the title should give you a clue. I like the fact that it tends not to take anything at face value, questions and queries lots of things, including not just my favourite bugbears but also areas of ELT generally which is refreshing to see. There’s also  a really interesting comparison of how other countries approach ESOL, like the USA, Australia & NZ. It is highly politicised, but then so is ESOL.

However, before reading that I’d recommend getting on with the other OUP ESOL book: the Oxford ESOL Handbook, by Phillida Schellekens, which is a fairly easy intro – worth a look if you’re fresh back in the UK after teaching abroad and are feeling a bit lost. The bit on actual teaching of the skills & grammar is less thorough, more of a skip through stuff which should be familiar to anyone with CELTA plus a few years’ experience. But there are bigger and better books out there.

If you wanted something more thorough, and this is one of the books I recommend for DTE(E)LLS, as it’s essentially a course book for it, is Open University Press’s Teaching Adult ESOL: Principles & Practice edited by Anne Paton & Meryl Wilkins ( is the hardback version, but is on amazon for £20 ish). It’s part of several books of similar title (one on general teaching & another on literacy). But it is consistently well written with some great discussions and analysis, a brilliant and useful chapter on differentiation (knocks the socks off anything else I’ve read on that subject), and would serve as an even better guide to ESOL in the UK. For me it’s the fact that it acknowledges the unusualness of ESOL while being aware of the need to slot ESOL teaching & learning into a wider framework.

More general stuff on teaching English:

Got a coin? Got £30 to spare? right,heads or tails, take your pick between Harmer or Scrivener. Jeremy Harmer comes full fat The Practice of English Language Teaching and diet How to Teach English. On CELTA? Never been in a classroom (unlikely if you’re reading this) then the diet version is a good place to start. The full fat book, on the other hand, is practical, useful, well researched, weighty, comes with DVDs, and will be known by most teacher trainers inside out and upside down, so no selecting random pages to reference there. Equally well known, on the other hand Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching (tip: it’s often in generic teaching sections of bookshops rather than the ELT bit due to the title) is a little lighter, equally useful and informative and very much worth a look. They seem to be aimed at a similar market – mid- to just-post-CELTA but have soemthing of value for everyone. I’d also give Teaching & Learning in the Language Classroom a go by Tricia Hedge. Although lighter on the practicals, it is a very very good detailed intro to some of the specifics of skills, vocab and grammar teaching which is challenging and useful.

How Languages are Learned – Patsy Lighbown & Nina Spada. Three words: Straightforward, clear and does-what-it-says-on-the-box. OK, not three words, but easily the most well-written and accessible book on something which, to be fair, isn’t necessarily the simplest of topics, language learning / acquisition.

The last three are books which have followed me quite literally round the world (and I was most disappointed when I found all of them at the school where I taught in NZ, having hauled them across the world and, literally, up a mountain). Keep Talking, by Friedrich Klippel, and Discussions that Work and Grammar Practice Activities by the late Penny Ur (all CUP). The first two are basically compendiums (compendia?) of stuff on, well, talking, and the last is basically every activity you could ever want to develop grammar awareness. It was published some time ago, and some of the pics are a little outdated (but very easily updateable via the internet), but the ideas are pretty timeless.

So that’s the ELT stuff (I could go one but do you really need more than that?) done with, but what about my favourite reading from the field of education generally? I’ll get that in my next post.


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