Recommended Books


| general | Chinese society | Chinese history | business |

| methodologies | pronunciation | writing | grammar |

| readers | reading skills | integrated skills |

memoirs | fiction | top 10 ESL books |


Barlow, Tani E., and Donald M. Lowe.  1985.  Chinese Reflections: Americans Teaching in the People's Republic. New York : Praeger Publishers.

Hu, Wenzhong and Cornelius L. Grove.  1991.  Encountering the Chinese: A Guide for Americans.  Yarmouth , Maine : Intercultural Press, Inc.

Ross, Heidi A. 1993. China Learn English: Language Teaching and Social Change in the People's Republic. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Schneiter, Fred. 1992. The Joy of Getting Along with the Chinese. Heian International (available from China Books and Periodicals, Inc.).


Clayre, Alasdair. 1985.  The Heart of the Dragon.  Boston : Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dernberger, Robert, etc. eds. 1991. The Chinese: Adapting the Past, Facing the Future. Center for Chinese Studies. Ann Arbor , MI : The University of Michigan .

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Fairbank, John King. 1992. China : A New History. Cambridge , Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Ho, Yong. 2001. China : An Illustrated History. New York : Hippocrene Books.

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Becker, Gerhold K. 1996. Ethics in Business and Society: Chinese and Western Perspectives. Berlin , NY : Springer.

Bucknall, Kevin. 2002. Chinese Business Etiquette and Culture. Raleigh, NC: Boston Books.

De Mente, Boye L.  1989.  Chinese Etiquette & Ethics in Business. Lincolnwood , IL : NTC Business Books.

Genzberger, Christine and Edward Hinkleman, eds. 1994. China Business: A Portable   Encyclopedia for Doing Business in China . World Trade Press.

Gibbons, Russell. 1996. Joint Ventures in China . Macmillan Education.

Huang, Quanyu, Richard S. Andrulis, & Tong Chen. 1994.  A Guide to Successful Business Relations with the Chinese: Opening the Great Wall's Gate. New York : International Business Press.

Jan, George P. 1994. How to do Business with China . Toledo , OH : AIT Press.

Kenna, Peggy & Sondra Lacy. 1994. Business China : A Practical Guide to Understanding Chinese Business Culture. Lincolnwood , IL : NTC Business Books.

Macleod, Roderick. 1988.  China, Inc.: How to Do Business with the Chinese. New York : Bantam Books.

Reuvid, Johanthan. 1994. Doing Business with China . London : Kogan Page.

Stross, Randall E. 1993. Bulls in the China Shop and Other Sino-American Business Encounters. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press.

Tung, Shih-chung, Danian Zhang & Milton R. Larson. 1992. Trade and Investment Opportunities in China : The Current Commercial and Legal Framework. West Point , Conn. : Quorum Books.

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Pamela Gale George, College Teaching Abroad: A Handbook of Strategies for Successful Cross-cultural Exchanges. Needham Heights , MA : Allyn and Bacon. 1995

This book, with a decidedly Asian and Pacific focus, was written specifically for those who have been assigned to an overseas faculty position in a higher education setting. The book also draws upon the experiences of American teachers who have participated in academic programs and compiles these experiences into several chapters that are specifically helpful to those who will be teaching in universities or colleges.

Sandra Lee McKay, Teaching English Overseas: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.

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Peter Avery and Susan Ehrlich, Teaching American English Pronunciation. Oxford University Press, 1992.

This book is a comprehensive introduction to teaching the pronunciation of North American English. Part One contains an illustrated description of the sound system of English. In Part Two, the authors provide ideas for overcoming common pronunciation problems. There are sections devoted to the specific problems of speakers of fifteen different languages from a wide range of language groups, including that of Chinese. Part Three gives numerous useful classroom techniques to help teachers improve their pupils' pronunciation effectively. The book includes exercises, a glossary, and an index.

