My second book since I retired from teaching in 2012 is out today. It's called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. I didn't choose the title myself, since it is one of a series of books from Routledge all each beginning with the words "Becoming an Outstanding". I'm actually not keen on the Ofsted word "outstanding" when it's applied to teaching, but I understand why the publisher uses it, as I imagine you do too.
After writing The Language Teacher Toolkit handbook with Gianfranco Conti in 2015, Routledge approached me to write something for their growing series. When I saw the maths book in the cycle I realised they were looking for something relatively informal and classroom-based, lightly research and highly practical. I was happy to put something together, partly based on previous writings, which I believe new and experienced teachers will find of significant practical use. Sometimes books which claim to be practical guides end up not being so, but this one is. Promise!
The USP of this book is the stress on detailed descriptions of possible classroom interactions, within a framework of an oral, target language approach supported by attention to grammatical form. It represents the hybrid approach I developed for myself over 33 years, founded originally on a combination of the London University direct method oral approach (question and answer plus, based on a grammatical syllabus), communicative language teaching and the comprehensible input influence of Stephen Krashen et al.
Apologies if that sounds at all theoretical. In fact, it's a mainstream, eclectic approach in classrooms in the UK and around the world. Recycling of meaningful language is to the fore, comprehensible input through listening and reading texts, favouring a mixture of implicit (unconscious) learning and explicit teaching through drilling and graded, controlled practice.
I do not refer to the specific context of GCSE and A-level syllabuses so as not to be too parochial, but much of the material is relevant to the British context as well as others. Chapter one doe refer to some generic teacher skills, including classroom organisation and behaviour management.
Here is the list of chapters:
1. Running a room
2. Dissecting a lesson: visuals
3. Dissecting a lesson: using written texts
4. Dissecting a lesson: task-based lessons
5. Enjoying sounds
6. Purposeful games
7. Getting grammatical
8. Words and chunks
9. Dissecting a lesson: speaking
10. Dissecting a lesson: writing
11. Teaching all abilities
12. Pace, questioning and other interactions
13. Moving them forwards
14. What makes an outstanding language teacher?
The book runs to over 200 pages and includes tables describing the detailed interactions I mentioned above.
Chapter 14 includes "case studies" (descriptions and some analysis) of three alternative approaches which appear to reap considerable benefits for learners. The first is the bilingual approach developed by teacher Barry Smith at the Michaela Community School, London. The second is the AIMLANG approach used in Canada and elsewhere, as described by teacher Pauline Galea. The third is the TPRS ( Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) approach, popular in the USA and elsewhere, as described by teachers Carrie Toth and Martina Bex. I am of course grateful to all these teachers for their input and wisdom. I am also indebted to Gianfranco Conti for providing, via his blogs, often written with my name attached, some of the material I wrote. His focus on a skill acquisition approach to language teaching, not to mention his huge enthusiasm, has helped shaped my own thinking.
I quite strongly believe that quality of teacher delivery trumps any particular "method" and argue for a pragmatic view of language teaching in the book, but one based on sensible principles, rooted in research, based on comprehensible input, some explanation and "focus on form", output practice and much repetition and recycling.
I hope of course that many teachers will read my book and find it useful. I must finally thank my wife Elspeth Jones for the initial editing and the team at Routledge (Taylor-Francis) for further proof-reading and advice.
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