3 Books for New EFL teachers


September 15, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

A couple of months ago I was involved in hiring a director of studies and thought it would be a good idea to have the following question on the pre-interview task:

  • Which three books would you recommend to a novice teacher in search of professional development? Comment briefly on each title.

Of course there were many different ideas about what a novice teacher would benefit from in terms of reading, here are a few answers I had, as they were:

(I’ll spare you the comments though)

Candidate A

  • New Interchange
  • Grammar in Use
  • Scrivener

Candidate B

  • Principles of Language Teaching – Brown
  • Aproaches and Methods – Richards & Rodgers
  • The Practice of ELT – Harmer

Candidate C

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Something by Freud
  • A good book on ‘motivation’

How about you? Which books do you think would make a difference in the life of a novice teacher?


14 thoughts on “3 Books for New EFL teachers

  1. Mirian says:

    I’d go with candidate’s B suggestions + Scott Thornbury’s “Uncovering Grammar” or “Natural Grammar” and Diane Larsen-Freeman’s “Grammar Dimmensions”.

    • A grammar book is usually advisable. Any special reasons for these titles you mentioned? Do you think a starter would understand and find applicability there?

      I like How to Teach Grammar.
      About Language also helped out some new teachers at my previous institute.

      • Mirian says:

        I’d choose Grammar Dimensions because its approach to grammar is really user friendly, plus it’s a great start (I was lucky to have it recommended by my in-service trainer when I first started). And the methodology books because they provide a comprehensive overview and update (Thornbury) on the most important findings on EFL/ESL.

  2. I like the Harmer books because of the accomanying DVD’s. They are great in themselves, of course, but the DVD’s really help. A lot of those books tend to be rather Euro-centric, great for a small language school in Bournemouth or Bath, but not necessarily realistic for other contexts. So something by a locally based author.

    A subscription to English Teaching Professional, and a lot of blogs?

    • I loathe DVD’s for demonstrating teaching practice!
      Ok, maybe I exaggerated.
      But I never found anything interesting, I mean, that would be appropriate for teaching small groups of adults in Sao Paulo, which was what I did for most of my life. I found most of the DVD’s designed for large multicultural / multilingual classrooms. So something by a local author would be nice!

      PS. In April I left two copies of ETP in the staff room. Plus, three other international ELT publications. Very few teachers bothered to read them, on the other hand, many read the local publications. It’s cultural.

  3. Alex Case says:

    New with a 4-week Cert, or new with less (online/ one week course, etc), or even nothing?

    For a complete complete beginner Harmer’s How to Teach English is more suitable than PELT, which has expanded in both length and scope over the years and I now recommend as the first stage of DELTA pre-reading. Otherwise, I’m note sure that I’d recommend books at all, or at least not until you have identified what areas they really need to work on. As Darren said, magazines and online stuff are probably more useful, as well as not overwhelming

    • New / novice was rather subjective, right?
      Hard to say though, it depends on what’s the minimum you’d accept to work for you. In my case it was ‘nothing’ in terms of teaching skills, and C1 in language proficiency. It was easier to develop teaching than language.
      I find the ‘How to…’series pretty comprehensible. But there has to be something really practical for these teachers too like, Penny Ur’s Five-minute activities and Discussions that Work

  4. I think I’d go with Thornbury – How to Teach Grammar, PELT by Harmer, and Images by Jamie Keddie. All are practical and have lots of great lesson ideas from various angles. They also open teachers up to a variety of methodologies.

    I agree with Alex an Darren though that entering the blogs or online periodicals is also incredibly useful.

  5. I’d go along with Nick: How to Teach Grammar and The Practice of ELT.

    What about something like 1000 Pictures for Teachers to Copy? I also really like Five-Minute Activities.

  6. Cláudio says:

    It was very interesting you wrote, and also a good question. In my case I’ll be as candidate B
    * Principles of Language Teaching – Brown
    * Aproaches and Methods – Richards & Rodgers
    * The Practice of ELT – Harmer

    I’ll read all of them. It will be very important to me. Thanks a lot

  7. David says:


    I hope candidate 2 got the job!

    I am also big on Hadfield’s Oxford Basic’s series. Very simple lessons which hit on all the basics for teaching in a no frills way. Too often new teachers get caught up in complex lesson plans and delivery. They need the simple ideas to drop over things/a framework. If in Asia, David Paul’s “Teaching English to Children in Asia” but also good for any YL teaching.

  8. Rustam says:

    Very Nice 🙂
    I will be your subscriber.

  9. katia shimada says:

    I would be a kind of mix , candidate B and C . Candidate C relating to Motivation . I think without it , we are not able to do anything including learning .

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