British English is as popular as American English in China . If you speak British English, you'll also find the book useful, as the sound system is basically the same.

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Arlene Marcus, Writing Inspirations: A Fundex of Individual Activities for English Language Practice. Pro Lingua Associates, Publishers.

Orders: 800-366-4775

15 Elm Street

Brattleboro , Vermont 05301


This is an index of inspirations, ideas and activities for writing. The material has been designed so that it can be easily photocopied and copies can be used to create a set of index cards kept in a file box arranged by activities. The table of contents is set up as a list of these activities. Within each activity, there are several cards on different topics and on each topic card several tasks for the language learner to choose from. This material is appropriate for adult, college, and high school learners working in a classroom setting or in a tutorial. The subject matter reflects the kinds of experiences teens and adults deal with in the U.S. and Canada.

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Azar, B.  Fundamentals of English Grammar, 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall Regents (1992).

Deakins, Alice H., Kate Parry, and Robert R. Viscount ; A Reference for Learners of English.  Boston : Heinle & Heinle (1994). 

Although debate rages in the field in terms of how much explicit grammar instructional analysis advisable in ESOL teaching, the following facts remain: most students expect grammar instruction; most formal evaluation instruments test students' command of grammar rules, and any beginning teacher would do well to review a pedagogical grammar in order to have some exposure to concepts which a native speaker may have never considered, but which their students are almost certain to ask about (e.g., the difference between count and mass nouns). 

By far the most popular pedagogical grammars of ESL are those by Betty Azar. While the hold to a fairly old-fashioned model, teaching grammar largely removed from context and relying on cloze exercises to a great extent, this books are extremely clear, well-written and popular with students.

Part of Heinle & Heinle's very high-quality Tapestry series (with books covering all major aspects of ESOL teaching), The Tapestry Grammar represents a somewhat more enlightened approach in terms of  teaching grammar within a communicative context. 

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Withrow, J. (et. al.) Changes; Readings for Writers, 2nd Edition.  St. Martin 's Press (1996).

75 Readings ; an Anthology, 5th Edition.  McGraw-Hill (1995).

It is essential to have a selection of good, authentic readings both for teaching reading and as an impetus for student speaking and writing. Changes has an excellent selection of (mostly very short) writings in a wide variety of genres, including some student writing.  It also has an excellent teaching apparatus -- writing exercises, modes of analysis, indices of reading and writing techniques etc. which would be an education in itself for any beginning teacher.  75 Readings is a good selection of readings intended for a mainstream college freshman comp. course.  It has no apparatus -- just the essays themselves -- and the advantage of being dirt cheap (under $10). 

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The following books are all from Heinle & Heinle Publishers:


Facts $ Figures (Beginning)

Cause $ Effect (Intermediate)

Thoughts & Notions (High intermediate)

Author: Patricia Ackert


Insights for Today (High beginning)

Issues for Today (Intermediate)

Concepts for Today (High intermediate)

Topics for Today (Advanced)

Authors: Lorraine Smith and Nancy Mare


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The Headway series (intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced) by John and Liz Soars is excellent, but presents British English.  Jack Richards' recent Interchange series has a very good reputation and the Side by Side series from Simon & Schuster is very popular with beginning level students. 

Skill Sharpeners Series by Judy DeFilippo and Charles Skidmore. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

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Bradley, Bill Life on the Run.  Vintage Books, 1995 (1976)

Recently re-issued in paperback, this book takes the form of a series of journals written when Bradley, who recently resigned after serving 18 years in the U. S. Senate, was a member of the New York Knicks basketball team.  Bradley writes a series of observations about his teammates and the country as they travel around together.  (If you enjoy Life on the Run, you might want to look at Bradley's second memoir, Time Present, Time Past , a longer, more complex book which reflects on his time in the Senate and his ideas about the U. S. today.) 

