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Teaching English in China

Teaching ESL Book Reviews
英语学习书评

Click on the books below to read our reviews:

Role Plays for Today: Photocopiable Activities to

Get Students Speaking

by Jason Anderson

Subject Link

SubjectLink.jpg

by NEBuild&Grow

 

Learning Teaching

Learning Teaching is a terrific introductory guide to teaching English as a foreign language and it can be used as a reference book for ideas and examples. Scrivener’s tone is supportive and patient with the reader allowing for a proper digestion of the materials. This is important because it allows him to avoid being dogmatic and gives space for the readers’ own choices and preferences.

The layout is logical and the text is easy to follow. The world of English Language Teaching is rife with TLAs (three letter acronyms) and yet somehow he manages to make this bewildering range of terms seem natural and you do understand what he is talking about at all times. Best of all, it appears to be based on real experience rather than some theoretical ideal class who respond in just the way you would want them to in class. The accompanying DVD is helpful with some useful resources.

The book will certainly be a great help to anyone studying TEFL (see what I mean about the acronyms?) but even more useful as preparation reading to read before embarking on study. It’s a widely recommended book by courses including CELTA - it’s not hard to see why.

BY: Jim Scrivener

Practical English Usage

The authority on English grammar and indispensable for any English language teacher, this book is a must. References are NOT of page numbers but paragraph sections and so the format, at first, can be off-putting. But once you get the hang of it, it is the best guide for English grammar I know of. The way it is organized - alphabetically - makes it easy to find what you want using the index; and the examples are concise but effective enough to get the message across.


In my time as a TEFL teacher this book came in use on numerous occasions. TEFL textbooks have notoriously shoddy guides to grammar, which are often detrimental rather than helpful for student and teacher. Swan doesn't have any practice exercises, but everything is laid out plain and simple, from the most straightforward grammar.

BY: Michael Swan

Communication Games

This is a great book for group games, from pairs to large classes. The games are varied, covering a wide range of vocabulary. This book is basically a collection of photocopiable ( black n white) sheets for use with EFL students. At the back of the book is a list of suggested games/ scenarios for each sheet, some of which need cutting up before using. Much of the materials are aimed at older students ( late teens and above) so for younger students it’s a case of making up your own uses for most of the materials or abandoning large swathes altogether.

My students especially liked playing the matching pairs games, matching a picture to a word. They didn't see it as work but as a fun end to the lesson and asked every lesson for a game at the end of the lesson.  

BY: Jill Hadfield

Pronunciation Games

This book is really useful. It helps you to do pronunciation work so it isn't just symbols and analysis. It makes it fun and interesting, it shows you things you didn't know about your own language. It has activities for all different levels and all different types of pronunciation problems (not only individual sounds).

Many EFL teachers don't spend much time on pronunciation tasks (too boring, lack of resources, impossible with a large class etc.) yet there is a demand from students for these kinds of activities. This book includes nearly 40 photocopiable games that can be used with a vast range of students (different levels, different ages, ...) and with different class sizes, or even for one-to-one sessions. The games have simple, easy to explain rules and can fit into slots of 10, 15, 20, and 30 minutes. In fact, some of them could also be given as homework (maze, join the dots, dictation computer).My person favorite is the syllables bingo.

BY: Mark Hancock

Speaking Extra Book and Audio CD Pack: A Resource Book of Multi-level Skills Activities (Cambridge Copy Collection) Communication Games

I'm a big fan of this book as a supplementary or even core component of oral and other courses.
This book encourages students to expand their speaking skills using a variety of activities, such as role play, problem solving, puzzles, games, interviews, storytelling and discussion. Many of the speaking activities are supported by the accompanying audio CD and the recording script section at the back of the resource book.


It’s a great book for no prep speaking classes in a pinch.

BY: Mick Gammidge

Role Plays for Today: Photocopiable Activities to Get Students Speaking

This book is really useful. It helps you to do pronunciation work so it isn't just symbols and analysis. It makes it fun and interesting, it shows you things you didn't know about your own language. It has activities for all different levels and all different types of pronunciation problems (not only individual sounds).

