Review ~ English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice

A very useful book on all kinds of materials and ways of using and creating them, most useful for experienced teachers and those interested in materials writing
Reviewed for Teflnet by Leon Glover

English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice

English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice

English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice is a very useful book for all teachers of English as a foreign language, and especially for experienced teachers looking for more specialised help with lesson planning or understanding course content. In addition, it is a great tool for those involved with (or considering involvement with) materials writing. The teaching materials covered in the book are wide-ranging and not just limited to textbooks. Of course, textbooks are covered, but so are realia, worksheets, specific exercises, and the methodology for using these materials. The book also covers the production and publication of materials.

The book is divided into chapters, in this case each written by a different author or group of authors. All the contributors to this work are practising teachers or academics from university departments, covering a range of English-speaking countries. Some names will also be familiar to those readers who often read research papers about EFL.

This last point is significant because the content of the book is very academic. The chapters are written more like journal articles than book chapters. Because of this, I would say that while the book is of use to all teachers of EFL, for those who are newer to the profession or those who do not have so much academic knowledge of language and language teaching, it may be quite heavy-going.

At the end of each chapter, there are points for discussion and other such tasks designed to enable the reader to reflect upon what they have just read and to give the reader a chance to put into practice the ideas and content of the chapter.

The book is definitely designed as a source of reference to be dipped into as necessary rather than a book which should be read in its entirety. This is a good thing, though, as because of its design and quality it is possible to read any one chapter of the book and feel that you have learned something which you did not know previously and which you can apply in the classroom the next day.

Many areas of EFL are covered in this volume and it is not specific to one kind of course, nor indeed to EFL. Included are chapters covering EAP, ESP, EFL, blended learning courses and community-based ESOL courses. Moreover, the ideas are often adaptable for totally different contexts. It would be possible, for example, to apply the theory presented in the chapter on materials and realia to teach turn taking in business meetings and apply it to the speaking exam for Cambridge CAE.

My favourite chapter was the one on “Second language acquisition research and language-teaching materials” because it links tasks, materials and methodology and explains the “whys and wherefores” in relation to the science of the way we learn languages. My least favourite chapter was “Writing for publication: Corpus-informed materials for postdoctoral fellows in perinatology” because it is very specific and understanding the title is difficult, let alone understanding the content! Other chapter titles include “Research-based materials to demystify academic citation for postgraduates”, “Making professional academic writing practices visible” and “The theory and practice of technology in materials development and task design”.

Overall I would say that this book is an essential tool for teachers who would like a better understanding of teaching materials and how to use them. However, due to the very academic nature of the content, it would not be suitable for those fresh from CELTA courses or with very little practical experience or minimal theoretical reading or training.

My only criticism of the book would be the blurb on the back which says that it is a useful work for prospective and practising teachers alike. This, in my opinion, is untrue. Somebody who is only thinking of becoming an EFL teacher and who has no experience of the industry would struggle to understand many parts of this book.

Reviewed by Leon Glover for Teflnet March 2011

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