Frank, Anne  The Diary of Anne Frank  (republished by Anchdor Books in 1995)

A classic memoir of a girl's private thoughts as she and her family hide from the Nazis in wartime Amsterdam . Anne is honest and insightful about the experience of being a normal girl growing up in such inhuman conditions.

Gage, Nicholas. A Place for Us. Houghton Mifflin 1984.

After his mother is killed, a young Greek boy must immigrate to America and start a new life with a father who he barely knows. (Includes "Going to America .")

Gornick, Vivian Fierce Attachments. Touchstone Books, 1987

A memoir of the writer's girlhood in the Bronx, her education at City College, and, above all, her difficult, intense relationship with her mother.

Iacocca, Lee Iacocca: An Autobiography

One of the most popular books of the late 1980s, this is the autobiography of a child of Italian immigrants who became a long time top executive at the Ford Motor Company.  After leaving Ford, Iacocca surprised everybody by leading the much-troubled Chrysler Corporation through a surprising turnaround. 

Karr, Mary  The Liars' Club.  Penguin Books, 1995

Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcom X.

Powell, Colin My American Journey with Joseph E. Persico. Ballentine Books, 1995

In one of the most popular books of the 1990s, Powell tells the story of his rise from a childhood in the South Bronx to being the first African-American to head the entire U. S. military.  Powell's great popularity led many to suspect that he would run for president against Bill Clinton; some think he may still run in the future. 

Soto, Gary Living Up the Street  Dell, 1992

In this very easy-to-read memoir, the Chicano poet tells the story of his childhood Growing up with his brothers and sisters in a poor Latino neighborhood in Fresno , California . 

Wolff, Tobias This Boy's Life  Harper-Perennial, 1990

This 1950s memoir covers the adolescence of Toby, of a dreamy, over-imaginative kid who lives with his mother, Rosemary, and can't seem to keep from getting in trouble.  Exhausted by running away from an abusive boyfriend and from trying to keep Toby in line, Rosemary finally agrees to marry Dwight, thinking that it will give Toby some much needed discipline.  In fact, Dwight and Toby become enemies in the same house, and Toby spends his years in Dwight's house dreaming of ways to escape, until one comes implausibly true. 

Chang, Jung. Wild Swans. Anchor Books 1991

The life history of three generations of women in the author's family who lived through 75 years of turbulent change in China .

Salzman, Mark. Iron and Silk. Random House 1986

Experience and impression of China by a young American who traveled there to study martial arts and worked as an English teacher.

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Hemingway, Ernest  The Old Man and the Sea. Scribners, 1952 

In this short novel, an elderly Cuban fisherman does battle with a huge Marlin, which becomes the great challenge of his life.  If you enjoy it, you may want to look at A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's memoir about Paris in the 1920s or one of his classic novels, such as A Farewell to Arms. 

Lee, Harper  To Kill a Mockingbird  Warner, 1960

A classic novel about childhood and about coming to terms with racism in the American South, in which a white lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, must explain the proceedings -- and the reactions of society -- to his young children and their friends.

Steinbeck, John  Of Mice and Men.  Penguin 1937

A very easy-to-read novella about two friends who work as farm laborers in California and dream of a better life. If you enjoy it, you might want to look at Travels with Charley, his memoir of a journey around the U.S. or one of his classic novels, such as The Grapes of Wrath. 

Salinger, J. D.  Catcher in the Rye .  Little, Brown, 1945

After being kicked out of yet another prep school, Holden Caufield decides to avoid his parents and spend a few days foaming around New York City .

Tan, Amy  The Joy Luck Club.  Ballentine Books 1989

The story of four Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters, this novel is about the difficulties of keeping cultural connections alive in a new country as the two generations struggle to understand each other.

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Joe McVeigh posted the following messages at an ESL discussion group on the internet:

“Suppose you were going on a teaching assignment and were told that you could bring 10 printed books or resources with you.  What would you take along and why?

For the sake of this particular discussion, let’s assume that you won’t have access to the internet or a VCR.

