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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 3; Issue 3; May 2001


The first part of this review section brings you short notices of a dozen or more books from inside and outside EFL, all of which are of potential use to EFL thinking.
These short, factual contents-summaries come courtesy of our sister publication
The Teacher Trainer, Vol 15 No1.

The second part of this review section brings you an author's own review of her recently published book: Tessa Woodward comments on

    Planning Lessons and Courses, Designing sequences of work for the language classroom, Cambridge, 2001.

Bizarre, really, inviting an author to review her own book. A few lines of justification are in order.

In Western intellectual life there is a long tradition of peer review. This apparently commonsensical practice has severe downsides, however.
Again and again brilliant, innovative ideas have been stifled by cosy-minded, orthodoxy-defending co-professionals.

The theory of continental drift was first proposed in 1916 but was at first booed out out of court by the assembly of the great and the good in geology. They had to nearly all die off until, 40 years later, the theory gained acceptance.

The Marquis of Sautuola, whose young daughter in 1879 helped him discover the cave paintings of Altamira was laughed out of court by his international archaeological peer group. The other archaeologists could not believe that such early paintings could be so brilliant, so they claimed they were fakes! The marquis was banned from all further archaeological conferences. It took 20 years for this colossal peer-group error to be perceived and admitted, by which time Sautuola had been buried for 12 years or more.

Currently the psychiatric professional community is using that most powerful tool of peer-groups, silence, to bury the hypothesis put forward by David Horrobin and others ( see The Madness of Adam and Eve, Bantam Press, 2001 ) which suggests that schizophrenia may be caused by lipid imbalance in the brain.
Change the fats and you may lift the chronic scourge of this illness.

Of course, peer review can also save an intellectual community from charlatanism, as seems to have been the case with " cold fusion".

I would not go so far as to suggest that we should have no use for this mechanism in EFL but it is good to escape from it once in a while. We already have a large enough army of editors, sub-editors, readers, marketeers tampering with what the brightest people in the profession want to tell others, so just for a page or two, let us listen to what a major author has to say about her own mature work.



This column picks out publications which are relevant or interesting to modern language teacher trainers and swiftly describes them so that you can gauge if they are interesting enough to look at or buy.

Teacher induction: the way ahead by Les Tickle (2000) Open University Press ISBN 0-335-20178-4. Written for teacher educators and state school-based mentors, drawing on research and practical experiences, the author considers how induction can best be conceptualised, designed and provided. Instructive and fairly radical.

Theory in language teacher education Eds H. Trappes-Lomax & I. McGrath (1999) Longman ISBN 0-582-42961-7. 15 papers given at the 5th IALS symposium for LT educators and considering questions such as: do we all mean the same thing by 'theory', who makes/owns it, how does it relate to practice, what theories do we need. Unusual and useful topic.

The intuitive practitioner Ed T Atkinson & G Claxton (2000) Open University Press ISBN 0-335-20362-0. A book about the value of NOT always knowing what we are doing! 15 articles explore the relationship between reason and intuition in professional (teaching, medical and business) practice. A reconceptualisation and rehabilitation of Schon and an antidote to the many simplistic interpretations of Schon.

Behaviour in schools by Louise Porter (2000) Open University Press ISBN 0-335-20668-9. An overview of major theories of behaviour management in primary and secondary schools illustrated with detailed case studies. Part One has chapters on limit-setting approaches, applied behaviour analysis, cognitive behaviourism, neo -Adlerism, humanism, choice and system theories. Part Two deals with motivating students, Part Three with parents and formulating discipline policies.

In your hands by Jane Revell & Susan Norman (1997) ISBN 1-901564-00-2. Saffire Press. For the competent EFL teacher, this book lays out the basics of NLP clearly and concisely, using stories and guided fantasies (there's a tape), and helps you, at the same time, to make connections between NLP, teaching and life. Lots of interesting activities, quotes and comments from the authors. Very enjoyable.

Handing over by Jane Revell and Susan Norman (1999) Saffire Press ISBN 1-901564-02-9. A companion volume to In your hands, this book applies the concepts of NLP to the EFL classroom. Clearly described activities, contents page at the back. A good way to learn about NLP with your students.

