LINGUIST List 12.2586

Wed Oct 17 2001

Review: Davies & Pearse, Success in English Teaching

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <>

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  1. Luz Vasquez, Review of Davies & Pearse, Success in English Teaching

Message 1: Review of Davies & Pearse, Success in English Teaching

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 11:25:43 -0400
From: Luz Vasquez <>
Subject: Review of Davies & Pearse, Success in English Teaching

Davies, Paul M., and Eric Pearse (2000) Success in English
Teaching. Oxford University Press, paperback ISBN 0-19-442171-6,
xiv+221pp, Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers.

Luz M. Vasquez, Doctoral Program in Applied Linguistics,
Boston University

'Success in English Teaching' is a handbook specifically
aimed at teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL),
although teachers of English as Second Language (ESL) as
well as other language teachers can certainly benefit from
it. The book examines various significant aspects of
language teaching, from how and when to teach discrete
English skills to how to design syllabi, how to handle
evaluation, and how to work with an appropriate coursebook,
to how to best take into account learners' needs and
motivation. The book is divided into two main sections, the
first one focusing on the actual classroom (chapters 1
through 6), and the second examining broader aspects in
language teaching such as planning and evaluation (chapters
7 through 12). Additionally, a very practical glossary is
provided which includes comprehensible definitions of all
crucial terms used throughout the text. At the end of the
book, the authors also provide a useful list of books for
further reading, broken down into the following sections:
general background and methodology texts, texts about
teaching different language skills, testing and evaluation
texts, classroom planning and managing texts, and texts
about approaches to teaching English.

Although quite short (less than two pages), the introduction
very clearly states who the book is addressed to, its
purpose, and its contents; it also presents suggestions on
how to use the book. All chapters begin with a concise
introduction which describes what is to be addressed next.
Throughout, the authors provide insightful questions and
ideas that make the reader reflect on what is being
addressed, as well as succinct and useful teaching ideas and
examples of the various skills and teaching topics looked
at. Each chapter concludes with a very precise summary,
followed by a section referred to by the authors as
projects, which encourage readers to put into practice the
material contained in that particular chapter.

Chapter 1: A general Approach to teaching English
The first chapter introduces the section one of the book,
which focuses on techniques for developing different
language skills. In this chapter, the authors introduce
their general approach to teaching English, which describes
success in terms of learners' ability to use English in real
communication; communication should be the starting point as
well as the main goal of any English class, although short-
term goals that focus on language form can certainly be
used. Every item presented in class should be part of a
cycle that includes presentation, practice, and production,
and English should be the language used in all classes, even
at beginning levels. Here, Davies and Pearse insist that
clear goals are essential for successful English teaching
and these ought to be clear to both, teachers and learners.
The chapter includes concise suggestions for successfully
emphasizing communication in the classroom such as the use
of basic classroom routines from the start, the use of
actions, realia (real objects), gestures, paraphrasing,
translation and, most importantly, consistency. A final
piece of advice given is that within each department,
teachers ought to agree about their principles, objectives,
and methodologies.

Chapter 2: Presenting new language items
This chapter offers concrete suggestions for how to present
new vocabulary; learners need to not only memorize new words
but also be able to use them actively. According to Davies
and Pearse, learning a new item includes learning its
meaning, use in communication, pronunciation, spelling, and
grammatical form and function. The authors emphasize that
new items are not learned simply after having been presented
or practiced a few times; new words should be presented in a
context, with key models, and by checking the learner's
understanding. New vocabulary should be introduced orally,
and writing should to be presented last as a means to
clarify and consolidate oral presentation and practice.

Chapter 3: Organizing language practice
Moving forward along the language teaching/learning
continuum, here Davis and Pearse provide ideas on how to
organize language practice of vocabulary items already
introduced. According to them, practice of new items allows
for the automatic recognition, pronunciation, and use of
those new vocabulary, and context should be used as
reinforcement. In addition, the authors discuss error
correction and advocate communicative fluency where more
errors are allowed and the focus is on communication. Formal
accuracy, in contrast, implies avoiding errors. Whether
focusing on form or on function accuracy, teachers should
avoid interrupting learners' flow of communication when
correcting errors, and learners should be encouraged to
self-correct or to correct one another (peer correction)
instead of only relying on teacher-correction (see Corder,
1967 and Lyster & Ranta, 1997 for similar viewpoints).
Lastly, the authors highly recommend monitoring the students
and taking note of important errors that affect the class as
a whole.

