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Radu Evelyn-Elena LMCI I

Book review
How to Teach English Jeremy Harmer Addison Wesley Longman 1998 198 pp 12.95 ISBN 0582 19796 6

The title of this book is suggestive because it shows that you can learn how to teach. It also suggests that it is an ongoing process. Jeremy Harmer is a very reassuring writer, and an experienced teacher, with many excellent ideas about teaching and his style is very readable and unthreatening for the beginner or student teacher. In his opinion, the idea that one book can provide all the answers seems to expressly negate the wealth of successful possibilities that exist. In 1983 he wrote The Practice of English teaching (TPOET) a book which this writer has frequently recommended to teachers as a valuable basic reference resource to have on ones shelf. In this book we can see that the back cover description tells us that How to Teach English is for teachers at an early stage in their careers, and for teachers preparing for examinations. The Introduction completes that the book 'is written for people who teach mostly adults of whatever age'. How to Teach English has 13 chapters, of from 6 to 33 pages in length depending on the degree of difficulty of the discussed issues. The first 12 chapters begin with 'How to . . . ' (e.g. 'How to teach language' (6); 'How to use textbooks (11), while Chapter 13, which answers seven fundamental FAQS (frequently asked questions) in eight pages, is called 'What if?'. Each chapter is ended with a short 'Conclusions' section that focuses on the main points made, and all but the last chapter have a shorter 'Looking ahead' section which points the reader to where the chapter contents will be taken up later. These are followed by a 41-page, chapterrelated Task File, which according to the introduction 'comprises a large number of exercises and activities formed to predict and/or build on the information in the chapters of the main book. These are planed to be photocopied for use on training courses or to be used by individual teachers working on their own. The book ends with three appendices and an index. A further examination of the chapters shows that they have been designed in a very easy and comprehensible way. All except for Chapter 5 that answers a set of around six questions related to the topic under a test. For example, Chapter 8 ('How to teach writing') has sections headed: 'Why teach writing?'; 'What kind of writing should students do?'; 'What do writing sequences look like?'; 'How should teachers correct writing?', and so on. Most of these sections are around one page long, written in a very clear style, often with subheadings, and with many well-described practical examples.

The descriptive design adopted is Engage-Study-Activate sequence. Harmer describes this sequence (p. 32) as 'the basic building blocks for successful language teaching and learning'.Harmer suggests, and later exemplifies, that the 'S-A' parts of his pattern can be modified as appropriate once the students are emotionally engaged, and he offers an EAASASEA 'patchwork' lesson plan (p. 29). While appreciating that the 'E' always comes on the first place, and that this is a very student-centred model, ESA is patently a much broader lesson-planning device and it is safer and more easily applicable for beginner teachers, although rather less useful in practical terms. ESA is introduced in Chapter 4 ('How to describe teaching and learning') and used further to demonstrate how lessons could work for reading (Chapter 7), writing (Chapter 8), speaking (Chapter 9), and listening (Chapter 10). Examples are provided most specifically on pp. 64-65. The first chapter talks about what students expect of us as English teachers. A few basic ideas developed here are what is a good teacher?, how should you talk to your students?, how much should you talk to your students?, what does a good lesson consist of?, and how important is it to stick to your lesson plan? .The main idea is to focus on the students. Chapter 2 talks about different factors, like motivation, different levels (beginners, intermediate students advanced students), and so on, which make good students, and of how to work with whomever weve got sitting in front of us to help them learn English better. For example, what are the differences between teaching adults and children? One of the top ideas in this chapter is to get teachers thinking about what the students role is in the learning process. Chapter 3 talks about the practice of classroom management. This is mainly about becoming more aware of how to coordinate your classes. How close should you get to the students? How appropriate is crouching in order to get eye to eye with your students? Should you stand in front of the class, move around it or sit down etc. Chapter 4 is the most important in the book regarding how English lessons are structured. The basic stages described in this chapter are to Engage, Study and Activate, or ESA. In other words, you usually have to get your students interested on your lesson Chapter 5 is different from the others, not only in its length but in its content. This chapter shows 'How to describe language'. Harmer tells us (pp. 34-35) that this chapter 'will look at some fairly basic language descriptions and issues', before warning the reader that 'it is important to realize that a short chapter can only score a tiny surface of an extremely complex collection of different language issues. It is intended only as a basic introduction to some of the terms and issues which teachers and students may consider useful.' The book then goes on to work through short sections on noun types, verb types, verb forms, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and so on. A large part is organized by means of tables, and I have to say that the chapter does what it proposes to do. Chapter 6 is about how to teach the grammar presented in chapter 5. Basically, this unit develops the Engage, Study, Activate sequences further by talking more about these basic concepts: 1) how to present the language we want the students to learn, 2) how to help students understand the meanings and form in language, 3) how to help them study the

grammar in order to understand its construction and 4) how to practice it. This chapter also explains more about how to become more flexible with the ESA sequences. Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10, deal with why and how to teach reading, writing, speaking and listening. Chapter 11 is about how to use textbooks. The question is not whether to use or not to use, because youll have to use them sometime in your career at least to start with. Chapter 12 deals with lesson plans, or why and how to plan lessons. The most important reason for having a lesson plan is to help you process through what do to in your class and how to do it. With time it comes naturally, but at first you need to do it step-by-step. Finally, it has to be mentioned that the 13 chapters of this book are followed by another 50 pages of a task file with practical exercises to help you practice the ideas that are presented in each of the chapters At the end of the book there are three Appendices: Appendix A offers eight pages on equipment in the classroom, with a glimpse at the board, the computer, the dictionary, pictures and cards, the tape recorder, the video playback machine, and the video camera. Appendix B (Notes and further reading) gives a six-page, chapter-by-chapter list of reading suggestions. Appendix C gives the phonetic symbols on one page. The book is rounded off with a seven-page Index; this is very thorough and impressive, and extremely helpful for the reader. In conclusion, I consider that this book achieves the aims it sets itself. It is clear, wellorganized, and comprehensive. It represents an impulse for the teachers that are at the beginning of their career. Reading this book it will be much easier to enter in a classroom and start teaching. I believe that J. Harmer pointed out in his book a very useful set of advice and I think it should be read not only by beginners but by the teachers who are in the system of education for a long time.