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ELT Book Reviews


English Language Teacher Development Series

Booklets for the four skills

Thomas S.C. Farrell, Series Editor

Teaching Listening (Ekaterina Nemtchinova)

Teaching Speaking (Tasha Bleistein, Melissa K. Smith, and Marilyn Lewis)

Teaching Reading (Richard R. Day)

Teaching Writing (Zuzana Tomaš, Ilka Kostka, and Jennifer A. Mott-Smith)

TESOL International Press, 2012

Reviewed by :

To the Profile PageRobert J. Dickey

Keimyung University, Korea

Few academic organizations publish books, except for conference proceedings which are often co-published with commercial press. Scholarly journals, perhaps, but books, especially books for new professionals? Hardly. There is an exception.

TESOL International's series is far more comprehensive, consistent, and doesn't feel like a simple marketing ploy

Recently TESOL International has supplemented their impressive booklist with a number of booklets under the title English Language Teacher Development Series. Some might argue these short readings hardly qualify as books -- except they're so darn good! Other publishers have done short works, such as the Oxford Basics series and the Cambridge Research & Methodology Booklets series. TESOL International's ELTD series is far more comprehensive, and doesn't feel like a simple marketing ploy to pull readers in.

Here we review the four "skills" booklets in the ELTD series: Teaching Listening (Ekaterina Nemtchinova); Teaching Speaking (Tasha Bleistein, Melissa K. Smith, and Marilyn Lewis); Teaching Reading (Richard R. Day); and Teaching Writing (Zuzana Tomaš, Ilka Kostka, and Jennifer A. Mott-Smith). Eleven other titles are currently available, such as Language Classroom Assessment (Liying Cheng); Teaching Pronunciation (John Murphy); and Cooperative Learning and Teaching (G. M. Jacobs and H. Kimura); with still more in the pipeline. (There's probably another review in this series someday!)

Less is More
These are not "Books for Dummies." They are abbreviated. Perhaps "Reader's Digest versions" of what could have been longer works. Simplified somewhat. Not intended to be required readings in master's level courses. But they present important themes in ELT to teachers who haven't yet found the time or motivation to dive into the deep end.

We feel these writers as they would wish to be, as we wish our teachers to be. We get the best from each, rather than a middling muddle.

These small books convey important information, much of it delivered by some of the better known scholars in our field. They deserve their ISBNs! These are unlike the Oxford Basics series, which are somewhat longer (around 75 pages) but mostly filled with classroom activities. Nor are these primers for new teachers, such as Nunan's Practical English Language Teaching, Scrivener's (1994) Learning Teaching (my personal favorite in this genre, though I haven't looked at his latest (2011) edition), or Harmer's How to Teach English. The ELTD booklets are not resource books such as White's Listening. Editor Thomas Farrell has instead charged his writers with conveying the true nuggets of their topic in an accessible manner, perhaps leading to further reading, though references are rather limited.

These TESOL International titles are a bit different. The authors' voices are strong. We know Nemtchinova is a non-native speaker of English, because she says so. Unlike most single-author and edited "Introductory" titles, there is no common structure for each topic. However, all authors in Editor Farrell's series do make extensive use of Reflective Breaks within the readings. Some authors, such as Richard Day, offer more specific guides (procedures) to making things work in the classroom. Bleistein, Smith, and Lewis use more graphics to explain. We feel these writers as they would wish to be, as we wish our teachers to be. We get the best from each, rather than a middling muddle.

Definitely Distinctive
Brown's contribution in the Cambridge Research & Methodology is an extreme example of how a mini-booklet might be done. Eleven pages. Even a complete novice could work though it in 30 minutes. That doesn't make it bad. Contrast that listening booklet with Nemtchinova's and you see extreme differences. Nemtchinova's is perhaps the least "practical" of the four skills titles in the TESOL series, if you are looking for quick help in the classroom. What she does effectively (though perhaps unintentionally?) is point out the gaps in my knowledge, where I know the words, but can't answer the reflective questions to my own satisfaction. Now contrast that to Marc Helgesen's contribution in Nunan's PELT title, which is very practical without being an activities resource book. Harmer's section on listening is shorter still, and yet more "hands-on classroom" -oriented, as is Scrivener's. There is a place for each of these in the staff library, they come from different directions and pull teacher's thoughts beyond survival or mere theory. (Well, some might argue you should choose between Scrivener and Harmer for their quite similar coverage, though I tend to think each has certain bits that excel.)

One would have to say that the ELTD books are somewhat uneven. The freedoms granted each author make this feel less of a series, more of a collection. But again, this is not a coursebook for trainees to read one section after the other. Instead, we have immediate access to the specific topic of choice to teachers. Like a pint-sized edition of Oxford's Introductions to Language Study series, but with a focus on classroom issues rather than the theory behind ELT.

Moving Forward, What now?
As noted above, these are just four of the fifteen titles currently available, with more on the way. How can we summarize and/or recommend? For those with unlimited budgets, of course, it's easy -- buy everything! Those with fewer financial options have tougher choices. The TESOL titles are not in your favorite bookstores. Most shoppers are buying online with minimal preview opportunities. Plus overseas shipping. This is high risk.

We can hope that TESOL will make more materials available online. Extended book previews, pay-per-view of complete titles, online sales of electronic versions. Still, we can recommend that when schools and wide-reading teachers are looking to add to their collections, a handful of these titles would fit in the library very nicely. The ELTD series will complement and fill-in gaps where most mainstream titles do less.

Brown, S. (2006). Teaching Listening. Cambridge University Press.
Available as free download at

Harmer, J. (2010). How to Teach English. Pearson.
Earlier edition reviewed in ELT News at

Nunan, D. (ed.) 2003. Practical English Language Teaching. McGraw-Hill.
Reviewed in ELT News at

Scrivener, J. (1994). Learning Teaching. Oxford: Heinemann.

Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. Pearson.
Reviewed in ELT News at

White, G. (1998). Listening. Resource Books for Teachers series. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The Cambridge Research & Methodology Booklets are available as free downloads from

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