TEFL Book reviews

How to teach English

Jeremy Harmer (2007) - Pearson Longman

Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Louw

Chichester College Thailand

So you have questions...

How do I organize my students in the classroom? How can I explain difficult grammar? What is the present perfect tense? How can I teach speaking? How can I learn all my students’ names? What if the students won’t do their homework? 

These are tough questions whether you are a novice or experienced teacher! If you have questions like these, Harmer’s systematic overview to the art and science of teaching may have some answers. The book introduces the absolute essentials like terms for student levels and how to arrange vocabulary on the whiteboard, but also covers deeper questions which have relevance to experienced teachers such as dealing with uncooperative students and designing effective tests.

The layout of the book

The book is divided into 14 chapters. The first three focus on the human aspects of the classroom: the teachers, the learners and how these make a language classroom work, or not work in the case of classroom management difficulties, which are described in chapter 3 with useful tips for how to overcome them. Chapter 4 offers an overview to question of how languages are actually learned. Chapters 5 to 10 drill down on the specifics of teaching: vocabulary, grammar, writing, reading, speaking and listening. Each of these is introduced with plenty of examples taken from real classroom material that a teacher can try out in their own lessons. The final chapters deal with coursebooks, lesson planning, testing, and finally a very useful troubleshooting chapter which includes answers to tricky questions like ‘What if the class is very big’. You’ll most likely find the Task File at the back of the book really useful as a way for testing your knowledge of the various aspects of classroom life. To be fair, these Tasks are not meant to be tests, and are better used as platforms for professional development dialogues with other teachers. 

The included DVD

And if you are looking for even more, the DVD files present key concepts through ten short examples of teachers in their own classrooms. After each video, you can watch Jeremy interview the teacher and discuss what happened in the lesson. Jeremy’s insightful questions into the teacher’s practice helped me to consider some of the beliefs I hold about how classrooms should be run.

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About the reviewer

Dr Steve Louw is the principal trainer of the popular Chichester College TEFL course in Bangkok. He also writes a regular blog here on ajarn.com.

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