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8 Great Reads for online English teachers | The Online English Teacher

8 Great Reads for online English teachers

The Practice of English Language Teaching, Jeremy Harmer

This is a guide to the task of teaching English and is always recommended to people embarking on teacher certification courses like the CELTA and for all new teachers. People often describe it as an introductory text, but this is a bit misleading as it's a very weighty (300 plus pages) and very comprehensive book, covering such topics as feedback, assessment, how to teach pronunciation and how we describe language.



Learning Teaching, Jim Scrivener

An excellent book covering all areas of English language teaching with great guides and examples for teaching grammar, speaking and listening, reading and writing, and pronunciation. As with Harmer's book above, it's often recommended reading for all new English language teachers.


Big Questions in ELT, Scott Thornbury

In this book, Scott Thornbury (an ELT guru based in Barcelona) addresses some of the big discussion points in English language teaching, often culled from his blogs on the subject. He covers such interesting questions as how many words learners need to know in order to be proficient in a language, whether we need to focus on grammatical form, and what the best method might be in language teaching. He pulls together a vast amount of research on these questions and often comes up with some surprising answers.


Fluent in Three Months, Benny Lewis

This book isn't about teaching. Instead, it's an interesting take on the topic of language learning from the point-of-view of the language learner. Benny Lewis isn't an academic, he's a polyglot who has become fluent in many languages by using a range of techniques, and also by emphasizing the need to speak a language. Years of research have shown that learners have to use a language to become proficient in it; they can't simply read, listen or 'study' the language. They need to speak and write. While the book has been written for the language learner, there's a lot the language teacher can learn from it as well, not least the importance of getting your student speaking, as Lewis suggests, from day one.


How languages are learned, Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada

Great book, very readable, very comprehensive. The book, as the title suggests, explains how learners learn languages. Written by two American academics, is makes decades-worth of research into second language learning accessible to the general reader, and has now gone through several new editions. A wonderful book.


Uncovering Grammar, Scott Thornbury

Simply an outstanding book. It completely revolutionized the way I teach English. The basic idea behind the book is that a teacher's task is not to teach grammar but rather to draw attention to it when it is needed. Grammar, Thornbury argues, is an essential part of language because it helps make language more precise, so it shouldn't be ignored, but nor should it be taught in the kind of 'Grammar McNuggets' way followed by so many coursebooks. He suggests some great ways of 'uncovering' the grammar in language.


Practical English Usage, Michael Swan

"Teacher, why is it 'had bought' and not 'bought'?"..."Teacher, can you explain again? I don't understand!"

Although we've all been there, it's best not to bullshit over grammar. A better option is to dip into Michael Swan's indispensable book, Practical English Usage, which explains the intricate workings of English grammar in a clear way with examples. It's laid out in an alphabetical format, with an extensive index at the back, so it's easy to find the grammar point causing both you and your student difficulties.


And finally…

I'll leave number 8 to you. What book would you recommend to an online English teacher? Post in the comments section below!

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2 comments on “8 Great Reads for online English teachers
  1. Michael Foy says:

    A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers – Tony Penston

    Quick reference but deep understanding.

    As I previously had the pleasure to work with him I would sincerely recommend all his books.

    • Charlie says:

      Thanks for that Michael. This is a new one for me. I’ve managed to find a preview of the book and it looks great. Nicely laid out and I love the tasks – they place you in the kind of situation we’ve all been in, where students ask you to explain why something is the way it is…and you just can’t think of an intelligent answer. This is the kind of book that can help us come up with intelligent and useful answers.

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