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The Modern Language Teacher's Handbook by Gill Ramage



Gill Ramage's book The Modern Language Teacher's Handbook was published in 2012. It's a concise, admirably clear summary of most of the key issues of interest to language teachers learning their trade. It would be of most relevance to teachers in the UK.

The contents are familiar for this type of book: the aims of modern language learning, lesson planning, teaching listening, speaking, reading, writing, target language use, grammar teaching, assessment and authenticity. There is also a chapter on using technology, links with native speakers, trips and exchanges and work experience.

Gill takes a very pragmatic approach to language teaching, recognising, for example, the practical limits of working in the target language and the realities of working with lower-attaining students. She hardly refers at all to theory and research, which may appeal to teachers who are wary of (or uninterested in) such things.

The main thrust of the book is practical advice and classroom ideas, the majority of which are familiar to experienced teachers. Her classroom experience comes through strongly and it is hard to disagree with almost everything she writes. I would probably quibble with her views on classroom seating; Gill seems to favour group seating and horseshoes over rows. Her preferred approach probably leans more towards group work than I would favour, but that is a matter of personal taste as well as methodology.

Young teachers will find very useful the practical advice on report writing, planning, working with language assistants, feedback and assessment. There are practical tips on differentiation too, for example how to differentiate during pair work by giving partners cards with different information on.

The book is definitely of its time, with one chapter entitled Planning outstanding modern languages lessons, as if the word outstanding were being used in its usual sense, rather than Ofsted's! However, it should age pretty well, as much of the advice is fairly timeless. Effective classroom oral techniques, which Gill deals with, will probably change little.

All in all, Gill's book is practical, not particularly detailed, but very lucid and readable, with a personal tone. Published by Continuum, it seems overpriced at £21.99, but used copies are available from Amazon.co.uk which is where I purchased my copy.

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