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Teaching English to Young Learners: An Illustrated Guide for EFL Teacher Development

Anthony S. Rausch, Hirosaki University
Compass Publishing, 2007


[Marcia Fisk Ong & Vinodini Murugesan. Sachse, TX: Compass Publishing, 2007. pp. 112. ¥1,995. (Incl.: Audio CD). ISBN: 978-1-59966-096-7; Trainer’s Handbook, pp. 102. ¥1,995. ISBN: 978-1-59966-029-5.]

Teaching English to Young Learnersis both timely and useful, given the upcoming introduction of EFLinto the elementary school curriculum.The text was “created to help you develop your potential as an English-language classroom teacher” (p. 6). It attempts this through four sections (Getting Started, Learning Activities, Managing the Class, and Using Multimedia Resources) comprised of 20 modules, each with sections including vocabulary, an instructional model, grammar, listening, teaching resources and reflection, and further review through quiz problems. The instructional models are presented as classroom scenarios—15-panel picture stories with a description of the progression of the lesson and examples of lesson language. An answer key for the quizzes, a CD,and conversation transcripts are provided in the text.

The text sets out to providethe classroom EFLteacher with everything from basic class management techniques to a wide range of vocabulary and grammar, and finally the mechanics of classroom language teaching at the elementary school level. In this sense, it is a basic teacher training text, providing instruction and examples for basic teacher tasks. In addition, it is an English text for the teacher, with vocabulary presentation and grammar exercises, in order to promotethe teacher's target language proficiency, something important in the present Japanese setting.Finally, it is a training text for teaching EFL, with modules on teaching listening, grammar, pronunciation, speaking, vocabulary, reading, and writing.

Given that there are many in-service elementary school teachers now wondering how to teach EFL, as well as many university education faculties looking for materials for pre-service teacher training, this text and handbook should have wide appeal and application. From a teaching-practice standpoint, the 20 instructional models present abundant examples of the multi-step transition in classroom instruction, from attention and interest-generating activities to language demonstration, then to activities (games and chants), and finally to controlled activities for practice. The modeling and explanation included will be useful both for in-service teachers with classroom experience but lackingclassroom EFLskills, and forpre-service teacher trainees with little classroom experience, for whom the simple progression through a class period will be instructive.

However, the language instructional element of the text may be problematic. For the elementary school teacher with some degree of English proficiency, the language will likely be a handy resource. However, this language instructional approach may overwhelm the teacher with limited English proficiencyand little time for systematic study. The textbook also seems to be overly optimistic in terms of what is immediately possible in the Japanese elementary school classroom. First, the instructional models do not reflect a classroom with 30+ students and,second, the teacher utterances that are presented seem to assume greater student understanding of basic English than is true for Japan. Likewise, the ease with which students seem to get it and be able to use it seems unrealistic. It may be that this text reflects an ESL environment, rather than the EFL setting referred to in the title. The text is thus highly useful in terms of being a guide to both the mechanics of effective classroom teaching and a variety of approaches to classroom instruction and activities for EFLand also provides an inspiration to use classroom English in the instruction of EFL. Unfortunately, I fear it may not address the needs of in-service teachers in terms of language on the one hand, and sometimes oversimplifies language instruction and learning on the other.

Such concerns are,however, addressed in the Trainer’s Handbook, which is quite informative and which contextualizes the true potential of this combination. While the text may miss in addressing the immediate needs of many in-service elementary school teachers who are, or will be teaching EFLin the future, these materials provide an appropriate teaching resource for teacher training.

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