Teaching English: Being the Best

Rob and his colleague Emma Valahu have recently published a book on English language teaching methodology. The idea for ‘Teaching English: Being the Best’ came from three observations. The first was that busy teachers don’t have time to read methodology books, the second was that teaching is a complex business with a lot of things to think about or remember, and the third was that so-called best practice is often not very ‘best’. The book that eventually appeared in its final form was shaped by these thoughts. It’s a book with a lot of topics – over two hundred are dealt with, and could have had more but they said that they had to draw the line somewhere. It’s a book which can be used in different ways – you could read it from cover the cover, but you can also use it as a reference book or dip into it. Most topics are dealt with in a one page thought-provoking essay. Most teachers have time to read a page from time to time. The longest section is five pages on Communicative Language Teaching, but 90% of the book is made up of one page essays. Some pages are bullet point lists of things to remember, or ideas, for pre-listening tasks, for example. So if you are looking for ideas for pre-, during, and post-listening or reading tasks there are lists to help you. These all fit in under the best practice label. But, as Rob and Emma say, best practice is sometimes lacking the best part there are essays which discuss how you can move beyond best practice. There are two new ways to approach reading, for example: the Deep Text and Dual Text Approaches. They make a case for the principled use of L1 in the class (something Rob has been arguing for since the mid 90s); they tell the reader how use reading aloud well and argue throughout the book for more teaching (and learning) and less testing. Rob and Emma take a learning-centred approach. They look at PPP, ESA, TTT, ARC, TBL, data-driven learning, Dogme and Demand High and have advice on creating your own materials and using technology and blended learning. There are handy tables on exam comparisons, on the CEFR and course books, and on the number of headwords in different reader series. They also discuss things rarely, if ever, found in other methodology books: like opportunity cost, time management, being professional and what to do when you are ill. And throughout the book they include inspiring and thought provoking quotations from people like Scott Thornbury, J.R. Firth and David Wilkins, but also Winston Churchill, Bruce Lee and Yoda. The book is a bit quirky and idiosyncratic, but we like that, and we hope you will too.