Many EFL teachers don't spend much time on pronunciation tasks (too boring, lack of resources, impossible with a large class etc.) yet there is a demand from students for these kinds of activities. This book includes nearly 40 photocopiable games that can be used with a vast range of students (different levels, different ages, ...) and with different class sizes, or even for one-to-one sessions. The games have simple, easy to explain rules and can fit into slots of 10, 15, 20, and 30 minutes. In fact, some of them could also be given as homework (maze, join the dots, dictation computer).My person favorite is the syllables bingo.

BY: Jason Anderson

English Grammar in Use

Raymond Murphy's "Grammar in Use" series (Cambridge University Press) provides far clearer examples, a simpler format, and a more logical format. It's also ideal for self-study since it has an explanation of the grammar on the left and exercises for the student to fill in on the right, with answers in the back. It is often one of the cheapest grammar books on the market as well.

BY: Raymond Murphy

Fundamentals of English Grammar

I consider this textbook to be an excellent "review" tool for an individual who is revisiting ESL grammar and writing before taking an exam or just catching up before moving on to something more difficult. I have used this book for language learners from teens to adults to supplement my teaching and to assign homework. In a short period of time (10 weeks) this book has helped me to bring hundreds of language learners to a new level of grammar understanding.The transition from EFL to studying in English has been made easier by using this textbook to organize the learning of the students from many different language backgrounds, study methods, school and course variations of ESL. It has helped me to level the learning field in a short period of time to then move on to more "Academic English" or advanced English.

I highly recommend this to be used in the classroom or for an individual who may have difficulties in certain areas for which specific exercises can be chosen to ratify the problem or just as an extra review of grammar you have covered.

BY: Betty Azar

Subject Link

The Subject Link series is a course book set for junior to middle school age English learners by NE Build & Grow, a Korean Publishing House. The Subject Link series offers theme-based reading course to improve students' language abilities and acquire new knowledge.


Basically, each module will have a theme like American inventors and each unit within the module will have an article about an interesting part of the American inventor’s life. Students then have some exercises to answer regarding the article and a short project related to the theme at the end of the module.


The Subject Link series is good if you’re looking to focus on improving students’ reading skills and broaden their vocabulary.

BY: NEBuild&Grow

Everybody Up

Everybody Up series is a course book set for young primary school English learners by Oxford English. Everybody Up offers not just a course for learning English but learning values. For example, one of the first lessons covers classroom commands, behavior and rules in a simple but effective way. There’s a big focus on learning skills by providing activities to develop critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Every lesson includes pair and group speaking tasks, giving students plenty of opportunities to work together. I found the activities they use to be very engaging with making a robot, designing a restaurant menu, or working on a group story project to be among the favorites.  These creative, hands-on activities get students working together to activate new language. The books present language patterns in a memorable way. I especially like the use of red to highlight changeable vocabulary and structures and their approach to contractions is easy to follow. The students have the main student book and a workbook for practice but there’s also an online component that can be used for homework.

For teachers, along with the standard teaching guide you get flash cards and posters. There are also exams for you to test the students’ progress after each unit and Cambridge English: Young Learners practice activities to prepare children for exams.

The best thing about the Everybody Up series, hands down, is the songs! The songs are some of the catchiest, most fun English learning songs I’ve ever heard! My students absolutely love them and they just get stuck in your head. I highly recommend this series of course books solely based on the songs.

BY: Oxford English

Welcome to English

Welcome to English series is a course book set for young primary school English learners by Longman. Welcome to English offers a systematic approach to learning English following the English language curriculum guide set by the Hong Kong government.
 

I find these courses to be the most comprehensive English Language learning books for young learners on the market. I find them very well-balanced in the teaching and practice of the four skills (speaking, writing, reading and listening).  The course is split over a selection of books focusing on different language skills based on the theme in the unit of the pupil book. The course covers every possible aspect of language learning with fun stories and songs, the highlighting of the target language and even phonics activities at the end of each unit.

