ESL Life

I loved teaching English (ESL). Some places where you work can be trying, but I loved teaching English. I loved learning new things, being challenged in my job, and meeting new people and in turn learning from them too. Every week I learned something, whether it be about my students, language, or a new way or seeing something; it was great.

Scrivener and Harmer

These two men are some of the go-to-people in ESL. Their books, Learning Teaching and The Practice of English Language Teaching, are two that I’ve seen most often on ELT and TESL training programs. And for good reason too. Both of them give you the basics and a nice starting point for your ESL career. They won’t give you everything you need to know, and no book can, but they help get you on your way so you can continue your own learning and evolving.

While both books provide an overview in how to teach, and plenty of situations and examples Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching contains tasks to complete so you can think of the theory with ‘a hands on idea’ and get you into reflective practice. Jeremy Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching delves into more theory and methodology. Individually these are great books; together they are perfect for getting you started in your career.
They are often unavailable through Chapters and Indigo, so you may have to visit the publishers websites or

I’m all for professional development. No matter how long you’ve been teaching or how great of a teacher you are, you can always learn something new. A worst case scenario is that you help colleagues improve themselves as well; and I don’t think that a bad thing really. A quote from Professional Development for Language Teachers by Jack C. Richards and Thomas S.C. Farrell made by B. Gottesman summarizes it perfectly “A teacher who is willing to try to improve his or her teaching is not admitting weakness, but rather is simply trying to find better ways to teach his or her students”. 

I came across this book quite a while ago and thought it was quite interesting. The book gives you strategies or ideas to think about in becoming a better teacher. Chapters include: conducting and participating in workshops, self-monitoring your lessons, taking part in teacher support groups, keeping a teaching journal, taking part in peer observation, teaching portfolios, analyzing critical incidents, doing case analysis, taking part in peer coaching, team teaching, and doing action research. Each chapter has numerous vignettes of teachers going through their own development followed by some reflective questions to ask yourself. And for myself, I have tried many of these ideas throughout my career, for a variety of reasons, and there are more I’d like to try.

In teaching government employees I rarely have group classes and it can be difficult finding material suited to one student. Oxford came out with a series a few years ago suited to private classes and both my last student and I really liked them. Business one:one makes easy to choose which topics we wanted and could elaborate on areas that needed improvement. There are even additional reading and listening tasks at the back. The three levels (pre-intermediate, intermediate + and advanced) enable your students to learn business English at a pace and level suitable to them. Another perk with this series is the listenings have different accents – no more only British or only American accents.

Penny Ur
There are a bunch of books out there that seem to act as a lifesaver in times of need and at other times, an educational tool in building a teacher’s resources. The group I’m referring to were written by Penny Ur and while her name may not be familiar to everyone, her books seem to be widely used. As a teacher, I discovered her books Grammar Practice Activities and Five Minute Activities in my first year of teaching and I still refer to it for an activity, to start up a lesson, introduce something/a grammar point, and practice something specific (language or grammar). Some of my ‘go-to’ activities have also come from these two books. As a coordinator, I’ve seen teachers use them time and time again, especially once they’ve discovered how useful they are.

Rez Packs
Also formally known as Resource Packs, publishers and textbook writers put these together to accompany a textbook series. They are full of activities that usually go with a certain textbook unit, but often they can be used on their own and they are always photocopiable. These activities have made their way into my lessons in one form or another throughout the years – a jumping off point for a lesson; creating a lesson around an idea; used for reinforcing a grammar point or practicing a language function; or a lesson itself for conversation, discussion, or debate. Sometimes you have to buy the textbook pack (student’s book, teacher’s book, CD) and get the rez pack free. Sometimes you can buy it on its own, and sometimes the publisher’s put them on their website either to download or sent to you in a e-newsletter.

Every teacher has their favourite grammar book(s) and I’m no different. I know many teachers (in North America) love Betty Azar; however, I can’t stand them (no offense Betty). My favourites are Raymond Murphy’s Essential Grammar in Use and EnglishGrammar in Use (The Advanced Grammar in Use is good too although it isn’t written by Murphy) and John Eastwood’s Oxford Practice Grammar. I like these because the explanations are simple and straightforward. There isn’t any fluffy or confusing language or explanations like in some other grammar books. I also like the layout: explanations and examples on one page and practice exercises on the following facing page. Another thing I like about these books is that the “grammar” can be looked at and then you can ‘move on’. Some grammar books have long chapters on their grammar points and that could take all day or a whole lesson, and really, grammar is more than just written exercises. Newer editions are available and the Eastwood’s has been rereleased for different levels; however, still flip through them. Some editions of Murphy’s English Grammar have the present perfect simple meaning the exact same thing as the past simple in every situation (Defininately not!!!).