You could bring textbooks, teacher-resource books, a magazine or journal subscription, and you can include audiotapes, if you like.

You don’t know too much about your potential students, so its best to take materials that will serve you in a variety of circumstances.

To think of it another way, what if someone fairly new to the profession asked you for your top recommendations in helping them start a small resource library.  What would you recommend?

Joe McVeigh, Associate Director for Programs in ESL and TESOL

Center for Educational Technology

Middlebury College , Middlebury , Vermont 05753   USA


And he generated the following responses:


If I were cast away on the proverbial desert island (as Joe McVeigh suggested) and could only take ten teaching books, the shipwreck would taken place before I could ever make up my mind!


At first I thought, "This is easy...I would use only picture dictionaries, Oxford and Longman. No problem." But then I got to thinking about the vocabulary in them - bus, computer, scarf, coffee, etc. etc. - and I realized that anyone learning on the desert island would need to know ISLAND vocabulary. If the learners were optimists and thoroughly believed in a future rescue, they might indeed want the vocabulary necessary for their post-rescue lives.


So, in the end I think that I would take no books for teaching. But I would take pencil and paper. Would I be allowed to substitute CDs of songs and movies for the books, Joe?


Anthea Tillyer 

City University of New York ( USA )



Anthea Tillyer has taken my desert island metaphor a bit further than I'd intended.  If, indeed, a desert island was the actual destination, I think I would want to have a book on ship building, and I'd be surprised if there were too many ESL/EFL students around!


The intent of my question was to ask those on the list to share with us books and resources that have been particularly useful or valuable to them. A sort of ESL teacher's tool box, that might be useful in a variety of situations.  While some of us have the luxury of a fully stocked teachers’ reference library, others have to make do with what they can fit in a suitcase.  So, if your choices were limited, what would you want to have with you?  Or, if someone came to you and asked what to take, what would you advise?


I think our ideal is to walk into a situation knowing exactly who are students are, and what it is that we are to teach them.  But sometimes assignments can change, so-called intermediate students are in fact beginners, or the doctors that you were supposed to teach end up being teenagers.  That’s why I suggested resources that weren’t too specific to a particular group.


I think we could also make some fun lists of CD's, video, or software and of course the Web provides a plethora of material.  But for the purposes of this discussion on books, suppose that you didn't have access to those resources?  (Electricity is hard to come by in some locations.)  What about good old printed materials?


Joe McVeigh



Since the purpose of Joe's original query was to get netters to share resources they've found particularly valuable, let me recommend a writing book I use in any composition course I teach, whether for ESL students or native speakers:  Clouse, Barbara Fine.  Working It Out: A Troubleshooting Guide for Writers. 2nd Edition.  New York : McGraw-Hill, 1996.


This is a strategy-driven guide for writers, full of practical suggestions for overcoming most of the problems students (and other people) encounter when they write, from finding ideas to figuring out what to change when revising to identifying fragments and run-ons.  It was written with native speakers in mind, but works well with ESL students as well.  It's short, user-friendly, and IMHO an invaluable teaching tool, especially for teachers using a process approach.


