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Savvy ESL Book Recommendations for Teachers of American Immigrants, Canadian Refugees, and International Students
“What we know is a drop; what we don’t know is an ocean.”
—Isaac Newton (1643-1727), English physicist
Do you teach new American immigrants, refugees and international students of English? Are you seeking fresh English as a second language (ESL) book recommendations for improving both literacy and cultural understanding?
ESL students and teachers alike know that too many textbooks fail to engage readers. Yet rather than focusing on the many sins of many boring textbooks, I prefer praising the few informative, practical, and interesting ESL books that I find. Here are a few of my personal favorites.
English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies that Work
This inspiring book by award-winning New York Times education blogger Larry Ferlazzo highlights many practical methods for helping passive students become autotelic learners. While primarily focused on K-12 students, I have easily adapted many ideas and techniques to learners in university and IEP classes. If you seek savvy advice on becoming a more learner-focused instructor, buy this under-appreciated book for English teachers.
The Creative Classroom: Teaching Language Outside the Box
This slim activity book from ELT author and educator Hall Houston, contains dozens of bite-sized exercises to spark authentic language and creative discourse. ESL students with a background or interest in engineering, science, and the arts should find it especially useful.
It’s A Breeze: 42 Lively English Lessons on American Idioms
Written for both high school ESL students and adult English language learners in the U.S., It’s A Breeze improves their vocabulary and cultural literacy. Each chapter explores a single genre-specific American idiom in connection with the overall unit theme. The comfortable pace, unit quizzes (with answer keys) and idiom index make this unique text comfortable for both classroom use and self-study. For more information and sample chapters, visit the official site.
English Is Stupid, Students Are Not
At first glance, ESL teacher and pronunciation expert Judy Thompson’s book boasts a surprising title. Yet, this book–and the author’s ideas–are far from not stupid. Ridiculing any sort of pattern, logic or law in the English language, Thompson argues the inefficiency of combining listening and speaking instruction with that of reading and writing. Instead, she proposes the “English Phonetic Alphabet” (EPA), composed of 40 consonant and vowel sounds, as a sound-based method of language teaching.
This flexible, multi-level book suits a wide variety of levels and contexts. Though each page is full of common examples, playful graphics and detailed distinctions, the formatting provides variety and clarity. For English students and teachers frustrated with “i before e, except after c” or the difference between “lie, lay, lied and laid”–English is Stupid is worth reading.
English in Los Angeles: An Intermediate English Language Learners’ Text
This wonderful book fills a real niche in English programs for immigrants, international students, and summer visitors in Los Angeles. Going beyond the usual cliches and predictable exercises, author Piera Fumagalli, crafts a wonderful primer on Los Angeles with academic vocabulary, conversation topics and cultural aspects. California English language learners and teachers alike will appreciate the practical information and attractive formatting of this captivating ESL textbook.
Giving Academic Presentations (2nd Edition)
Susan Reinhart’s comprehensive advice places this savvy guidebook heads and shoulders above the other ESL textbooks for public presentations. As a result, students learn how to give clear, systematic oral presentations including problem-solution and process descriptions.
Lastly, I also recommend Compelling American Conversations: Questions and Quotations for Intermediate American English Language Learners by Toni Aberson and Eric Roth, as a supplemental text for intermediate American ESL classes, conversation clubs, and tutors. You can find sample chapters for this and other Chimayo Press titles here. Select additional chapters are also available via Teachers Pay Teachers!
Studying English requires consistent time, energy and countless “good mistakes.” Yet a quality ESL textbook can make a world of difference for both English teachers and learners. It may even make language acquisition “a breeze.” Which ESL textbooks do you recommend to your immigrant and international students? Are there any books you wish your ESL department adopted? Why? Share your favorites!
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