One of my most used books is Have Your Say!. It is worn, tattered, dog-eared, and stained. I’m surprised the binding is still intact. Each unit is loosely based on a theme and includes functions like making requests and stating opinions. There are exercises to learn and practice the thematic vocabulary and exressions as well as charts to assist in learning and practicing the language focus (grammar, expressions or functions). The tasks are also very adaptable – from one-to-one, pairs, and groups, to expanding/contracting, plus drawing in free discussion.

Throughout the years, my students have enjoyed working from HYS. The majority of the themes are interesting and practical. They’ve liked the chart format of the target language and the practice outside a grammar setting. I wouldn’t use this bod to present the target language for the first time, instead it is great for review, practice, or reinforcement. Although the book is set for an Intermediate level discussion with higher levels can become quite interesting and entertaining and beginner students may enjoy talking about something different.

I cannot say how much I love Communication Games and its activities. This compilation by Jill Hadfield is worth picking up. If you have large-ish classes, they’ll be great with your students. I only wish there were more available for small pairs or adaptable for private classes. Each book is set for a certain level and each activity has certain language and functions to practice. Even if you’re doing a specific theme, you could probably find an activity to fit. The activities are interesting, practical and aren’t of the childish variety so adult students will enjoy participating.

Business Textbooks
Some students want additional learning so they can use English in  business-type settings, while others need it for their work and their whole program is based around business.

I’ve already mentioned one:one, which I’ve used and liked. Technically, one unit is 1 hour of class time, but exercises can easily be lengthened, shortened or altered for another skill. The listenings also have a variety of accents.

Another series is Market Leader, popular with international business programs. More levels have been added to this series following the need for business English at lower levels of ability. The themes are realistic as are the listenings, and the exercises can also be altered to your student’s needs. My only complaint is that the series can be quite heavy with British English as times. One can provide the N. Am translation, but it can get a little annoying especially with technical language/vocabulary. The series can be challenging and quite a bit higher than your student’s capabilities so your student would need to be very comfortable communicating in English at the specific level of the text ( a very strong Intermediate level for the intermediate textbook). Lastly, in a one-on-one the material can be a little dry, but with pairs and groups the tasks and activities can come alive.

Head for Business is another series that is also based on themes and this one contains more N. Am English. Compared to Market Leader, the set level is lower so if your student really wants to study business English, then this may be an appropriate series. Every unit has particular points for each skills, grammar to cover, and the target language and it is easy to adapt the units to your lesson in picking and choosing which tasks to cover and in what order. On one hand the tasks can seem a little short and sometimes simple, but this can be nice as they can, instead, be used for review or expaned upon as you like. The result is that the student can obtain some business language which they can use as a jumping off point.

Focus on Grammar
This is a grammar textbook series where each unit has a set grammar point and exercises to complete. The exercises range from gap-fill, to sentence creation, to writing and speaking tasks. Each unit begins with the particular grammar point in a text (or listening if you have the CDs) followed by explanations and examples, then the exercises. There are a few things I like about Focus on Grammar: Its layout of presentation and practice; It takes grammar in small tangible pieces allowing students to absorb, master, then integrate expanded information at a later time; Students see the introduction/review occurring when they encounter new uses for the language in later units; Lastly, it gives students who want grammar the sense that they are getting grammar lessons. However, I found myself limited to using this book with lessons that were full contracts so we didn’t spend the whole hour lesson on one grammar unit. I prefer using this series with groups as they have more interaction and practice with someone other than me. (Note: The older versions were labelled by level, ie Beginner, but now numbers, 1-5, have replaced that in the new revised versions)

Extra, Extra!!
The series of photocopiable material from CUP entitled Reading Extra! Speaking Extra! Writing Extra! and Listening Extra! are based on ‘the skills’ and I’m pleased with the three I used. Each book is divided into themes so you can choose activities that are appropriate for your lesson and they are further divided into three activities based on ability (elementary, intermediate, and upper-intermediate). I also found that most of the activities were adaptable for private lessons.

The books contain practical themes such as family, travel and tourism, describing people and things, work, and money. The map in the front further describes the topic, type of focus, kind of skill focus, and the amount of time needed for the activity. Having the options of the three levels for each theme no longer have one saying ‘Oh too bad it’s too high/low for my students’. 

Planning Lessons & Courses
While the title may appear to be for a newbie, this book can also benefit the ‘oldie’. I firmly believe that there is always something to learn. In my experience, the teachers who thought they knew it all actually didn’t.
Like the title, Tessa Woodward delves into ‘planning’ and everything that’s involves taking us away from those basic charts that admin wants teachers to fill out. Every teacher wants to plan and have good (even great) lessons and in doing this planning can sometimes take over. Everyone knows at least one person who has stayed up all night planning a lesson.

