Category: Teaching
Essential TEFL Books – Techniques and Principles in English Language Teaching

As part of the preparation for taking my DELTA, I will be reviewing certain TEFL books in the hope of helping other teachers to sieve through the huge amount of literature on the market. These are not just recommended books, these are the ones I’ve been recommended that deserve to be seen as essential reading. All the books in this series have helped me in a significant way to better understand teaching English. I’m sure they can do the same for you!

– Anthony

Techniques and Principles in English Language Teaching – Diane Larsen-Freeman and Marti Anderson

This week I wanted to share another ‘classic’ TEFL book that crops up on countless reading lists. Techniques and Principles in ELT (TPELT from now on!) aims to give an overview all the influential teaching methods of the past hundred years or so in a concise, efficient volume.

What’s it about?

The book is essential a short, practical history of how we got here. When I say ‘here’, I’m referring to the current methods that we all use as teachers, i.e., the methods we learnt on CELTA or our original TEFL course.

The ‘communicative approach’ is a term banded around a lot, but really the way most modern language classes operate is by using a mix of various approaches rather than a stand-alone ‘method’. In this book you will get to read about those oft mocked methods such as ‘Grammar-Translation’, the ‘Audio-Lingual’ method and even ‘The Silent Way’.

Whilst it sounds a bit dry and heavy going, the book actually reads very logically. I was surprised to find that it is somewhat of a page-turner (as far as academic texts go) and the short, stand-alone chapters do a great job of breaking up the flow.

But those methods were all proved to be a bit crap weren’t they?

Well… yes and no.

The writers do a fantastic job of remaining completely neutral throughout their descriptions of the methods. They give you the theory behind it, how it works in practice and an example lesson observation. At the end of each chapter you get a short breakdown of the methodology used and are asked to question which parts you agree with or use in your own classrooms.

What was most surprising for me was that a lot of the methods we deride so freely today were actually created with the best intentions. Often they are also based on sound methodology that we still respect.

The main issue with most of them and the reason that we no longer subscribe to such methods (although many are still used in different parts of the world) is that they are mostly very restrictive. They follow their core belief almost obsessively and by rejecting other equally valid theories. This makes them ineffective for the majority of contexts and situations.

On the other hand, whilst alone they seem incredibly rigid and incompatible with what we know today, there is a lot to be learned from these old methods. It makes you question if the way we teach today will be looked upon in hindsight as dated and ineffective.

Who’s it for?

TPELT is for every teacher who wants to understand why we teach the way we do. Much like last week’s How Languages are Learned review, TPELT is essential for teachers who want to understand how we got here. If ‘How Languages are Learned’ shows us the theoretical studies that led us to the beliefs we have today, Techniques and Principles shows us the practical path we’ve taken.

So now, when a student asks you ‘what method do you use?’ and you have an opportunity to explain your approach, you’ll be in a real position to explain to them why you teach the way you do, why you use certain techniques and, most importantly why you don’t use use a ‘traditional method’.

A must read!

Useful Links

Techniques and Principles in ELT from Oxford University Press

Techniques and Principles in ELT from Amazon UK


Essential TEFL Books – ‘How Languages are Learned’

As part of the preparation for taking my DELTA, I will be reviewing certain TEFL books in the hope of helping other teachers sieve through the huge amount of literature on the market. These are not just recommended books, these are the ones I’ve been recommended that deserve to be seen as essential reading. All the books in this series have helped me in a significant way to better understand teaching English. I’m sure they can do the same for you!

– Anthony

How Languages are Learned – Patsy M. Lightbrown and Nina Spada

As teachers we are often seen as the experts of our profession in the eyes of both students and academic managers. There are certain truths to teaching that we’ve come to understand. Most of the time these come from our own experiences, but many have been engrained in us since our initial training course and have shaped the way we manage our classrooms ever since.

For example, is it more effective to explain a grammar concept to a learner, or is it better to show them? Should we simply give a text to a student and a set of questions for them to complete, or must we first build up a context around it and introduce the topic organically? Are adults as adept at language learning as children?

I’m certain that most teachers will answer the same way to these questions. However, are we answering from experience and research or because that’s how we were trained?

What’s it about?

‘How Languages are Learned’ by Patsy M. Lightbrown and Nina Spada is the book that will help you bridge the gap between your own experiences and the research of those that came before you. The book contains summaries of all the research into second language acquisition that shapes the way we teach today and why we we hold these beliefs.

As well as a solid outline of all the major theories of second language acquisition both past and present,  the book’s real strength lies in its collection of case studies. These summaries provide the evidence behind the very cornerstones of modern language teaching that we use every day.

Who’s it for?

Will this book improve your teaching? Possibly, although most of the research here gives us the answers that we probably already learnt on our initial teacher training courses. However the aim of the book is not to necessarily make you a better teacher. How Languages are Learned aims to give you the evidence that supports your existing language beliefs and enable you to make better decisions on how you organise your classroom.

In summary there is really nothing else like this book on the market. If you’re serious about how languages are best taught, you should definitely read about how they are most effectively learned.

Useful Links

How Languages are Learned from Oxford University Press

How Language are Learned from Amazon UK


Don’t Interrupt! How to Correct Correctly

The Correction Dilemma

Few of us would argue that correction is one of the most important things we can provide as language teachers. Taking someone’s own, often carefully crafted response or utterance and helping them to perfect it is something that students often only receive in the classroom. This makes it valuable, desired and ultimately expected by your students. Continue Reading ->


3 Ways to Get Your Students to Use Their Smartphones More

In Defence of Smartphones

Let’s face it, things change.

Even as a (relatively) young teacher I often find myself feeling out of touch with how fast things have moved on since I was a teenager. Just the other week, I presented a computer keyboard to one of my younger students in order to type her name and she explained that she didn’t really know how to use one. She’d only ever used tablets and phones.

Jesus, I felt old.

Yet when it comes to smartphones I’m not intimidated by them. For many teachers they are a scourge amongst teenage classes. They’re an obsession and a distraction, and they have no place in the classroom.

I disagree. Not only should you allow mobile phones in class, but you should integrate them into your activities from time to time.

Hear me out! Continue Reading ->


MPF – How to ‘Introduce’ Language in a Communicative Classroom

Meaning, Form and Pronunciation

For many of us familiar with CELTA or other TEFL courses, the acronym MFP will have come to be regarded as one of the most important of the many acronyms we come across for teaching a second language. Used for both lexis and grammar, these three simple and easy-to-remember little letters were branded into our teaching methodology from day one as essential steps to follow when introducing any new piece of vocabulary or grammar with your students. Continue Reading ->