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New book out in August


I have blogged a couple of times about the book I've written for Routledge. It's called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Following the success of The Language Teacher Toolkit written with Gianfranco Conti, Routledge approached me out of the blue to write a book in their series "Becoming an Outstanding...". I had not been intending to write a second handbook, but on reflection I saw how I could put together something which would be distinctive and original. The target readership is teacher trainees and other interested teachers aiming to refine their practice. Since most of the examples I use are in English, so as not to confuse teachers of particular languages, the book may appeal to ESL/EFL teachers too.

The book is now in the final stages of proofing. There are fourteen chapters covering areas such as running a classroom, teaching texts, listening, purposeful games, vocabulary, task-based teaching, writing and speaking, as well as a final chapter featuring case studies of unorthodox approaches which can achieve success.

Reference is made to aspects of particular current interest: translation and advanced level essay writing. In that last chapter I focus on the work being done at the Michaela Community School (a strongly bilingual approach) the TPRS (storytelling) method and AIM, the mainly Canadian approach, with its emphasis on gesture, plays and acting out.

The unique aspect of this book lies in the detailed descriptions of lesson sequences. Some chapters offer blow-by-blow accounts of sequences based on the oral-situational/communicative approach which was the essence of my own approach. I describe, with inexperienced teachers in mind, how to run specific lessons based on visuals, tasks, aural and written texts, and games. I concentrate on the very specific interactions which occur between teachers and students, and between students themselves. For example, I take another look at the use of questioning. The subtleties of such interactions are at the heart of good teaching, I would venture to suggest.

The book is barely referenced at all, being based largely on personal experience and observation over many years. The general approach will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I do emphasise that there is no one best method. I hope my case studies chapter reinforces that point.

Readers familiar with the Toolkit book and my blog won't be surprised to find that the lessons reflect my belief in those two strands of thought in second language acquisition research: the key role of comprehensible input and the importance of acquiring skills through meaningful and highly structured presentation and practice (skill acquisition).

Once again I have to stress that the book is not about theory and research, but about what you actually do in the classroom to make lessons work, maximising input, practice and motivation. This includes, by the way, references to technology. Most of the chapters include a number of tech tips for beginners (as well as experienced teachers less familiar with digital tools).

The book is due to be published in late August and is available for pre-order from Amazon.


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