10 Books That Will Invigorate Your Language Teaching
Don’t you love the feeling of getting lost in a book?
It’s a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon, a lazy Sunday… or many enlightening hours of professional development.
Yep! The right language teaching books are your ticket to an invigorated classroom, effective teaching methods and soaring student success.
No matter what your classroom looks like or what your specific teaching goals are, there’s a book out there for you.
So make a cup of tea, put your feet up and read on to find out about some great language teaching books that’ll help you improve your craft.
How Reading Helps Your Teaching
As teachers, we want our students to read as much as possible. That’s because we know reading benefits learning.
But how can we convince our students of the importance of reading if we’re not reading ourselves?
If you’re in any kind of a rut (and haven’t we all been there?), your bookshelf can offer inspiration for switching up a tired teaching routine. Reading helps us imagine different situations and possibilities, especially when we’re reading books specifically geared to educators like the ones we’ll cover later in this post.
Reading can shore up our knowledge of foundational teaching skills, as well as keep us informed of the newest research, trends and changes in the world of education. And if you want to implement a specific teaching strategy such as TPR or CLIL, a few good books are an excellent starting point.
Plus, it’s not only the act of reading itself that is beneficial, but also the connections that can form among readers. A book group, either online or face-to-face, can help you gain a deeper understanding of how the book you’re reading can impact you, and also help expand your personal learning network. We’ll talk a bit more about this later on.
Strategies to Make Reading Part of Your Daily Life
Teachers are some of the busiest people I know! Between lesson planning, grading and communicating with parents and colleagues, it’s hard to even find the time to eat a good meal, never mind read a book.
But it’s possible to make time in your busy day for reading. Here are some strategies that may work for you:
- Take a reading lunch break. Feed your mind at the same time as you feed your body! When you sit down for a few minutes to eat, make a book your lunch date. That’s an easy way of slipping in a little reading time on a day-to-day basis.
- Always carry a book with you. You never know when you may unexpectedly have some down time just before a meeting or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Waiting for a friend who’s running late? No problem. Take out a book and enjoy a few minutes of on-the-go professional development.
- Start a book club. Gather some like-minded colleagues at your school or in your professional language teacher association. Suggest a few good books and choose one to read together. Schedule meetings every week or two to hold one another accountable for progressing.
Not only will you have the opportunity to read, but you can also build some meaningful professional relationships and friendships.
- Read (or listen) during your commute to work. Research great language teaching books that are available on audio so you can listen to them as you drive to work. If you take public transportation to work every day, that’s another great opportunity to enjoy some reading time.
- Replace TV time with book time. Take a break from your evening binge-watching routine (because seriously, what are you really getting out of watching “Game of Thrones” every night?) to engage with a good book instead.
Where to Go for Book Recommendations
You might be saying, ”those are all great suggestions… but what books should I be reading? How do I find out what the best books are for language educators?”
Here are some resources for seeking out the most helpful reading material:
- The librarian or media generalist at your school. Most schools have a professional lending library. School librarians and media generalists are trained in keeping up with books that are trending in the education field. Ask your school librarian what books he or she recommends.
- A professional world language association. Did you know that you can purchase relevant books directly from the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)? Their website provides detailed descriptions of these books, and even offers a discount to members. A similar service is available from the bookstore at TESOL Press.
- Social media groups. Join a discussion group of foreign language teachers on Facebook and/or Google+ to find out what your colleagues all over the world are reading right now.
- Goodreads. This underused social media platform is perfect for finding the right books. You can easily connect with friends and colleagues to see what they’re reading and view their ratings and recommendations.
- Carson-Dellosa. This well-known publisher offers books for teachers, with a particular focus on new teachers. You’ll find books on everything from implementing different methodologies to building creative curricula to teaching dyslexic students. There’s also a heavy focus on practical activities for the classroom.
- Keynote speakers and conference presenters. Were you captivated by a brilliant keynote speaker at the last conference you went to? Perhaps you were captivated by the speaker you watched during a TedTalk. Chances are, she mentioned a book that inspired her or perhaps she has even penned some of her own publications. Take note of these and add them to your reading list.
Channel Your Inner Bookworm: The Best Language Teaching Books
Do you want a book on theory and methodology? Or perhaps you want one on a specific topic, like interactive learning or TPRS. Whatever your needs, one of the books listed below can be a great starting point.
“Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College” by Doug Lemov
This follow-up to the popular “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College,” which came out in 2010, expands on the tried-and-true strategies presented in the earlier version.
