Monday, March 2, 2009

TESL/TEFL Teaching Method and Theory Books, Lesson Plan and Teaching Resource Books For New Foreign English Teachers In Korean Public Schools

The book summaries and recommendations below are from a selection of writings in an orientation program I put together.

There are probably a few new titles now in my teaching library that need to be added, but I think that the most useful titles are here. I will try to write a new post some time in the near future with a much more updated list of books . . . I've been thinking of trying to create a list of books that new teachers can buy for less than 50,00won that would cover all of their needs . . . look for that post some time in the near future.

And again, if you copy this and use it please cite the source: Jason Ryan.


Teaching Methods and Theory Books

1. How to Teach English, Jeremy Harmer

Longman, 1998

22, 000 won

Summary: #1 is almost mandatory, no, it IS mandatory reading for all new native English teachers coming to Korea. It is not a huge book, and will help any new teacher. Foreign teachers with experience teaching in their home countries will generally find the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) classroom a very different learning environment. This book will offer a lot of great ideas, techniques, and theory to help you adjust to the Korean classroom. New teachers with no teaching experience, and especially those who don’t have a TEFL or TESL certification, will be able to use this book on a daily basis.

2. The Practice of Teaching English, Third Edition. Jeremy Harmer

Longman, 2001

24, 000 won

Summary: #2 is for teachers interested in learning more TEFL and TESL theory. It is a book that will take time and energy to get through, but is one of the few teaching theory books that I’ve seen that is worth the time it took to get through. It is also extremely well organized, and the table of contents can be used for reading bits and pieces, instead of reading page 1 to the end. As a reference book for specific problems, issues, and topics in the classroom, it is a fantastic resource to have on your desk. (Chapter 9, Problem Behaviours in the classroom, for example, is a must read for all of us.)

3. Teaching English Through English, Jane Willis

Longman, 1981

20, 000 won

Summary: #3 gives a different approach to teaching English as a foreign language, when compared with Harmer’s ideas. It gives great examples of how to do board work, and how to use word charts to teach grammar points in a conversation context.

A note on TESL vs. TEFL -- when shopping for books, and looking at lesson plans on the Internet: In my own personal experience I have found that teaching books using TESL (Teach English as a SECOND Language) methodology generally not to be useful in the Korean classroom (I can imagine right now all the TESL certified instructors raising their eyebrows, and growling at me, lol). From what I understand about TESL theory and methodology, it assumes the language learner is in an everyday environment that provides access to English living conditions, and native English speakers. Korea, and Korean classrooms, do not meet this definition.

The basic and fundamental presupposition of TESL alters the methods and levels of the language in its lessons, and resource books. I have found that with almost every single TESL lesson on the Internet, or in a TESL based teaching book, that I have had to spend time simplifying the language, how it is presented, and how it is taught. TEFL (Teach English as a FOREIGN Language) assumes that the language learner will NOT have frequent access to a native English living environment, or native speakers, and in my opinion this has a noticeable impact on how the lesson plans and teaching methods are practiced in the Korean classroom.

If you agree with the opinion I’ve presented bear it in mind when shopping for teaching books. It will save you some time by avoiding the TESL books. The same also applies for Internet sites with lessons for downloading. All of this being said there is the rare exception for some TESL books, and if someone recommends a teaching manual or resource book that they have successfully used in a Korean classroom go for it.

Atlas of Korea,

Sung Ji Mun Hwa Co., Ltd. Seoul, Korea

30,000won at Young Poong Bookstore inside Jonggak Subway Station, Seoul.

This was an invaluable find when I first moved to Korea. It has maps of Korea, of the provinces in Korea, the different regions, neighbourhoods in Korea, street maps of those regions with landmarks, shopping malls, subway stations, major industrial and factory places, and the list goes on. I found that this book really helped me get a sense of where I was in Korea, and where I was within Incheon city, and Korea in general.

Lesson Plan and Teaching Resource Books

1. Oxford Basics: Simple Speaking Activities, Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield

Oxford, 1999

5, 800 won

2. OxfordBasics: Presenting New Language, Jill Hadfield and Charles Hadfield

Oxford, 1999

5, 800 won

4. OxfordBasics: Vocabulary Activities, Mary Slattery

Oxford, 2004

5, 800 won

Summary: The Oxford Basics series is excellent. It has ready to go lesson plans for 20 to 30 minute classes. It is extremely useful for elementary and middle school teachers. The basic lesson plans can be expanded and altered according to each teacher’s needs, and there are no special supplies or equipment needed to do the lessons.

5. Games For Children, Gordon Lewis and Gunther Bedson

Oxford University Press 2004

20, 000 won

6. Very Young Learners, Vanessa Reilly and Sheila M. Ward

Oxford University Press 2004

20, 000 won

Summary: Books #5 and #6 are ones that I bought at the 2006 KOTESOL Conference. Don’t miss it every year on the last weekend of October at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. #6 is really useful for elementary teachers, and low level middle school. #5 is really good for middle school teachers.

7. English for Everyday Activities: A Picture Process Dictionary, Multi-Skills Activity Book, Lawrence J. Zwier

Compass Publishing, 2003

8,000 won

Summary: #7 is good for when you want a handout that is ready made. Just cut off the bottom listening exercise for use with CD if you don’t intend to do a listening component in the lesson. This book is appropriate for middle school level only (and maybe advanced level elementary students).

8. Language Teaching Games and Contests, WR Lee

Oxford, 1979

18,000 won

Summary: #8 is a great resource book for when you can’t think of a game for a language target, and also a great resource for learning new games and activities.