For teachers, along with the standard teaching guide you get flash cards, posters, decorations, extra worksheets and even a hand puppet. There are also exams for you to test the students’ progress after each unit. That’s not all! There is also a self-study component that can be used for homework or as parent guided activities that include a self-study book and online web-based games. I believe that the Welcome to English series is the best English learning course for young learners and all ranges of teachers from new to experienced. It really is that comprehensive.

BY: Longman

Fingerprints

Fingerprints is a course book set for young pre-school English learners by MacMillan Education. The Fingerprints series offers a child-centered approach and develops language alongside conceptual and physical skills.  Each book has 10 themed units that build on each other as students move through the book. Each unit follows a clear five-lesson sequence and controlled language syllabus, giving young learners a predictable routine.


Lesson 1 is an introduction to the theme with vocabulary reinforced with a song and a set of stickers. Lesson 2 is based around conversation where the students have to follow a simple dialogue structure but are then given opportunities to adapt the dialog with different vocabulary. Lesson 3 is more practice and review of the unit theme. Lesson 4 is a craft activity based on the units theme. Lesson 5 is a listening check to assess the students’ comprehension of what they’ve learnt. Along with the student book, there is an activity book for extra practice and a teacher’s book that provides guidance on how to teach Fingerprints along with some extra lesson ideas.

When using Fingerprints, bear in mind that the course book is designed for kindergarten level learners so it’s fun and bright but quite basic. I find the course can act as a template for teachers to base their lessons around and gives a lot of room to expand and put your own spin on the lessons. However, a more experienced TEFL teacher can adapt the lessons to their students’ needs. 

If you are looking for a very young learners course with lots of crafts and room to put your stamp on it then Fingerprints might be the book for you.

BY: MacMillan Education

Super Minds

Super Minds series is a course book set for primary school English learners by Cambridge English. Super Minds offers a broader approach to learning English as they aim not just to teach ESL but enhance students’ thinking skills, memory and concentration.

I like the course as it is highly flexible, it can be adapted to meet available classroom time and teaching needs: the Student’s Book features both core and extra content with lots of basic stories, crafts, songs, chants but is quite listening heavy at times. There is an accompanying range of practice activities in the workbook, a book dedicated to solely grammar practice and an extensive interactive dvd-rom for extra language practice.

For teachers, along with the standard teaching guide you get flash cards, posters and an extra resources book with additional lesson content. There are also exams for you to test the students’ progress after each unit.


If you are an experienced teacher that is looking for a template course that focuses on not just teaching English but teaching learning skills then Super Minds would be a good choice for you.

BY: Cambridge English

Side By Side

The Side By Side series is a course book set for middle to high school age English learners by Pearson. The Side By Side series offers a dynamic, all-skills program that builds students’ general language proficiency.

These books combine grammar and vocabulary in practical day-to-day applications so it is very effective for classes of recent immigrants. I think Side-By-Side Plus is better than the regular Side-by-Side and worth the extra money because it contains more practical applications (like filling out a driver's license application or reading medicine bottles).
If you’re looking for a practical English teaching book for teens or an easy to follow book for low level adults then Side-By-Side is a good choice.

BY: Pearson

Our World

The Our World series is a course book set for primary school English learners by National Geographic Learning. Our World offers a real-world materials approach that brings age-appropriate National Geographic content to young learners of English. The series provide fun and fascinating information about the real world, with stunning images and video, gives learners the essential English language, skills, and knowledge needed to understand their world – all while learning English.


Students get the standard fare of pupil book and workbook with lots of songs, crafts, reading, etc. All the materials are from the National Geographic publications so they give the students a real experience of English. Teachers get a comprehensive teaching guide along with progress tests after each couple of units.
I feel this series has more of the upper primary school students in mind due to the maturity level that comes with using real life materials.


If you are looking for a less cartoony and more mature approach to teaching English materials then Our World might be for you.