Chapter 4: Handling vocabulary
This chapter focuses on the importance vocabulary has in
communication. Concrete ways of combining the meaning,
pronunciation, grammatical properties, and use of new
vocabulary items are presented. Vocabulary meaning can be
presented by using gestures, mime, antonyms, synonyms, and
context, while listening, repetition, and feedback are good
ways to emphasizing pronunciation. Additionally, learners
should also have knowledge about the form of new vocabulary
items --their grammatical properties. The authors further
emphasize that true acquisition of new words can only be
achieved through use, that is, by being exposed to frequent
communication, plenty of reading, and specific practice
activities such as brainstorming, guessing, labeling, and
classifying scrambled words. Finally, the use of real
objects, pictures, definitions, demonstrations, and
translation --which should be used as a last resort, are
recommended for teaching new vocabulary.

Chapter 5: Developing spoken communication skills
This chapter compares communication inside and outside the
classroom, and it advocates for making classroom
communication more like outside communication.
Characteristics of natural communication in the classroom
can be achieved by promoting spontaneous and realistic
communication, by focusing on what is being communicated,
not on how it is communicated, and by using varied
grammatical structures as well as a large vocabulary.
Additionally, English ought to be established as the main
classroom language, and teachers need to use interesting
topics and stimulating activities to get their students'
interest. Moreover, learners should be supported and
encouraged to communicate instead of focusing on form,
although in form accuracy practice teachers might choose to
focus on a particular structure. Another important
suggestion presented is that teachers take advantage of
events and changes inside and outside the classroom, so that
classroom practice resembles real communication. The lessons
should also include potentially interesting listening and
reading texts, role-plays, and simulations, so as to engage
the students in communicative practice. Furthermore,
listening, speaking, reading, and writing should be
integrated in the classroom in the same way as they are
integrated in natural settings. To reinforce speaking
skills, the authors recommend creating a relaxed classroom
atmosphere and exposing the learners to plenty of naturally
pronounced speech. Listening comprehension should be done in
three stages, pre-listening, while listening, and post-
listening exercises.

Chapter 6: Developing written communication skills
The chapter presents a contrast between spoken and written
language and offers general suggestions on how to develop
reading comprehension and writing skills. The authors
explain that written language is more grammatically complete
than spoken language; while the former relies on language
itself to communicate meaning, the latter uses gestures,
tone of voice, and context. Additionally, writing activities
allow more time for editing and correction than do speaking
activities. Similarly, in listening practice the text is
temporary, while in reading the text is permanently on the
page. Davies and Pearse present a reading comprehension
model where the reader starts out with certain expectations
and ideas about the reading based on experience, then
meaningful segments in the text are recognized and the
reader predicts what will come next. They also examine two
main types of reading, skimming (quickly looking through a
text in order to get a general idea) and scanning (looking
through a text with the purpose of finding specific
information). The chapter further promotes the use of pre-,
while-, and post-reading activities and includes examples on
how to apply such activities. It is also suggested that
teachers encourage reading outside the classroom as much as
possible as a way to expand the learners' vocabulary and to
consolidate their grammar. Writing should be seen as a means
of achieving effective communication, not just as producing
perfectly grammatical sentences. Finally, once again, Davies
and Pearse call attention to integrating all language

Chapter 7: Review and remedial work
This chapter marks the beginning of section two, where
the authors go a step beyond the teaching of specific
language skills to addressing non-methodological aspects
that are also essential in language teaching. The chapter
highlights the importance of using review and remedial work
in English classes as a way to reactivate, consolidate, and
clarify language items and structures previously presented.
It is argued that review and remedial work are necessary in
English classes because learners usually receive
insufficient practice compared to natural settings. Errors
should be seen as part of the language-learning process as
nobody learns a foreign language without making errors.
However, errors do require remedial work, that is,
activities designed to help learners overcome particular
errors, especially those involving possible fossilization.
Nonetheless, classroom activities should focus on ideas and
not on language itself so that learners can truly show their
knowledge of the language. The authors provide several
review and remedial activities and suggest that review
activities be used regularly and based on the students'
proficiency levels and needs, while remedial work should be
applied as needed. It is also suggested that teachers treat
individual and general errors differently; while group
errors should be dealt with in class, individual errors
should not.