John M. Green  

English Department , Salem State College    

Salem , MA 01970 USA



Actually, I think these are two very different questions. My answer to the first one would be easy. I would take none, unless I knew very specifically the needs and level of the students and happened to know of a book that would just suit that group. Even then, I have too often been wrong and had to put my valuable books aside and rely on my own initiative. If on the other hand I was asked to recommend 10 books for someone else, I would do just that, to the best of my ability, but reluctantly, as I don't think I would choose well for that person if I didn't know her. As a teacher and trainer, I have worked for a long time in countries where there were negligible teaching resources. In such cases, there are two possible solutions: (a) import as many resources as possible or (b) learn to teach with the resources that you have: yourself and your students, their interest in and knowledge of the world, your own creativity and professionalism, and perhaps those awful old course books that no-one wants anymore. The first time I came to Hungary , many years ago, I had one copy of the course book (The Cambridge English Course) and no photocopier. I got into the habit of copying the exercises and texts onto large sheets of paper and pinning them on the wall, until a visiting trainer said, 'Surely there must be an easier way'. At the time, with only one year's experience, my response would have been 'Yes, give me lots of materials'. However, I don't think now, with the benefit of hindsight, that that would have been the best solution. It would have been better if she had taught me how to teach, how to structure a lesson, what aims to have and how to achieve them given the resources you have, no matter how few. I feel as though the search for the facility of not being dependent on published materials is a rather elusive Holy Grail. To the limited extent that I have reached it, I'm not sure exactly how to teach others the way there, but I nonetheless feel that it is a journey that we must all make if we are not to remain at the stage of constantly longing for the quick fix, the new book of ideas you can take straight into the classroom for instant student satisfaction, without having to do anything yourself.


Go on, be provoked!


John Harbord,  Central European University Hungary



If I had to choose just a few good books, they would be:


  1. A basic conversation book, such as, Side by Side.  It has pictures and students like it.

  2. A grammar book (an Azar red or black), to back up the grammar in Side by Side and any writing problems the students might have.

  3. A Longman American English dictionary.  It's full of good stuff.

  4. No writing text.  I'd use the paper and pencils that Anthea suggested, and use the local environment, family life and obvious activities for content.  I'd try to build on what the students were involved with and help them put this information into basic sentence and paragraph structures. I'd use the process approach, and I don't think a text is critical for this.

  5. Reading :  The students would read each others' papers and all the handmade signs, notices and directions that I would write out, again keeping it real to the students. I'd take some favorite paperbacks along, both classic and contemporary and read to them, and then, hopefully, they would eventually move to reading some of the pages of my books and write and discuss reactions to what they read.  Another thing I would try to do is get some local newspapers and pull words and paragraphs out of them, with pictures.

  6. Speaking and listening:  I'd have them repeat the conversations in Side by Side.  I'd take music tapes and play them over and over.  I'd take some tongue twisters.  I'd take a couple favorite videos, too.  These would introduce my culture, and students are often curious about this.   (A good listening activity.)

Reading over my list, I guess my suitcase would be rather light.  Now I'm wondering why my bookshelves are so full of well-worn books!


Marion Jacobs

Kirkwood Com College

Cedar Rapids , IA 52402 USA



OK, I'll bite since I just shared some of my favorite books with some workshops I did they're still fresh in my mind.


  1. True Stories in the News/Easy True Stories in the News--High beginning/beginning level reading books that have worked in every situation I've been in. -Longman

  2. Photo Dictionaries and workbooks (Longman or Oxford )--students love them and they make initial communication easier. -Longman

  3. A Conversation Book; English in Everyday Life-- Beginning level but also works in different teaching situations, good for multilevel classes. -Prentice Hall

  4. Listen to Me/Now Hear This -- Beginning and high beginning listening texts with tapes.-Heinle & Heinle

  5. Regents English Workbooks -- All the grammar worksheets any student could want.-I think Regents was bought by Prentice Hall but not sure

  6. On Stage with English -- Phrasal verbs with relatively fun exercises -Heinle & Heinle

  7. Azar's Grammar books -- I always seem to end up using them.-Prentice Hall

  8. Write Soon --  a writing text that works at different levels -I think Heinle & Heinle which bought out the original publisher

  9. A grammar resource book to answer all those obscure grammar questions you will surely be asked.

  10. It's Academic -- An integrated skills text for academically oriented students, fairly advanced English. -was Maxwell/Macmillan but I think it is now Heinle & Heinle.


OK, that's a little more than ten.


