The Language Teacher Toolkit – Why we wrote it and how it may enhance your practice

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Both as a teacher trainee twenty years ago and as a teacher trainer later on in my career I always lamented the absence of a book or set of resources for language instructors that would bridge the gap between research and classroom practice. That would not be written in the complex jargon of university professors and yet would provide the novice or inquisitive teacher with a framework or guiding principles informed by the latest language learning research acquisitions whilst being grounded in the invaluable pragmatism and wisdom of veteran teachers ‘who have been there and done that’.

A book that would not be biased towards one methodology or another, prescribing dogmatic solutions. Rather, a book that would provide teachers with a wide range of strategies, rooted in neuroscience and common sense applicable to a broad spectrum of classroom scenarios and learning settings from the Americas to the Far east. In other words, a universal language teacher tool-kit through and through that any classroom practitioner (novice or experienced) could draw on to better comprehend the ‘why’ of language teaching and learning and the ‘how’ of its day-by-day implementation. Accessible whilst credible.

After searching for that book in vain, for two decades, on ‘meeting’ Steve Smith of www.frenchteacher.net  a man whose French teaching resources – like thousands of other teachers around the world – I had been using for years, it suddenly dawned on me that his background and experience perfectly complemented mine and would have created the perfect synergy required to produce such a book.

Besides being a first class practitioner with a highly inquisitive and reflective mind and 35 years of teaching experience, Steve is also a very clear, concise and no-nonsense writer. With a Master’s degree in Language Education, a wealth of reading in Applied Linguistics and a 360-degree awareness of teachers’ every day challenges and needs, Steve was the perfect partner in crime for this ambitious enterprise.

‘The Language Teacher Toolkit’, finally completed a couple of weeks ago and available on http://www.amazon.com in a few days, is the result of months and months of blending together two approaches to language instruction – Steve’s and mine –  which do not necessarily always converge but feed on each other thereby producing a very comprehensive and eclectic pedagogic framework and repertoire of teaching strategies.

In our work we have endeavored to cover every single area of competence that an effective language teacher ought to master, providing a balanced mix of theory and practice and ensuring that research findings were always discussed in clear and simple language and systematically related to the nitty gritty of every-day teaching and learning. To make sure that we catered for the needs of language teachers worldwide we have gathered data through social media, specialized forums and research studies into teacher cognition thereby identifying the areas that most teachers are concerned about or interested in.

The content includes: methods, target language teaching, developing spontaneous talk, classroom oral techniques, teaching grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading and writing. We also have chapters on motivation, behaviour management, technology, advanced level teaching, assessment, and differentiated teaching.

With more than 50 years of teaching experience as classroom practitioners and over a century as polyglot language learners between the two of us we have written this book with the following framing questions in mind:

  • What does a language teacher need to know?
  • What is the most concise and user-friendly way of putting this across?
  • How does this translate into concrete lesson planning and classroom implementation?
  • What are the obstacles in the way of putting this into practice with various types of learners in a range of learning contexts?
  • What are the possible solutions to such obstacles?

As far as I am aware this 22-chapter book is one of a kind not merely because of its unique combination of the latest research in language pedagogy with no-nonsense effective classroom strategies, but also, and more importantly, because it is not written by educational consultants or university professors, but by teachers for teachers. Designed with the average teacher’s every-day needs, challenges and concerns in mind. This is why we have provided lots of practical tips as well as a vast array of minimal-preparation high-impact activities (in every chapter) and lesson-plans (at the end of the book) which will hopefully make teachers’ life easier whilst not compromising the quality of their instructional input.

Steve and I are very grateful to Elspeth Jones (Steve’s spouse) for editing and formatting the book and to Steve Glover (renowned resource writer and passionate linguist) for reviewing it and providing us with invaluable recommendations. We would also like to thank the distinguished language educators from various corners of the world who gave us lots of encouragement and insightful feedback throughout the process, e.g. Sara Cottrell of http://www.musicuentos.com.

The book can be found at:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Language-Teacher-Toolkit-Steven-Smith/dp/1523214821/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1455183687&sr=8-3&keywords=the+language+teacher+toolkit

7 thoughts on “The Language Teacher Toolkit – Why we wrote it and how it may enhance your practice

  1. Hi. I’ve looked on Amazon and it is now available but I would have a suggestion if I may: it would be nice to have the option to ‘browse’ the first few pages as the feature is now available for a lot of publications. Spending £25 to buy a book just on ‘cover’ value is not something I like to do. I’m a trainee teacher and although I’ve enjoyed reading some of your articles and used your free resources (thank you!) on TES, I’ve found some of your publications (cognitive psychology) really hard to access and understand fully and I wouldn’t want to end up purchasing a book solely on that aspect of language learning. Any chances of the feature appearing on Amazon? I do miss the good old days of flicking through books in book shops although I do like the idea of book shopping in my pjs! Thank you for all your hard work and advices.

    • I will talk to my co-author, Steve Smith. However, I can guarantee that Steve made sure that the language was much more accessible. He had the same concerns as you about the accessibility of my language…The editor worked hard on toning the language down even further and note that we chose an editor with a strong publishing record who was not a linguist to ensure that it would be truly accessible to everyone.

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