Chapter 8: Planning and managing classes
This chapter attends to both short and long-term course
planning. While syllabus design constitutes long-term
planning, short-term planning involves weekly work plans as
well as individual lesson plans. Normally, courses are based
on a syllabus, which states the objectives of the course and
tells teachers what to teach and how to teach it. The
syllabus might be designed to provide items and activities
for up to one year, and it constitutes the starting point
for specific lesson plans, while work plans usually break
down into actual lesson plans. Both syllabi and work plans
should be based on the goals and methodological approach in
the syllabus. The authors highly advocate syllabi that allow
for constant revision and integration of skills.
Additionally, they recommend that lessons include group
work. The chapter includes a sample lesson plan and specific
techniques to promote group work. Another recommendation is
that teaching materials be based on class objectives and on
learners' needs, interests, and abilities. Furthermore, the
chapter presents several hints on class management such as
ways to get the students' attention and participation,
managing pair and groupwork, giving and checking
instructions, teachers and learners' roles in the classroom,
and handling discipline.

Chapter 9: Working with a textbook
Depending on teachers' experience and training, amount of
work, and institutional policies, teachers might use the
coursebook differently. While some teachers might use the
coursebook as the actual course, others might use it as the
syllabus and main source of materials by complementing it;
yet, others might only use it as a complementary resource.
Besides constituting the syllabus, coursebooks might include
language presentation material such as visuals, printed
models of language, and audio- and video-recorded materials.
They might also include language practice materials,
pronunciation materials, grammar summaries, supplementary
materials, review and clarification materials, and tests.
However, the authors emphasize that it is only the teacher
who can adapt activities according to the learners' needs
and interests, bring situations to life, explain and/or
demonstrate activities and tasks, organize the manner of
classroom interaction, and monitor and help learners.
Furthermore, teachers should be critical of the coursebooks
and these should mainly complement the teacher's own ideas.
Concrete ideas on how to take advantage of the various
resources provided in coursebooks, as well as hints on how
to select an appropriate coursebook, are provided. Lastly,
the authors advocate lesson planning, even when using a

Chapter 10: Teaching aids and materials
According to Davies and Pearse, it is more significant to be
able to be creative, skilled, and organized, than to have
access to very sophisticated resources. They provide simple
and clear hints on how to best make use of basic classroom
resources such as the board. In addition, they recommend the
use of wall-charts, realia, cue-cards, mime and gestures, as
well as audio-visual materials in teaching and give concrete
examples of how to make effective use of such materials.
Nonetheless, the authors highlight the importance of using
specific materials only when a clear and positive purpose
has been established, not just as a way to use up time.

Chapter 11: Testing and evaluation
This chapter highlights the relationship and differences
between teaching, testing, and evaluation. They suggest that
teaching should not become a form of continuous testing;
yet, teachers should constantly evaluate the learners'
progress as well as their own teaching. A contrast between
testing and evaluation is presented. While evaluation is a
more general notion and teachers can evaluate teaching
itself, teaching materials, the learning process, and actual
tests, tests are designed for specific purposes, and they
provide precise tasks with explicit objectives. The chapter
also describes the role of the five most commonly used test
types; placement tests, diagnostic tests, progress tests,
course tests, and proficiency tests. Furthermore, two
important concepts closely related to testing and
evaluation, namely, validity and reliability are described.
The authors suggest that good test-writers should try to
maintain a balance between validity (tasks and materials
that reflect what has been covered in class) and reliability
(unambiguous and objective tasks), and they provide samples
contrasting both types of tests. Davies and Pearse also
classify tests according to objectivity-subjectivity,
recognition-production, or language-communication scales,
and they recommend a balance between these scales so that
tests are reliable and valid.