Terry Pruett-Said

ESL instructor

NE Iowa CC , US



I'd like to add two excellent reference books to the T-10-Books:


* The BBI Dictionary of Word Combinations (John Benjamisn Publishing Company)

* The LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations (Language Teaching Publications)


Michael A. Riccioli


Universite de Picardie Jules Verne ( Amiens - France )



My top 5 (at least) would be:


  1. 'Discussions that work: Task-centered Fluency practice' by Penny Ur. Gives discussion purpose with integrated skills work (debates, campaigns, surveys, projects)

  2. 'Grammar Practice Activities: A practical guide for teachers' by Penny Ur Hundreds of controlled and free practice activities for the classroom based on specific grammar topics.

  3. 'Keep Talking: Communicative fluency activities for language teaching' by Friederike Klippel. Ideas for warm-ups, interviews, guessing games, jigsaw tasks, questioning, discussions and decisions, mime, role-play, simulations and storytelling.

  4. For when I get bored 'Recipes for Tired Teachers: Well-Seasoned activities for the ESL Classroom' by Christopher Sion.

  5. 'Five-Minute Activities: A Resource Book of Short Activities.' By Penny Ur


For those interested I can send more details (publishers, ISBN nos etc) on request, off the list


David Paul

Helsinki , Finland



Joe McVeigh asked about the to ten books for resources.  Since I just moved to Turkey this past January and had to decide on my own, I can offer what I brought from the selection I had at hand:


Before Book One

Look Who's Talking

Nonstop Discussion Workbook

Grammar Games

101 Word Games

Grammar Chants

Jazz Chants

Intermediate and Advanced Listening comprehension

Back and Forth

The Grammar Book

Tapestry Grammar

TESOL Techniques and Procedures


There were some others, but those have proved to be the most useful.  Those were books I already had-- I did not go shopping for any more, but I will when I am back for a visit, so I am looking forward to others' postings!


Molly Farquharson


English Time

Istanbul , Turkey



What a fun challenge! Here's what I would bring and why:


First of all I would bring a teacher-friendly curriculum design text (one that offers a global look at everything from needs analyses to teaching strategies and one that I'm already comfortable working with) and a dependable, thorough dictionary (the big, thick kind). That's two so far!


Next I would stuff into my suitcase two reading texts, one an "absolute beginner" level and the other an intermediate level with lots of short readings (rather than few but long selections).


That's four!


Now I pick up two listening texts with accompanying audio cassette tapes, again a low level and an intermediate level, both with lots of variety. I add Azar's Basic English Grammar (the red one) and the new edition of King and Stanley 's Building Skills for TOEFL with accompanying audio cassette tapes. So far, I'm up to eight!


I squeeze in Glazier's The Least You Should Know about English Grammar with the complete assessment package (any form will do) and, lastly, a class-set subscription to the Newsweek Education series. That's ten! When do I leave?


My plan is to use the reading and listening texts as a basis for writing, grammar, and speaking and to integrate skills as much as possible/desirable. I have the TOEFL prep text for those who need its services while the Newsweek Education subscription will provide me with numerous advanced level class and assessment activities on current events. The Glazier has a nice midway point between the low level Azar and the challenging King and Stanley text. It is assumed that all materials include companion workbooks and teacher's guides. The reference books are for validity, reliability, and sanity. Well, did I forget anything?


Marcella Farina

University of Central Florida

Orlando , Florida ( USA )



My current top 5 EFL books are:


  1. Practical English Usage  -  My bread and butter. My salvation in times of distress. Couldn't live without it !!      (Grammar guide)

  2. Advanced Vocabulary and Idiom -     Great range of vocabulary, covering a  broad spectrum of topics. Good for starting discussions.

