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ELT Book Reviews


New Ways in Teaching English at the Secondary Level

Deborah J. Short, Ed.
TESOL, Inc., 1999
pp. xiii + 314

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Perspectives on Secondary School EFL Education

Jim Kahny and Mark James, Eds.
Language Institute of Japan, 1998
pp. viii + 176

Reviewed by :

Robert J. Dickey
Kyongju University, Korea

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Teaching Resources beyond "Photocopiables"
This twin-review aims to be a compass - or perhaps a continuum - of practical classroom-oriented teacher resources. "New Ways in Teaching English at the Secondary Level," a TESOL Inc publication, is a prototypical "teacher's recipe book" of lesson activities, but done far better than most. Expertly tied together by editor Deborah Short, these lessons share a common presentation structure which makes flipping through the book a breeze. "Perspectives on Secondary School EFL Education," on the other hand, combines a number of different writing genres and serves as a broader resource tool. Jim Kahny and Mark James have edited the LIOJ-produced book with more flexibility, allowing the writers' own voices to emerge.

These materials offer ideas and resources that can be used to balance or selectively replace textbook offerings.

Beyond Survival
Some teacher resource and photocopiable collections are clearly oriented to helping novice teachers survive the next lesson. While less-skilled teachers could certainly benefit from the content of Short's and Kahny & James' compilations, what we find here is more wood for the fire, not fire-starter. Those reading this column no doubt subscribe to the belief that all teachers can do better: these materials offer ideas and resources that can be used to balance or selectively replace textbook offerings. But just as no two teachers teach the same book the same way, most of the lessons will need revision.

Who's Who and What's What
While these two books share a common aim, most all else is different. John Fanselow, J.D. Brown, Alan Maley, David Nunan, and Barbara Hoskins offer their own pearls of wisdom for Asia-based readers of Perspectives, and their highly readable essays offer solid overviews of the topics under discussion. Pulling in these names is quite a coup for a locally produced text! Local experts in Asia add another dozen essays with particular attention to local issues and realities. There are also brief overviews of the EFL situation in a number of Asian countries offered by LIOJ participants, though unfortunately many of these have become out of date as the ELT environment is swiftly changing. Nevertheless, these reports document the common threads underpinning most Asian English learners: an important issue that organizations such as Asia TEFL and the Pan Asia Consortium (of national ELT organizations across Asia, including JALT, Korea TESOL, English Teachers Assn. of Taiwan, Thailand TESOL, and FEELTA-Russia) are attempting to address. On the other hand, there aren't many lesson plans, these seem to be almost an afterthought. Clearly the focus is on teaching styles and aims, not just the next lesson hour.

New Ways is filled with over 100 lesson outlines. It would be hard to find more quality lesson designs in any one book, but the fact is, roughly half of these are very "inner-circle" dependent - that is, it might be very difficult to implement them in Asian lands where there aren't speakers of English standing on every street corner. Inventive teachers could adapt many of these to local circumstances, perhaps. These are not theoretically-grounded templates, but hands-on "ready to go" lessons written not by scholars, but classroom teachers.

There are lots of "lessons in a can" products on the bookstore shelves, and each has its own merits and shortcomings. New Ways and Perspectives are those non-matching bookends that represent the ends of the classroom resources continuum on at least two levels: locally produced EFL vs. American ESL; and standardized lesson plans versus freestyle presentations of ideas, theory, and tricks. Each of these has much to offer the teachers' workroom bookshelf, as they address differing teaching and learning styles. Have both, and several others as well, within arm's reach!

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