book review

Book review: 21st Century Skills in the ELT Classroom

This book from Garnet Education explores various issues around the integration of 21st Century Skills in the ELT classroom (!). In the foreword, Christopher Graham (Editor) states that while each chapter is framed with reference to research, the focus is more on practical takeaways for teachers.

The resource doesn’t have to be read cover to cover. Each chapter provides a concise take on a specific aspect of teaching 21st Century Skills, so teachers can dip into the resource as needed.

Each chapter has been authored by a different expert in the field; Graham stresses that this may result in contradictions or repetition, as authors were encouraged to share their own take on things with disagreement providing a springboard for discussion.

Here are the topics covered:

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Review: How Global Capital is Remaking International Education

The full title is … How Global Capital is Remaking International Education: The Emergence of Transnational Education Corporations.

In this Springer Brief publication from 2019, Hyejin Kim considers the impact of corporate interests in the international education sector. Kim focuses on how private equity groups such as Transnational Education Corporations (TECs) have shaped the international education scene. Examples include how they capitalize on educational reforms, influence government policy, economize education, expand as an add on to other business interests (e.g. property development), and so on. Kim’s critique focuses on three or four major TECs, with the author having spent time working within the sector in admissions, marketing and as a managing director. (more…)

Book review: Teaching English as a Lingua Franca

I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of this book! Woohoo!

What can I say? I’ve a keen interest in the topic of English as a Lingua Franca. ELF was a buzzword during my BA, well before I entered teaching, as my tutors included Jennifer Jenkins and Martin Dewey. This topic also relates to my recent MA dissertation, so I’ve been very eager to see how the authors puts a practical spin on the topic.

As far as I’m concerned, a comprehensive resource that deals with the practical application on ELF is long overdue. The authors, Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert Lowe, mention that “ELF researchers have either been very cautious, or perhaps even neglectful, of the practical applications of their studies” (pg 13). I agree, hence I instantly recognise the value of this resource and what it sets out to achieve. (more…)

Book review: Loving London

Loving London by Angela Tomkinson is an A2 level reader for teens. It provides 26 short texts on London (alphabetical), covering a whole range of topics (see image). Each text includes a short after-reading activity, and there are audio recordings available should the teacher wish to adapt the task into a listening. (more…)

Book review: ELI Vocabulary in Pictures

This week I received a huge box of resources from ELI Publishing. The first book that caught my eye was ELI Vocabulary in Pictures, which looks like a useful and good value resource.

Vocabulary in Pictures (VIP) is a picture book aimed at A1-A2 level young learners. It introduces more than 1000 words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions) through various thematic situations. It has a digital component, which includes audio recordings for each word plus some interactive activities for learners. (more…)

Review: ELT Lesson Observation & Feedback

Lesson observations – where to start?! Jeanette Barsdell, the author of ELT Lesson Observation and Feedback Handbook, was thrown in at the deep end and expected to observe a teacher on her first day as a DOS. Despite being terrified, she got some great advice, hit the ground running and developed into a competent observer. She’s written a guidance book for anyone who observes or intends to observe ELT teachers, and overall is a great resource. (more…)

Book review: Her Own Worst Enemy

Alice Savage

The latest offering from Alphabet Publishing looks like a great resource for bringing drama into the language classroom. Her Own Worst Enemy is written by Alice Savage, a Professor of ESOL in Texas who has previous publications with Longman and OUP.

The book is based around a short one-act play. A complete curriculum is built around the play (pitched at ‘low intermediate to high intermediate’ level), including:

  • preparation tasks such as discussions, background reading, understanding pragmatics and attentive listening practice
  • the script itself along with post-reading discussion questions
  • a step-by-step production section which helps learners analyse the play, learn their lines, get into character, and develop pronunciation skills for their performance
  • post-performance tasks including debates, follow up tasks and resources for peer and teacher feedback

The play

The deal-breaker for me with a resource like this is whether the play is actually engaging. Can I see my learners getting into it? Here’s a blurb on the play from Alphabet Publishing:

Aida, a high-school student, wants to get a university degree in science. But her performance in a school play has caught the attention of the theatre director at a famous performing arts college. Which passion should she pursue, her love of science or her talent for acting?

Of course, such a topic won’t suit every context, but it’s definitely a topic that many teens and young adults will be able to relate to. My studious teen classes would certainly enjoy debating some of the issues that the characters face. In other contexts I’ve worked in, especially summer schools back in Europe and short courses with closed groups back in the UK, I can see this topic would be relevant and generate a lot of interest. (more…)

Book review: Successful Group Work

Alphabet Publishing must have been feeling generous! Not only did they send me Classroom Community Builders (Burns), but I also received a copy of Successful Group Work by Patrice Palmer. This book hasn’t been out long, so it’s the perfect time for a review!

Successful Group Work is a short book of 13 activities for teaching teamwork skills. Palmer begins by writing about some benefits of group work in the EFL classroom, such as increased student talk time and the chance to negotiate meaning. She highlights, however, that to ensure group work is effective learners first need to be aware of what makes it a success – that’s where teambuilding skills come in. Activities in the book are designed as a ‘complete course’, helping students identify and develop the necessary teamwork skills in order to succeed in group projects.

In defining ‘teamwork skills’, Palmer refers to a list compiled by the Conference Board of Canada, clearly stating how each of the activities in the book focus on these various skills. Some examples include:

  • Recognising and respecting diversity
  • Contributing to a team
  • Understanding and working within the dynamics of a group
  • Planning, designing or carrying out a task

There are some good tips in the introduction about setting clear expectations and post-task reflection. (more…)

Book review: Classroom Community Builders

I’ve just received a copy of the latest book from Alphabet Publishing. Walton Burns is following up last year’s ’50 Activities for the First Day of School’ with a new cookbook of ideas for building a classroom community.

Burns states this book is a natural continuation to his previous offering, which was a compendium of icebreaking activities. Having considered the role of icebreakers more, he reflects that these types of activity aren’t always used effectively in lessons. Many icebreakers encourage teamwork, and are best used when they are a) relevant to the content of the class, and b) give learners the feeling of accomplishment. With this in mind, he offers a range of activities that go beyond simple rapport builders – aiming instead to build a culture of collaboration and community from day one.

The book is organised in four sections:

  • Set Your Expectations
  • Working Together
  • Getting To Know You
  • Getting to Know Your Teacher

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