It offers concrete solutions for the classroom such as data gathering, building trust and setting behavioral expectations, drawing on the knowledge of successful teachers all over the world. Lemov’s insights highlight the ways in which simple actions, like effective distribution and collection of classroom materials, yield positive outcomes that exist under the radar of educational research.
The purchase of the book includes video clips showing real-life classroom scenes to demonstrate the nuts and bolts of each strategy.
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
Have you ever had a student assert that he or she is just “bad at French/Spanish/English/etc.?” The belief that language learning depends primarily on innate ability, rather than effort and persistence, can be a real obstacle to learning.
Students who believe they’re lacking natural ability won’t challenge themselves or go outside of their comfort zones. And we all know how essential leaving your comfort zone is for learning a second language!
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking insights have changed the way we think about achievement in the classroom. Through several case studies, she found that students’ beliefs about themselves and their abilities had a significant impact on achievement and growth, especially among minority groups. Learn how you can nurture a “growth mindset” in your classroom, dramatically improving learning outcomes for students.
“Principles of Language Learning and Teaching” by H. Douglas Brown
This is a classic introductory text on research in the area of foreign language learning. It could serve as an entry point to the research and theory behind language education, or as a welcome refresher for educators familiar with the topic.
Topics that are covered include intercultural communication, language policy/politics and corpus linguistics. The book balances research findings with vignettes that vividly illustrate real-life implications for the classroom. Readers describe it as a clear, understandable text.
“Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism” by Colin Baker
Here’s another classic text that’s a must-read for those seeking to understand the bigger picture of bilingualism and what it means in the context of larger society.
The book has a cross-disciplinary focus, covering topics in fields ranging from sociolinguistics to education policy. Roughly the first half of the book is focused on bilingualism and issues relevant to bilingual people; the second half of the book homes in on bilingual education (including assessment, literacy, teaching strategies and more).
The most recent update offers welcome additions such as explorations of the different models of bilingual education and the impact of advances in brain imaging.
“Input, Interaction and Corrective Feedback in L2 Learning” by Alison Mackey
This book offers an in-depth overview of the interactive approach to language learning. The book provides a detailed analysis of research in this field. There’s particular attention to the recent explorations into the role of cognition and social factors.
Be aware, this book is written from a researcher standpoint and isn’t exactly a breezy read, but it’s great if you want to build your knowledge of different theories and methodologies of interactive language learning.
“Teaching and Learning in Two Languages: Bilingualism and Schooling in the United States” by Eugene E. Garcia
This book offers a thoughtful and realistic picture of bilingualism and its implications for education. Garcia explores the challenges educators face as they encounter the complex needs of a culturally and linguistically diverse student population.
Garcia’s book reviews research, theory and policy in the field to give an overview of the education of bilingual students in the U.S. There are also specific takeaways for the classroom; Garcia illustrates effective methods for bilingual education and provides examples of programs that have put them into action.
“Differentiated Instruction: A Guide for World Language Teachers” by Deborah Blaz
What teacher hasn’t struggled with the challenge of providing meaningful education to students of a wide range of abilities and backgrounds?
For world language teachers, this struggle can be even more poignant, as students so often give up on a new language if they’re not able to find success. This bestseller shows you how to differentiate instruction based on language students’ learning styles, prior knowledge and more. The book takes a practical approach, with helpful thematic units, checklists and rubrics.
“Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching” by Diane Larsen-Freeman and Marti Anderson
A clear and easy resource for new teachers and a useful refresher for those with more experience, this book clearly lays out a range of teaching methods and approaches, chapter by chapter.
It’s neatly structured with charts that link the different methodologies to underlying teaching principles. The book doesn’t strongly recommend one methodology over another, but gives a comprehensive and unbiased overview of all of them.
“Fluency Through TPR Storytelling” by Contee Seely and Blaine Ray
Viewed by many as the definitive work on TPRS, this is the book that many TPRS teachers have used to get started in the popular method of language teaching through physical response and storytelling.
The book is focused on getting students interacting with the target language from day one, and maintaining motivation and progress as they continue their studies. The clear instructions, analysis and examples presented here are always on trend and never go out of style.
“Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It” by Gabriel Wyner
The author makes the case that languages are best learned outside of a school setting, and offers some practical guidelines for language acquisition through the activities of daily life.
Many of his tips, especially those about learning to hear and reproduce sounds correctly, could be easily modified for or applied to the classroom. His tips on training your ears and rewiring your brain to understand the plethora of sounds hidden within languages could be just the knowledge you need to help students with pronunciation.
Plus, the use of videos and other authentic materials can offer realistic simulations to allow students to practice these skills.
Now that you have a place to start, go build your professional library! You can make wonderful discoveries that’ll breathe new life into your classroom.