You do have a library, don’t you? I’ve lived in some pretty awful accommodation in my time, but now, cheating all the odds, I live in a very comfortable house which includes a library. When friends chopper in for an impromptu visit (these days many come to see what our dear friend Banksy’s done to brighten up the walls of our rather run-down stables), our butler Josep shows them to the library. As they sip the Gramona 2001 Celler Batlle Gran Reserva Cava, and marvel at the rare first editions which pack the shelves, they often ask Josep to lend them his white gloves so that they may reverently turn the pages of the finest book in our collection: a 1934 copy of J. Harmer’s towering classic “How to Write Your Name in English”. Apart from Dan Brown, I can think of no living author who has done more than Harmer to (cont. page 98).
So anyway, here’s my selection of recent good books which those doing an MA in TESOL, and hopefully other teachers too, might fancy.
1. Ur, P. and Swan, M. (2014) Discussions and More: Oral Fluency Practice in the Classroom. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers.
I start with this because if you’re doing an MA you hopefully want to keep real, and anyway, you’ll be expected to write about teaching practice. This book started out as Discussions That Work in 1981, and its most recent version has the wonderful Michael Swan as “consultant”. There’s a mass of stuff in here. It’s well-organised, the activities are clearly-described and easy to bend to your students’ needs. Which is just as well, because you probably won’t like a lot of them exactly as they are. To use a cookbook analogy, you might choose to use fewer ingredients and to decide for yourself when it’s done rather than cook for exactly 40 minutes. Maybe you’ll hate it; I’m losing my nerve now. Well I think it’s OK. It’s very practical and I think it manages to preserve good principles. And, like all the books I include here, it’s a book to dip into.
Mike Long sent me a copy of this with the dedication “Endorsed by good cab-drivers everywhere. Test on Monday”. He’s a big fan of Catalan culture, particularly the anarchist tradition, Barcelona FC, and Priorat wines. But he’s also one of the best, most meticulous scholars in the field and he refuses to dumb down, so this isn’t a light read. The book integrates SLA theory and research findings with a systematic framework for Task-Based Language Teaching, and includes a splendid chapter on “Philosophical Underpinnings” which his publishers only reluctantly agreed to. I’ve talked about this book in recent posts and hope to do a post soon presenting an example of a task-based syllabus based on it. I was interested to read Scott Thornbury’s recent comment about Long’s version of TBLT, which was that one’s entitled to ask why if it’s so good it hasn’t really made much impression on ELT practice. He suggests that part of the reason might be that Long’s version is very demanding, and I think he’s right: the needs analysis, the development of tasks from the needs analysis, the use of texts which are carefully prescribed, the careful use of recasts and other types of negative feedback which avoid any “focus on forms”, and so on, make it look rather daunting to the average teacher or school. Anyway, it’s bound to become a required reference for any MA paper on syllabus design, so take a look.
I’m biased about this book, because it includes an entry on Theoretical Constructs by yours truly. But, that apart, it’s a really well-organised and very accessible reference work which covers the field very thoroughly and has contributions from all the best people. Woops. Need I say that reference works are best used when the need arises, and, if you’re interested in SLA, which you really should be, then I think that you’ll quite often feel the need to reach for this book.
4. Tokowicz, N. (2014) Lexical Processing and Second Language Acquisition Routeledge
This isn’t a great book