BY: National Geographic

Kids’ Box

The Kids’ Box is a course book set for primary school English learners by Cambridge English. The Kids’ Box series presents and practices English through stories, songs and activities, with a strong focus on pronunciation and phonics; and review sections. The course is designed to prepare students for the Cambridge Young Learners English (YLE) tests which are used in many schools. I like that previous target language is continuously revised and recycled, helping to build children’s confidence, and a focus on communicative activities ensures that children use the language they have learned. Along with the standard pupil book and activity workbook, the students also have a language portfolio so they can keep track of what they have learnt.


Teachers get a plethora of resources and materials for teaching as well. Overall the Kids’ Box series is one of the best text books for primary school students that I have used.

BY: Cambridge English

New Headway

New Headway series is a course book set for teen to young adult age English learners by Oxford. The New Headway series offers a balanced methodology that combines traditional approaches - solid grammar and practice, vocabulary development etc. - and newer approaches, such as communicative role-play and personalization.

What’s good about the series is that it’s very clear and well-structured. It has a strong grammar focus, clear vocabulary syllabus and integrated skills work to give you lessons that really work in class. However, the constant updates to the material with the huge range of components you need to use the full course can be costly.

New Headway is a trusted series used by many English teaching academies around the world but it comes at a cost.

BY: Oxford English

Pathways

Pathways is an academic English Learning series by National Geographic. The books are aimed at adults but could easily be used for young adults or even teenagers. However, they are more academic, meaning there will be essays along with much critical thinking, and less of a focus on ‘everyday English’. Each level of the series features two books: 1) reading & writing & 2) listening & speaking


You’ll notice that they’ve divided them into receptive and productive skills and those feed into each other within their respective books, but that’s not always the case between books. One of the best aspect of the series is they develop the learners’ language skills through National Geographic content, images and video. Additionally, the content is topical, and I found that makes the students more engaged as they can relate it to their lives. They get to listen to, read, watch and discuss many issues of our time via National Geographic’s content and that takes more of the focus than just learning English. I personally really enjoy this course as it often leads to thought-provoking conversations as students relate these modern issues to their own backgrounds.


I highly recommend the series for those that want to be challenged and not just to learn English but about the world in which we live and the issues we face.

BY: National Geographic

Barron's IELTS Superpack

The Barron’s IELTS series is pretty much a standard use for schools and teachers for IELTS preparation classes. This superpack includes the core preparation book, practice exam book, essential words book, and a tips & strategies book. The superpack set is pretty pricey but it really should be all you need in order to be prepared to take the exam as long as your English level is at an intermediate level.

To be clear, this set is not to improve your English! It is solely to prepare you to take and do as well as you can on the IELTS exam. The reasons I mention the need for an intermediate level of English is that the set barely covers any grammar or ‘everyday English’. If you are at a beginner level of English, I’d suggest you work on improving your overall level first or consider some IELTS material that’s aimed at obtaining lower band scores.

The core book basically acts as a broad overview of the test. It covers all the sections in each part of both the academic and general exams. There isn’t much in the way of expanded practice so as a teacher I found I needed to make my own materials to do that. However, I don’t mind as it allows me to put my own stamp on the classes. The book also includes some practice exams at the back as well.

The tips and strategies book goes into the details of each question type within the sections. The students tend to find this book to be the most useful as it has more actionable elements. However, the hints often can be repetitive but I find that is because there really are only a few ways to tackle the sections.

The essential words book is there to give the students’ a broader lexical resource from which they can pull their answers. The book basically just covers a range of academic vocabulary, but most importantly it focuses on word families which I think is key for giving depth of language. However, the practice reading and listening exercises tend to be too easy and predictable, so be careful with giving students false ideas of their levels.

The practice exam book is just that. A set of 6 practice exams for students to take. The most important part of this book is the answer explanations at the back of which can be reviewed with the students for bonus teaching materials.

Overall, I really like this set but I feel it should come with a study curriculum for students that complete it at home without guidance from a teacher. In addition, I’d highly recommend getting the Barron’s IELTs writing book as it really breaks down one of the most difficult aspects of IELTS. 

BY: Lin Lougheed

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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