Chapter 12: Development in teaching English
This last chapter constitutes a historical analysis of the
different approaches and techniques designed for teaching
English from the mid- nineteenth century to present day. It
describes the principles, activities, and techniques used in
each approach. While the Grammar-Translation Method, the
Direct Method, the Situational Language Teaching approach,
and the Audiolingual Method, focus on memorization and
grammar instruction, the Silent Way, Total Physical
Response, Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning, and
the Natural Approach all surface as alternative methods.
Communicative Language Learning is the approach most
commonly used nowadays, and it conceives of language as a
system of communication whose aim is to convey messages in
different contexts. The authors suggest an approach they
refer to as The Course Design Approach, whose philosophy is
that teachers should take into account the learners'
interests, learning styles, and the learners' needs before
planning their lessons. In other words, although they
advocate a communicative approach for teaching English,
their approach simply stresses the need to see the learner
as the central key of the teaching process. An important
suggestion also made is that English teachers need to keep
updated by becoming part of self-development, co-operative
development, and formal development programs. Self-
development activities include constant reflection, diary
writing, recording lessons, and reading, while co-operative
development techniques involve sharing with colleagues and
peer observation, and formal development refers to in-
service training programs, conferences, seminars, and short
courses on teaching.

'Success in English Teaching' can be very useful not
only to new English teachers, but also to experienced
EFL/ESL teachers and to teachers of other languages. It is a
basic handbook that provides teachers with guidance and
advice on how to handle key aspects in communicative
language teaching. It goes beyond the methods and contents
of ESL instruction to addressing other significant issues
such as error correction, syllabus design and lesson
planning, coursebook selection, use of teaching materials,
and finally, how and when to evaluate students' progress as
well as the teaching process itself. The book provides
useful hints and illustrations on how to put into practice
the issues at hand. The book is an excellent reference book
that all ESL/EFL teachers should have on their bookshelves,
as it offers an array of ideas concerning how to address the
various issues involved in language teaching. The book is
easy to follow and all the suggestions provided are
practical and convenient.

Nonetheless, the suggestions supplied are somewhat
general, as concrete exercises for teaching discrete aspects
of pronunciation, reading, and writing are lacking (see Ur,
1996 and Harmer, 2001 for a comparison). Additionally, the
approach emphasized throughout is communicative in essence,
highly advocating for integrating language skills such as
reading, writing, listening, and speaking. However, the
authors themselves admit that their approach is somewhat
idealistic and should therefore be adapted to specific
situations. This task would be difficult in settings where
the main goal might be pure translation or grammatical
accuracy, as in TOEFL preparation courses or courses whose
objective is to prepare students to be able to read
technical articles and books (medicine, computer sciences,
aviation, commerce, chemistry, etc.) In such settings,
'Success in English Teaching' would provide little

In sum, the book is of unquestionable benefit to new
English teachers who could use it as a starting point or as
a complement to their coursebook. As for more experienced
English teachers, the book can be a very good reminder of
the important questions to always keep in mind when
designing and planning for communicative English classes.

Corder, S.P., 1967. The significance of learners' errors.
International Review of Applied Linguistics, 5, 161-170.

Harmer, H. 2001. The practice of English language
teaching. Third Edition. Pearson Education Limited.

Lyster, R. & Ranta, L., 1997. Corrective feedback and
learner uptake: negotiation of form in communicative
classrooms. Studies in Second Language Acquisition,19, 37-66.

Ur, P., 1996. Course in language teaching. Cambridge
University Press.

I am mainly interested in the acquisition/teaching of a
second or foreign language as well as on child simultaneous
bilingual language acquisition. I have experience in
teaching ESL and EFL, and have worked on language-mixing in
simultaneous bilingual children (English/Spanish).
Currently, I am working on the development of language
parameters in bilingual children, and also on error
correction/negative evidence in ESL classrooms. I have a B.A.
in TESOL from Saint Michael's College, Vermont, and an M.A.
in Applied Linguistics from Boston University.
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