Teaching for success by Mark Fletcher (2000) English Experience ISBN 1-898295-62X. An interactive A4 book described by the author as "brain friendly" and designed to discuss matters such as learning, memory, the interface between neuro-science and education in an interesting and informative way. Lots of visuals and subheadings.

Learning through a foreign language, ed. John Masih (1999) CILT ISBN 1-902031-68-7. A collection of 13 papers from an international conference on ways of structuring curricula which integrate content and language learning. This is one of very few books, as yet, on content and language integrated learning (CLIL) and so is very welcome.

500 computing tips for teachers and lecturers by P. Race and S. McDowell (1999) Kogan Page ISBN 0-7494-3150-4. Very basic practical advice in recipe style on choosing a computer, getting started with software, IT in the classroom and miscellany such as virus, security and scanners.

Oxford guide to British and American culture. OUP (1999) ISBN 0-19-431332-8. Over 10,000 alphabetical entries on things like the AA, feminism and Frank Zappa plus longer articles on topics such as education and humour, maps and photos. For intermediate learners of English onwards.

People skills for young adults by Marianna Csoti (2000) Jessica Kingsley ISBN 1-85302-716-2. A course in social skills training for students aged 16+. Particularly appropriate for those with mild learning difficulties. Comprises a series of lessons with teacher notes, role plays, tasks and scenarios on, e.g., making friends, self-confidence, and assertiveness. Not designed for ESL/EFL so you will have to adapt it.

The language teacher's voice by Alan Maley (2000) Macmillan Heinemann ISBN 0-333-91650-6. Hard to believe that after all these years this is the first and only book out on the ELT teacher's voice and how to use it for full effect in the classroom and for professional development. But it's true! Full of inspiring quotations, practical exercises for teachers and students and ending with an interesting annotated bibliography and useful addresses.

Children learning English by Jayne Moon (2000) Macmillan Heinemann ISBN 0-435-24096X. Mostly concerned with children from 6-12 years of age, this prize winning book encourages teachers to learn from children, observing what they do and say and talking to them as people rather than as pupils. It's not aimed at beginning teachers. Text subdivisions are: children as language learners, pupils' attitudes to English, differences between children, managing learning, interaction and support, planning, creating, adapting and evaluating activities, using a cross-curricular approach, resources, assessment and learning to learn. Discussion, discovery activities and real life examples included.

Planning lessons and courses, Designing sequences of work for the language classroom.
by Tessa Woodward
CUP (2001) ISBN 0-521-63354-0

Mario Rinvolucri, the editor of this web magazine, has asked me to write a review of my latest book (which I shall nickname below PLC). I've never been asked to write my own book review before and I must confess I feel a little shy about it. But I did work hard on this book and I do think it's a good one so I shall take a deep breath and try!

What does the book look like on the outside?

Being in the Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers series, the book is paperback, has blocks of colour on the front (blue, black and maroon mostly) and has a black outside back cover. The blurb on the back cover says: "Does the idea of lesson planning make your heart sink? Are you looking for a book that will take the everyday reality of the language classroom and translate it into a successful scheme of work? PLP provides a step-by-step approach to lesson planning. Although easily accessible, the ideas presented are rooted in established educational theory. It contains both thought-provoking analysis on the roles of the teacher and clear explanation of key principles…." Well, that sounds alright.

What does the book look like on the inside?

At the front of the book there's a map which lays out all the sections of all the chapters so that you can find and re-find things easily.
There's an introduction and eight chapters mostly built around practical questions such as Who are the students? How long is the lesson? What can go into a lesson? How do people learn and so how can we teach? What can we teach with? How can we vary the activities we do? What are our freedoms and constraints?
The pages are easy on the eye. I can say this without praising myself since I was extremely lucky to get the desk editor I begged for, Alison Silver, who did a great job on the text. The text is broken up with lots of sub-headings, cartoons (many by Phillip Burrows), examples and anecdotes in boxes, as well as symbols to show you which parts are practical principles and which are activities you can use straight away in the classroom. You may be surprised to learn that a book on planning has so much you can use actually IN the language learning classroom. But the definition of planning at the start of the book is a VERY realistic and practical one and allows for a constant feeling in the book of moving from the classroom to the teachers' room to home and back to the classroom again.