  3. Sounds English -  Contains interesting exercises for correcting pronunciation/ listening/spelling.

  4. Grammar Practice Activities -   Fun games with a learning point!!

  5. Side By Side / Headway / In Focus / Any one of a number of text books


  1. By Michael Swan, published by Oxford University Press.

  2. By B J Thomas, published by Nelson.

  3. By J. D. O' Connor & Clare Fletcher, published by Longman.

  4. By Penny Ur, published by Cambridge University Press.

Andy Turner




The following seems to be a good book for teaching children English:


Schinke-Llano and Rebecca Rauff, eds, New Ways in Teaching Young Children. VA.: TESOL, Inc., 1996


This book offers 14 chapters of language activities that involve children in


Social interaction

Real-life situations

Learning through the senses

Learning through actions

Learning through realia

Literature, art, music drama and storytelling


Content knowledge




Alejandro G. Martinez of Mexico City recommends the following books for teaching children:


Vale, D. and Feunteun, A. Teaching Children English   Cambridge University Press

A good balance of theory and practice.


Phillips, S.  Young Learners.   Oxford University Press.


Wright, A. Storytelling with children.  Oxford University Press.


These two are more practically oriented and contain a variety of ideas and tips.




The following was culled from a discussion on how to teach the first lesson:


Dear TESL-L netters

I believe everyone has had the dread of starting a new class as a new teacher. It is your first lesson you will be teaching and you have given ample time what and how to teach it. You enter the room and see twenty odd students all looking at you hopefully or curiously. You may instantly find yourself lost and not knowing how to start.


Are you directly going to start what you have planned?


OR are you going to introduce yourself? If so in L2 or if you happen to be L1 speaker in that language?


What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach? You have most probably seen in textbooks that the verb TO BE is usually the starter. If so what is it to be?  “this is a chair" or "I am Mr. Brown."


Are we going to give a translation of the statements in L1 too. There will be other problems as well. I have seen and heard young teachers who have problems about where to stand while giving the lesson, Or wondering whether to write the sentence on the blackboard or not. Or should what he/she is going to teach what is on the textbook?


I am certain there will be other situations that teachers will come across not thought of before. Discussion of these will be beneficial.


Huseyin Irkad

Famagusta- Cyprus



<<Are you directly going to start what you have planned? OR are you going to introduce yourself?>>


I always PLAN an "introduction" lesson for the first class.  I assume many teachers do that.  There are several activities or even games you can do, depending on the level of the students.


1.  You can model an introduction, introducing yourself and offering the type of information you might expect the students to give about themselves, then have

them take turns. (Name, nationality, job, family...)


2.  You can pair them off and have them interview each other, then introduce each other to the class.  This promotes a little more interaction right away.


3.  You can go around the room and do a memory game (they need to be in a circle

or semi-circle for this).  You start:  "I am Marilyn from the United States ." (Then you show them once how to do it before they go around.)  The next person says, "Hello, Marilyn from the U.S.   I'm Zofia from Poland ."  The third person says, "Hello, Marilyn from the U.S. and Zofia from Poland .  I'm Takashi from Japan ."  and so forth.


NOTE:  If they are complete beginners, you'd better just stick to name and country, no games.  If they all speak the same L1 and you speak it too, then you might want to do some introductions in that language just to create a comfortable classroom environment.


A variation of this memory game - for advanced groups - (thanks, Mrs. Santelli) is to have each student think of an adjective that starts with the same letter as their name, i.e., Marvelous Marilyn (though I like the country or town of origin better).


<<What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach? You have most probably seen in textbooks that the verb TO BE is usually the starter. If so what is it to be?  " this is a chair" or "I am Mr. Brown.">>


Better start with "I am Mr. Brown."  Introductions are necessary if the class is to be a cohesive community.  Then try to think what information would be the most useful to them.  It would depend a lot on the group, I think  If you don't need to plan your syllabus in advance, then you can be flexible and see what they need, what they are interested in.


Marilyn Cahill

County College of Morris , Randolph , NJ / USA



Huseyin Irkad <[email protected]> on Monday 02 August 1999 wrote:


>I have seen and heard young teachers who have problems about where to >stand while giving the lesson... .I am certain there will be other situations that teachers will come across not thought of before. Discussion of these will be beneficial.


