How to teach English

Author: Jeremy Harmer
Publisher: Longman
File size: 21.8 MB
File type: pdf

This book is a complete manual of teaching English as a foreign or second language. It is complete because of its wide-range coverage from general issues about teaching and learning English (Chapter 1 and 2) up to specific problems that English teachers frequently encounter (Chapter 13). Between these two extremes, readers can find almost everything dealing with teaching and learning English. Those who are interested in developing the teaching of language components may refer to Chapter 5. A brief review about sentence construction, part of speech, noun types, verb forms are topics within this chapter. Not intending to dichotomize weakness and strength, bad and good, these topics indicate that the description of grammar used in this book refer to traditional view of grammar, not to Hallidian grammar. Chapter 7 - 10 deal with teaching the four language skills. They are, therefore, appropriate for those who want a practical, easy to understand reference of teaching listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
As a teaching manual, as the writer says in its introduction, How to teach English is a practical book concentrating on examples of teaching and teaching practice rather than on detailed analysis of learning theory. Its practical characteristic makes this book appropriate for novice teachers with even limited comprehension. In addition, in the bulk of TEFL material, this book will be more useful when accompanied by Trapper-Lomax, Hugh and Ian McGrath (Eds.), 1999. Theory in Language Teacher Education; and Cohen, Andrew D, 1998. Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language).
Its completeness still goes further as this book seems to be able to answer the frequent complaint of some readers, including me, of being disturbed by the feeling of inadequate understanding. This book provides a kind of checklists (Task File) by which the readers may self-evaluate what they have read. Not less important is the appendix describing equipment used in the classroom.
Another feature indicating the strength, and at the same time as the weakness, of this book is the writer's attempt to 'balance' the issues discussed in this book and to maximize the students' role. This attempt might also be regarded as a reflection of the writer's personality of being moderate. "Good teachers use their common sense and experience to get the balance right (between when to talk and when not to talk)" (p. 4), "good teachers find a balance between predictable safety and unexpected variety (when to observe and when to violate their behaviour patterns)" (p. 5), and " a good teacher maximize STT (Student Talk Time) and minimize TTT (Teacher Talk Time)" are examples of quotations describing this feature. Still concerning in terms of balancing, the writer argues that a balance has to be struck between teachers attempting to achieve what they set out to achieve on the one hand and responding to what students are saying or doing on the other (p.5). Dealing the reading texts, whether authentic or artificial, a balance has to be struck between real English on the one hand and the students' capabilities and interests on the other (p. 69).
This feature also indicates its weakness in the sense that being moderate is not an easy job. People tend to rely, conscious or unconsciously, on one extreme instead of being moderate, though they will be inconvenient of being said to be fanatics.