9. Everyday Survival English, Karl Nordvall.

2005 Compass Publishing

Summary: #9 is an excellent book that is a lesson and handout combined on one page. Some teachers might want to make a brief outline of how they will teach the single page, but others may not feel it is necessary. This book is good for middle school students, especially when a co-teacher is not present, or for extra conversation classes. It is also good for Non-English Korean teacher classes, and if you have one, Community Korean Adult classes. I also used it for my extra 1st level and 2nd level mixed class at my high school (as you teach the material you can add relevant words, expressions, etc that are not on the page). This book is good for giving new English teachers a sense of how much vocabulary to put into a lesson, and how much material can be covered in one class. The only thing missing is a game or activity for middle school level students;--this can be added by the teacher.

10. 700 Classroom Activities, David Seymour & Maria Popova

Macmillan, 2005.

Summary: #10 is a fantastic resource for ideas on activities and exercises for different lessons. It is divided into four categories: Conversations, Functions, Grammar, and Vocabulary. Some of the activities/exercises are suitable for middle school students, and can be modified by the teacher to suit the level and interests of the students. This book can be used for high school students, Korean English teacher trainees, and intermediate level (or higher) community adult English classes.


Brian said...

Right now I'm reading "Rookie Teaching for Dummies." It's set up for teachers in public schools in the US (or Canada I guess), but I'm finding it very valuable even though the particulars don't necessarily apply. I don't know if I could relate to it had I note spent a couple years in Korean public schools. Reading about last-minute changes, office politics, bogus demonstration classes, and the challenges of classroom management, and understanding that these things happen to all teachers---not just me or to downtrodden K-EFLers---is reassuring. It also adds some perspective that not everything that goes wrong at work here is a cultural difference, or can be attributed to wacky Korean bosses or coteachers, but that it's all a part of the crazy, mixed-up world of teaching for a living.

Jason said...

I think that I'd like to read that book, add it to my library.

Without having read it, though, my initial reaction is one of mild incredulity that the Korean experience can be compared to that of a North American public school teacher.

Some fundamental differences being your principal doesn't own your ass 24/7. Nobody co-teaches to my knowledge, or if they do they're such a small minority of the teaching population as to be negligible. Add to the mix of co-teaching the negotiations of power dynamics and cross-cultural issues/clashes that take place . . . The testing system is not even comparable in any way whatsoever so the teaching methods, while they share some core traits and concepts, are not likely to be the same . . .

Office politics, again, I'd say that while extremely general things like kissing ass, hiding when you're angry with a coworker or superior, and those sorts of things are similar, the process and consequences I think are very different.

I agree that not everything here can be attributed to cultural differences, and is often more about training systems and the poor quality, lack of well planned policies and programs, and personality and individual talents and abilities ranging from piss poor to awesome--yeah, all of those things come into play, so I'd be curious to see how the book prepares rookie teachers to deal with those things, and what strategies and mindsets it proposes . . .

I still wonder, though, how much 'translates' across the cultural divide . . .

Anonymous said...

What saved my rear in the hagwon system more than any book was that I brought along some excellent "bingo" games when I first came over.

Stages makes a great set of bingo games. The kids seem to enjoy "Fun Foods" and "Animals" the best, but "Everyday Objects" is the important beginner game. You can find them online at

John from Daejeon.

P.S. Thanks for all this great information. It must have taken you a bit of time to gather it all together. I wish I would have had it three years ago. However, it might have scared me too much then. Now, it's the won's value that's probably frightening off potential E2s.


Jason said...

Hi John,

I think I'm going to do a post where I put up what I think are the best books and resources people can have for less than 50,000won (and maybe do a list for 100,000won) as most people when they first get here probably can spend that much and not be too worried about money until they get their first pay . . .

Bingo is good--most new teachers can handle that one, lol.

I put in the orientation writings four of my own original lesson plans and an icebreaker so that newbies would have their first month of classes covered and the pressure would be off of them so that they could adjust, do some planning of their own, buy a few books and resources, and then in month two once the school culture shock had worn off a bit they'd be better able to start doing their own thing.

I'll try to post that stuff later today as it's likely what many newbies are needing it this week.

Thanks for saying the info is good stuff, and for putting up that website.

Talk to you later,

Kristen said...

I'm really happy you've posted this as I've been researching for new books that may assist me in the classroom. The only question I have is where did you find these books at those prices? I'm nowhere near Seoul or a city large enough to be supplied with a vast array of English books so I typically shop on Most of the books you listed were at least 3 times the price. Is there another online site where I can find these books closer to those prices?

Thanks again for these last few posts. Excellent help!

Jason said...

Hi Kristen,

Please be patient, I will try within the next five days to do a post where I recommend books for elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Unfortunately, the reality is that you have two choices:

1) go to Seoul to one of three book stores: a)Jonggak Station has Bandi&Lunis and Yongpoon bookstores, they are both inside the station, or b) Kyobo Bookstore is about 2.5 blocks away from Jonggak Station and has a lot of good books too.

2) ask your Korean co-teacher to call, order, and have the bookstore ship stuff to you.

Right now I'm too busy and too tired to do a quality post with every little detail thought of in order to give you the best advice, titles, and how-to . . .

So, look for that post in the next week or so.

Thank you for reading the posts.

Take care,

Aaron said...

Hey Jason,

Did you ever get around to posting your recommended teaching books for elementary, middle, and high school ESL teachers? I was scouring the site but couldn't find the post. Give me a nudge in the right direction if you would.


Jason said...

Hi Aaron,

Sorry, not yet.

I might have time in July and August--but not before then.

It's end of semester crunch right now in university teaching . . .

It'll happen--but like all things in Korea it'll happen later than I want it to ...