Wednesday, December 22, 2010

5 books I'm looking forward to reading in 2011

Since last week I shared a few books I'm familiar with, this week I'd like to preview a few titles I want to read in 2011.

I've been reading up on the receptive skills recently (reading and listening), so I was glad to hear that the books from the Applied Linguistics in Action series covering these two skills were being revised. If you're not familiar with this series, these books give a thorough overview of research in applied linguistics in a number of different areas including the four skills, motivation, autonomous learning, and more.

Teaching and Researching Reading by William Grabe and Fredericka Stoller looks quite interesting. I spoke to Professor Grabe last month when he was presenting at the ETA-ROC conference in Taipei, Taiwan last month. He said that there have been some major changes from the earlier edition, and mentioned that there would be a new chapter which explains how the two authors think reading should be taught.

One more title in this series, Teaching and Researching Listening by Michael Rost, is another book I definitely want to read. Michael Rost is well-known for many books and articles on teaching listening, and this one should provide a comprehensive summary of the latest research.

Another book with a new edition coming out is Learning Teaching, a classic introduction to teaching English. This is one of my favorite ELT books, and I can't wait to see the changes in the third edition. According to the information on the publisher's website, this new edition will contain a DVD with a sample lesson and demonstrations of several teaching techniques.

Two more books I'd like to have on my shelf are The Company Words Keep and Digital Play, new titles in Delta Publishing's Delta Teacher Development Series. (Sorry, no book cover images for these two books as of today.)

The Company Words Keep by Paul Davis and Hania Kryszeweska is a book of activities for teaching lexical chunks. There's not much information on the publisher's page, but I'm sure this will be updated soon, as the book will come out in Spring 2011. Having read several books by both authors, I think this one should be brilliant.

Digital Play by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley, provides teachers with lots of information about using computer games and other ICTs in the classroom. In light of the fact that Taiwan (where I live and teach) has one of the world's largest markets for computer games, I'm sure I will get a lot of use out of Digital Play.

Do you know of any new books coming out in 2011 that I didn't mention? Please post your reading list here. (Authors are most welcome to tell us about your new books.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

4 resource books that helped me improve as a teacher

In this post, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite teacher's resource books. Over the years I've worked with a large number of these books. They've been a source of inspiration and showed me new ways to help students learn English. I'd like to mention four of them and describe a sample activity from each title (along with a reflection on how it went over).


This title covers a topic that has created a lot of discussion in the blogosphere, that is Dogme or Teaching Unplugged. Karenne Sylvester has been running a Dogme challenge for several weeks now, Jason Renshaw has blogged numerous times about teaching unplugged and emergent language teaching, and Jeremy Harmer issued a strong critique that garnered over 200 comments.

I first learned about Dogme from an Thornbury article in It's Magazine about 10 years ago. I was highly interested in the ideas behind it, although I was unsure about how to put them into practice. This book explains the principles behind teaching unplugged, as well as providing a diverse selection of activities. I've used several activities from this book and have been very impressed with the results.

One activity I tried:

I was on the topic of films with my university students, and I wanted to get them to discuss the recent movie, Monga, a Taiwanese film that was very popular that year. Here's the movie poster I started off with:

(By the way, that's NOT the cover to a resource book.)

I used the activity "Good Things, Bad Things", which produces a debate first through writing, then speaking. It was quite a powerful lesson. I could really feel that the students were all eager to talk about this film and express their opinions. Some students felt it was a cool movie, others thought it was too violent. Overall there was a strong feeling of engagement with the subject.


Although certainly not the first book of drama exercises for a language teaching context, this Oxford University Press Resource Book for Teachers has a lot going for it. Fun, clever activities with clear explanations and loads of supportive comments and follow-ups. There is always a laugh riot when I use these in my classes. As Ken Wilson puts it, these activities "are for teachers who want to enliven their classes and refresh students who may be tired or subdued by they way they are asked to learn."

One activity I tried:

I used the "Foreign Expert" activity with my advanced speaking and listening class earlier this month. In this activity, students work in pairs, one as an expert on a subject of their own choice and one as an interpreter. The catch: they make up a language that they translate in and out of English. My students were already laughing when I was explaining the activity. The laughter increased exponentially, as it became clear that two students were quite good at uttering gibberish that sounded like a real language!


Mario Rinvolucri has written (and co-written) an amazing number of resource books for teachers. Humanising Your Coursebook is the one that I use the most. It's kind of a Rinvolucri's greatest hits, suggesting a number of ways to adapt and alter a coursebook to give students more opportunities to practice.

One activity I tried:

"Text All Over The Place" calls for parts of a dialogue to be printed on slips, cut up and placed over every surface of the classroom including desks, floors, walls, ceilings, even the teacher's back. As students arrive, they copy down the bits of language then do their best to put them back into order. A thought-provoking note from Mario at the end of the activity:

Is your class unruly? Don't you dare try this with them? If they are unruly, maybe it is because they hate sitting still. This exercise gets them moving.

I used this activity to add a spark to a conversation class I was teaching at a university in rural Taiwan. I remember it took over an hour to get all the little bits of paper around the classroom. It was worth it to see the look of surprise on the students' faces.


I've read several books by Hess and Pollard, and found them to be extremely helpful. As the title indicates, this book gives the reader a wide range of activities that require a minimum of preparation. Similar to Humanising Your Coursebook, this title covers all four skills, followed by sections for grammar (structure) and vocabulary. This book contains a lot of fresh, intriguing activities. It always reminds me that simple is best.

One activity I tried:

I used "Role-Plays" with a group of university students I taught in Hong Kong. This activity asks students to brainstorm some potentially useful utterances before breaking into a role play in front of the class. The energy level of the class picked up as students got into their roles.

I'd like to hear about what resource books you've been using. Any titles you would recommend?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas lessons

We're already in the second week of December, so it's time for many of us to put together a special Christmas lesson. I thought I would add a few links here to some teaching materials that you can use in the next couple of weeks.

Karenne Sylvester of Kalinago English has a brilliant lesson titled Conversations at Christmas.

Sean Banville has many many excellent activities in his Breaking News Christmas Lesson.

Alex Case has a collection of Christmas (and New Year) handouts and lesson plans.

Nicholas Whitley has a superb set of handouts for use with the Run D.M.C. song, Christmas in Hollis.

BBC's Teaching English website has a number of Christmas activities for young learners, as well as a few for the older ones, such as The Office Christmas Party, 25th December and Men and Christmas Shopping.

One Stop English has a Christmas webquest and a reading lesson plan on Santa.

If that's still not enough, Isabel Perez has a huge collection of links to Christmas lessons (readings, songs, worksheets, puzzles, etc.), and Larry Ferlazzo has a list of The Best Places To Learn About Christmas, Hanukkah, & Kwanzaa.

Finally, a lesson idea I like to use around this time of year - Gift Sentences from Dave's ESL Cafe.

Any other suggestions for Christmas/holiday lessons?