In the best of all possible worlds, the brand new or old veteran teacher will NOT stand in front of her/his students with the teacher's text at the ready; rather, stand in the doorway, greeting each of the students with natural comments such as: "Hi!  I am Jane/John T. Doe, your new teacher for this quarter/semester/period.   Come in and be seated."


It should be prohibited that teachers stand behind their lecterns or in front of the chalkboard for the first five minutes in the first class, or any other class for that matter.  In fact, in the best of all possible worlds, the teacher would circulate freely making small talk with everyone and slowly arrive at the chalkboard or the lectern to open the text. This 'quality time' is worth much more than the rest of class time because it is the only

time that the teacher and student deal with each other on a basis of equality --no commands, no orders, no complying with a program or some exercise, AND especially no correction of errors (which shuts down spontaneity).


Robert M. Chandler-Burns

College of Medicine , Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon

Monterrey , MEXICO



Huseyin Irkad asks  <<Are you directly going to start what you have planned? OR

are you going to introduce yourself?>>


I forgot to mention another activity that I've done on the first day of a teens (age 12-16) writing class, to help students introduce themselves and also get them writing.


As preparation, I cut out SELECTED ads from the personals ("tall, physically fit SWM, 38, seeking fun-loving, marriage-minded redhead for dinners and walks in the woods," etc.) and made a collage of them, which I copied, one sheet for each student.  I had them read them, as well as the little titles on them.  We analyzed different aspects of them - how the headings/titles summarized the content, how objective the self-descriptions were, what impression each ad created in the mind of the reader, etc.


Then I had them write their own "ad" -- just a self-description in that format, but instead of what they were seeking in a "mate or date," they had to write what they were seeking from the class.


After the writing, they could either read the "ad" to the class or just give an oral self-description.  Either way (and I told them this in advance) they had to turn in their "ad" to me.


You could put the ads in their writing folders, or copy them for your reference and return them, or just keep them.


Marilyn Cahill

County College of Morris , Randolph , NJ / USA



Huseyin Irkad worries about the first lesson:

> Are you directly going to start what you have planned?

> Or are you going to introduce yourself?

> What will the structure and the pattern be you intend to teach?


        There are two slightly different questions here. The first is how to start a first lesson with a new group, whatever level, a question that somewhat occupies my mind this morning, as in two hours I am teaching my first class of the academic year to a group of

new students. Their level, however, is over 580 on TOEFL, which makes them quite different from the second situation, which it seems to me is more what Huseyin has in mind: how to teach the first lesson to a group of beginners.

        With my class later this morning, (100 minutes) I shall do mostly introductory activities, getting them to know and feel comfortable with each other, establishing English as the medium for class communication, increasing awareness of the course objectives and so on. The input of new language will be very small, but it will be clear to the students that this will not remain so. I think it is crucial in the first lesson to build rapport, establish class routines (many of my students will not be familiar with the cooperative nature of the communicative classroom, and will expect to listen passively to me or to work alone) and introduce the rationale of the course. No course should ever be packed so full that you need to plunge into a major grammar session within five minutes

of the first lesson starting. This settling-in time is crucial for building the good atmosphere and routines that will ensure that subsequent lessons run smoothly.

        With low level classes or beginners, there is a much greater temptation to whack into grammar as soon as possible, not least because the students can't understand what the teacher says in English, and if you're all repeating a verb form, everyone feels gainfully employed. Even here, however, I try to ensure that as much as possible of the lesson involves students getting to know each other and me Even if this involves teaching set phrases like 'What's your name?' and 'Where do you live?', it still allows me to get

students focused on the other members of the class as people they will interact with and have to talk to in English, and permits the setting of English as the language, and the spoken form as taking initial priority.

        In short, my answer in both situations would be the same. The first lesson is far too important to be wasted on grammar.


John Harbord, CEU, Hungary  


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