What are the main messages of the book?

The first message is that planning encompasses many things:

"By planning, I mean what most working teachers do when they say they're planning their lessons and courses. Thus I take planning to include; considering the students, thinking of the content, materials and activities that could go into a course or lesson, jotting these down, having a quiet ponder, cutting things out of magasines and anything else that you feel will help you to teach well and the students to learn a lot. I do NOT mean the writing of pages of notes with headings such as "Aims" and "Anticipated problems" to be given in to an observer before they watch you teach.
I also take it as given that plans are just plans. They're not legally binding. We don't have to stick to them come hell or high water. They are to help us shape the space, time and learning we share with students. We can depart from them or stick to them as we, the students and the circumstances seem to need."

The second message is about differing amounts of teaching experience:
Inexperienced teachers often need help to establish sound working practices and routines that will shorten the time they spend planning lessons and courses. More experienced teachers, who can often plan quickly and painlessly, can nevertheless usually do with some new ideas and idea sequences to refresh their routines thus making their planning and teaching more interesting and enjoyable.

The third message is about language students:

"The students we work with are the real reason for the whole learning/teaching encounter. So the most important thing we can do before, during and after classes is, in my view, to listen to students, watch them and read their work. This will help us to get to know them as individuals and thus will give us invaluable information for use when choosing topics and types of material including course books, and when selecting activities and shaping lessons and courses. We can also involve students in these decisions."

Which bits of the book am I particularly proud of?

Two chapters were especially difficult to write and yet once done were the most rewarding for me. The chapter on what can go into a language lesson (Chapter 3) was hard as so many things CAN! The number of possible components was huge and I found it difficult to sort this unwieldy mass into satisfying categories illustrated with interesting examples without taking up the entire 250 pages! The discipline of doing it however was marvelous as for the first time in my teaching career I felt as if I had an overview of all the things I had been teaching for the last 25 years.

The second difficult stretch was (Chapter 4) thinking about how people actually learn and thus how we can teach. I did lots of reading and thinking for this section and am very pleased with the resulting model and the way it is applied to common instructional sequences such as Test, Teach, Test and PPP and TBL and others. This section is very useful for people who want to go beyond or behind or under the steps of a lesson or of a particular teaching model to see what it really contains and how it is the same and different from other lesson types.

Other people's favourite bits.

My father- in law, a retired teacher, said he liked the bit on ""hijacks". This is in Chapter 8. A highjack, by the way, is a time in class when it is virtually impossible for you to do what you planned. Here's an example:

"I was once in the middle of a grammar presentation in a tiny attic room when Camilo from South America spotted strange white stuff coming out of the sky. "Esnow!" He cried. "Esnow!". I looked at the utter absorption on his face as he stared delightedly and for the first time ever at the drifting flakes. We all went to the window."
"Not all lesson surprises are as pleasant as the above. I've also known lessons disrupted by small children being sick, an ill-tempered janitor who regularly threw us all out on the street early, perverts waving their underwear, schizophrenic sixteen year olds talking to their guardian angels, and the very occasional extremely unpleasant individual who upset everyone else immediately." And yes, I do offer some suggestions that may help in handling such highjacks!

Colleagues have mentioned other stretches they liked…
One liked the idea of stimulus-based lessons (Chapters 2 & 5). Another liked the section where traditional language class activities were gradually "morphed" or changed into more interesting ones (Chapter6). A third found the nitty gritty section on "Getting down to the preparation" (Chapter 7) very reassuring in its acceptance of so many different ways to plan and prepare. I'd go on but I'm blushing!

Who can I thank?

Although producing this book kept me very busy for some 5 years, lots of people were with me along the way. Penny Ur, the series editor and a really good colleague and friend, responded very fast and helpfully to all my drafts. Seth, my best friend and husband, (who actually prefers to read things rather than listen to them) put up with my way of working and listened to numerous drafts of chapters as I read them out loud to him. My employers have given me steady employment so I could keep teaching and experimenting (which is how I like to teach) and just as importantly keep paying the bills! I think I'll stop here as I'm beginning to sound like someone at the Oscars!

Thanks Mario for the chance to tell people about the book!

All good wishes

Tessa Woodward
(Editor of The Teacher Trainer)

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