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ELT Book Reviews


The ELT Daily Journal

Learning to teach ESL/EFL

Hall Houston
Anthimeria Press, 200913
pp. xiv + 136

Reviewed by :

To the Profile PageRobert J. Dickey

Keimyung University, Korea

When is a journal not a journal? When it's a diary, a notebook, or a log. And who knows the difference? Hmmm...

A fine introduction
The first four pages are outstanding. A fine introduction to teaching by Dr. Rose Senior (who has gotten rave reviews in her presentations in NEAsia the past few years) summarizes the general targets of most 120-hour teaching certificates with key terms timing, pacing, syllabus, and communication issues, plus rapport and a class-centred perspective.

So is it a Journal, a Diary, a Notebook, or a Log? For me, that depends on what you put in it, and what you do with what you've put in.

The Main Point
104 pages of ...
blank lines.

After all, isn't that the point of a diary/journal/log/whathaveyou? A place to record your thoughts, and ... ??? But wait, there's more.

Classic and Less-known Tricks of the Trade
Each page includes, at the bottom, classic and less-known tricks of the trade. Points to ponder. Suggestions for improvement (not always phrased as "suggestions"). Hall Houston calls these "a box of text for teachers to reflect on." I'm not sure most are very conducive to reflection unless you are really digging deep to assess whether these tips jive with your personal teaching philosophy, but they can be helpful for teaching newbies and some will be new for more experienced teachers as well.

More Tips for New Teachers
At the back are a collection of "three tips for new teachers" from 15 different well-known (well some are less well-known) TESOL educators: Steven Brown, Nik Peachy, Scott Thornbury and Andrew Wright among them. This is a neat little bit that can add encouragement to many novice teachers. Nothing too deep, or too original, just solid pieces of advice. Interestingly, there is little overlap in these.

104 blank pages...
At the end of the day, you are paying for more blank space than text. There is room for about 200-250 words of your own thoughts, ideas, notes, whatever on these pages. Whether the "tricks" at the bottom of each page inspire that page of notes or not may not be important. Or might.

For most teachers, the question will be whether they need to pay for a book that awaits use, or whether a blank notebook would do as well.

Journal or...???
So is it a Journal, a Diary, a Notebook, or a Log? For me, that depends on what you put in it, and what you do with what you've put in. I'll define thusly (and I welcome readers' comments and input):
-- A log reports what happened at each occasion (minute, hour, class, day, whatever) with little attempt to explain within the text.
-- A notebook allows for the author to memorialize any matter the author feels might be important or useful in the future, whether an actual occurrence, a passing thought, or something seen or read.
-- A diary explains and describes what the author sees and feels at various times with little/no effort to maintain a scholarly distance from what is being discussed.
-- A journal attempts to explain and understand what is being viewed, with an aim to discover new insights.

In any case, Houston's The ELT Daily Journal seems fit for the task.



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