10 Great ELT Books for Beginner Teachers

We all start teaching in different situations. Some of us have lots of methodological support and guidance, others have to find their feet without much help. With all the variety of CPD courses, webinars and conferences, it is not that difficult. However, what can be better than a good, time-tested book? In this article, you will find a selection of 10 great ELT books which might come in handy if you are a new teacher — and not only. 

1. ‘Learning Teaching’ by Jim Scrivener

The third fully revised edition of this book is not called the essential guide to English language teaching for nothing. This truly is a guide which can help a new teacher when they are pressed for time and information. ‘Learning Teaching’ is always included in CELTA reading lists and is quoted on conferences and webinars all the time. In this book, you will find 16 chapters on a variety of topics: classroom management, lesson planning, teaching productive and receptive skills, using technology and so on. There will be practical tasks too — this time for teachers rather than students. 

2. ‘The Practice of English Language Teaching’ by Jeremy Harmer

If you haven’t found the answers to your questions in ‘Learning Teaching’, you will find them here. And vice versa, to be honest. Apart from highly practical chapters on topics like giving feedback, grouping students or testing and evaluation, there will be ones which will give you insight into linguistics, methods and approaches, and ways of describing both teachers and learners. ‘The Practice of English Language Teaching’ might be a bit more challenging reading if you are just starting your teaching career, but it is worth a try.

3. The ‘How to’ series

Well, mentioning so many books under one heading looks like cheating, or does it? The reason is, it is simply impossible to choose just one here. ‘How to Teach English’, ‘How to Teach Vocabulary’, ‘How to Teach Grammar’, ‘How to Teach Speaking’ — the choice is all yours. These books are written by experienced teachers and, hence, contain lots of practical tips. There are also ready-made photocopiable activities which you can print out or share during an online lesson.

4. ‘100 Teaching Tips’ by Penny Ur

An experienced teacher might smile when they see some pieces of advice from this book. ‘Learn students’ names’. ‘Make the lesson interesting’ ‘Keep explanations short’. Good old basics, you will say. However, I would have been happy if someone had recommended this book to me when I was starting my teaching career. The one-page pieces of advice are concise, yet informative. The book provides a set of hands-on tips on 18 different aspects of teaching, such as teacher talk, using a coursebook, giving and checking homework, discipline, games, testing and assessment etc. Ms Ur says that she has written it as a collection of experience-based insights which might prevent other teachers from ‘re-inventing the wheel’. This book may well surprise you irrespective of your teaching experience. Some tips like ‘Get students to learn by heart’ or ‘Use mother tongue to explain’ can be an eye-opener. Read a more detailed review here.

5. ‘Discussions and More’ by Penny Ur

Another and a more practical one by Penny Ur. Sometimes it might be difficult for a novice teacher to choose proper speaking activities for a lesson and to understand how to run them properly. ‘Discussions and More’ focuses on speaking activities for different levels. Most of them can be used while teaching both online and offline. They are supplemented with photocopiable pages and practical tips on classroom management. For a more detailed review with some examples of activities take a look here

6. ‘Practical English Usage’ by Michael Swan

This book is not exactly what we call compelling reading. However, this is a great reference book on language problems in English for teachers and higher-level learners. It will definitely help you answer tricky questions and even clarify something for yourself. How come we can use ‘will’ after ‘if’?! What is the difference between ‘big, large and great’? Is there a mistake in ‘You are getting married, are you?’ and why not?! You will find all the answers in ‘Practical English Usage’. Most of the book is about grammar, but it also covers selected points of vocabulary, idioms, style, pronunciation, and spelling. Extremely helpful, especially if you are starting off with Upper-Intermediate and above. 

7. ‘Concept Questions and Time Lines’ by Graham Workman

This book contains just about 100 pages with photocopiable timelines, ready-made concept questions, and materials covering most areas of grammar. It will be of great help for every novice teacher who doesn’t feel very confident about their knowledge of English grammar and their ability to explain it to students yet. You will not find any wordy grammar explanations here as ‘Concept Questions and Timelines’ focuses on the simple timelines and CCQs to help both the teacher and their students understand how English is organised.

8. ‘Classroom Management Techniques’ by Jim Scrivener

Even when we are confident about our knowledge of English, classroom management is another important factor that contributes to a successful lesson. ‘Classroom Management Techniques’ analyses learning process from three perspectives: the classroom, the teacher and the learners. It gives a wide range of practical tips aimed to help teachers make the most of their teaching space and get students working in more focused ways. It helps teachers anticipate and avoid problems in the classroom and deals with critical teaching issues such as mixed level classes, difficult physical conditions and discipline. Great book for both newly-qualified and experienced teachers.

9. ‘ELT Playbook’ by Sandy Millin

This is a book by a CELTA tutor and a blogger, Sandy Millin, who has planned it as a guide to novice teachers to help them reflect on their teaching practices. ‘ELT Playbook’ is divided into six sections, each containing five tasks to encourage teachers to think about a number of issues. The topics include teaching language skills, setting up activities, boardwork, the ways language is examined and many more. There is even a chapter devoted to teacher’s health and well-being, can you imagine? There, you will read about fixed and growth mindset, fuelling up and strength spotting. The author says, this book will be of great use for ‘teachers fresh off their initial training who would like to build on what they’ve learnt and those who have not yet completed an initial training course and would like something to start them off’.

10. ‘Teaching Online’ by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield

Probably, a couple of years ago this book wouldn’t hade made it into such a list. After 2020, though, everybody needs some guidance on teaching online, right? This book was published in 2010 and it won’t tell you about Zoom breakout rooms or Miro board. However, ‘Teaching Online’ has advice about teaching all skills and systems digitally. A great set of activities is included, check it out!

Which book would you recommend to someone who is just starting their career in teaching?

Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.

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