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Professional Development for English as a Second Language Teachers

Updated on January 17, 2015

You can become a better teacher by reading a few good books on how to Teach ESl

ESL Teaching is an easy thing to do poorly if you are inexperienced, and lack knowledge about what you're doing as a teacher. But to do it well, so that your students are actually learning English and hopefully enjoying themselves while they do it is not so simple. It takes practice, patience, and a working knowledge of the basic theories in the field, as well as a toolbox of games and activities that you can use to help your students. A little passion for teaching is also an invaluable thing. Here are my recommendations for some TEFL / TESOL training books you can read to help you become a better English Teacher. Find what you like and challenge yourself to incorporate some of the ideas into your English as a Second Language classroom.

"How to Teach English" by Jeremy Harmer

How to Teach English Book and DVD Pack
How to Teach English Book and DVD Pack
This should be the first book that you pick up when you're starting your ESL career. And actually, you should read it before you even think about setting foot in the classroom. It's perfect for beginners because it doesn't assume a lot of prior knowledge and covers all the bases. It ranges from general commentary to specific problems that the ESL might face. Also included are plenty of ideas for activities that you can do in your classes.

Who should read these ESL Teaching books?

Maybe you just finished university and plan to head overseas to teach English. The only problem is that you've never set foot inside a classroom as the teacher. That was my experience the first year that I came to South Korea to teach in a private institute. Back then, I didn't even really consider what I would or should be doing in classes and just did anything to fill the time. However, I truly wish that I had read a few books about teaching ESL before I came to Korea so that my first couple years teaching could have been much more effective. So, if you're heading overseas to teach ESL for the first time, read a few of the books so you have some idea of what you're doing. Bring them along with you to refer to when you run into problems.

I obviously read these books later on in my teaching career and they benefited my enormously. I saw the why behind the how. It was very enlightening. So, even if you're an experienced teacher, a bit of reading could help you enormously.

"How to Teach Writing" by Jeremy Harmer

How to Teach Writing
How to Teach Writing
Writing can be one of the most difficult things to teach, especially if you don't have a framework or idea of how learning writing actually works in the ESL Classroom. Jeremy Harmer comes out with another excellent book that is a must-read before you teach your first writing class. Lots of practical ideas and how to overcome common problems that you might face.

What do your ESL Students struggle most with?

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"Principles of Language Learning and Teaching" by Douglas Brown

Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (5th Edition)
Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (5th Edition)
This is another classic book, along the same lines of Jeremy Harmer's book. In fact, you should really read both of them before you set foot in an ESL classroom. Brown's book focuses a bit more on technical stuff because he covers all the latest research in the ESL World, and gives you an idea of what has been proven to be most effective for learning English. However, it is still easy to read and accessible, even for those without a lot of exposure to ESL terms.

"Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching" by Jack Richards

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)
Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)
This book is a survey type that covers the main methods used in teaching ESL. It is comprehensive in it's review of each one, such that you could easily pick a method and then design a course based on it, complete with goals, syllabus, activities and tests. It is very helpful in helping a teacher to clarify what method they are coming from and how to make it work for them. This book is for the more experienced teacher.

What age group do you teach?

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"How to Teach Grammar" by Scott Thornbury

How to Teach Grammar
How to Teach Grammar
Grammar, along with writing is one of the most difficult things to teach. However, it is one of the most important things for advanced students to learn if they ever hope to become fluent. Teaching is well is almost impossible if you don't know what you're doing and this is where this book can come in. Thornbury does an excellent job of showing how you can practice a variety of grammar topics, correct errors, and integrate grammar instruction into various teaching methods, such as task-based teaching. He reviews the main methods for teaching grammar but encourages teachers to take some ideas and make it their own. This book is a must-read for those teaching "grammar" as well as for those teaching general English but who would like to get away from the strictly conversational into more grammar type things in their classroom.

"Task Based Language Teaching" By David Nunan

Task-Based Language Teaching (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)
Task-Based Language Teaching (Cambridge Language Teaching Library)
David Nunan is one of the most famous people in the ESL world and for good reason! He has plenty of good, practical ideas in this book on task-based teaching. Task-based teaching is all the rage these days and it appears to remain so in the future. This book is helpful for those looking to integrate some more task-based activities into their classrooms. He has an overview of the field, as well as some practical help in designing some activities.

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