Woodward strives to remove some of the pressure and help one plan better. She takes us through our own ideas, fears, beliefs, and assumptions, then delving into who our students are. The remaining chapters explore lessons, planning, what to put into a lesson, what to teach with, varying activities, the actual preparation of a plan, other factors such as the type of class and available resources plus our own strengths and weaknesses.

This would be an invaluable book to not just a teacher, but also school managers. It’s a reminder to managers what teacher’s go through when planning and possibly some workshop ideas to help teachers out.

How to Teach…
If you’re new to teaching or know someone who is, Jeremy Harmer’s ‘How to’ series can help one start off. They include titles such as English, writing, grammar, speaking, and business English. They are a great jumping off point so one doesn’t begin their career as ‘the boring teacher’ because who wants to be that guy, right? Even if you’ve been teaching for a while, these books may have a few new ideas to enlighten you.

Resource Books for Teachers
OUP publishes this series for teachers and they include a wide range of topics and ideas from conversation to letters, from beginners to ESP; 23 titles at last count. They all have their purpose and use, whether it be to add something to a lesson, assist in thinking outside the box, or come to your rescue when you need it most. I have collected 8 over the years (Global Issues, Beginners, Classroom Dynamics, ESP, Conversation, Project Work, Grammar Dictation, and Letters) and without going into too much detail, I’ll say they are worth having and using. When I managed a summer program I was lucky enough to purchase some books and many from Resource Books for Teachers made their way onto our shelves and were happily used and enjoyed.

Feeling Tired?
Recipes for Tired Teachers seems more well know and available overseas than where I currently am and it took me years to track down a used copy. This compilation contains activities to reinforce or build language skills and they are very adaptable to the lesson/ideas you have. There are skills like writing and speaking, working on creative thinking or group dynamics, vocabulary, role playing, and fun stuff. While I’ve mainly used speaking-based activities, I’ve been please at how they were used/adapted and turned out in my lessons.

For the Love of Reading
Reading Games, also written by Jill Hadfield, makes reading enjoyable. Like Communication Games, each activity has a level (Int-Adv) and language to practice; functions, structures and lexical areas. There are also notes on potential problem vocabulary, how to use the activity, and ideas for follow-up. While these activities can be used as lessons on their own, they can also be incorporated into a theme. In the past, my students enjoyed the reading activities and had no idea they were working on their reading skills.

Thinking Outside the Box
Humanising Your Coursebook by Mario Rinvolucri: Brings new life to the activities in your coursebook by changing them up
The Resourceful English Teacher by Jon Chandler & Mark Stone: Bringing new ideas and ways of doing to some of the things you like doing
Unlocking Self-Expression through NLP by Jusith Baker & Mario Rinvolucri: While you don’t need to be an expert on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, you can still utilize the concept in creating activities to help your students express themselves in English.

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching gives an overview of traditional ways of teaching, why they aren’t effective, and different approaches and why they work. Richards and Rodgers outline the more modern methods and suggest trying specific ones with other approaches. There are some good ideas to broaden one’s thinking and take the initiative to further research the methods of interest. The authors dedicate a chapter related to theory; the design relating to objectives, syllabus, activities, roles of the learners and teachers, materials, and procedure. Further reading is also listed in a mini-bibliography.

Knowing It All
Michael Swan’s Practical EnglishUsage (the full 10 lb version) can be viewed as a lifesaver to some and a necessity to others. Here you’ll find the explanations/answers to those tricky parts of English that either had you confused or scratching your head. This is not material for the language learner, in my opinion, as it’s written for those who are native speakers/absolute fluent (but nobody’s perfect). However, if a student is determined to pick up a copy (and some of mine have), I stress that Practical English usage is to be used as a reference only; to check/clarify something as opposed to learning about something from scratch. I’m partial to how this book is laid out – the list of entries is numbered and luck would have it that the same number usually also refers to the page number. But the index is usually where I start because ‘the target’ is easy to find in one spot and where to find it for the meaning I’m looking for.

Asking a teacher to name their favourite coursebook is akin to asking someone their favourite number – everyone’s is different. Throughout the years I’ve taught from so many, and some were much better than others. Normally my favourites are those I can refer to time and time again, are easily adaptable, and can hold the interest of those using it.

Headway (Oxford)is usually tops with people because they are fabulous. The units span a variety of (usually) interesting topics from around the globe. There is related grammar, fairly interesting readings & listenings, and the practice exercises are a jumping off point. The series is also an easy tool to adapt. Inside Out and Cutting Edge are very similar. (Note: The British & American Headways differ a bit so one may be better than the other)
North Star (Pearson), while I groan a bit, is a pretty good textbook series. It was designed so a teacher can go through from the first page, to the next, then the next with relatively little planning while giving the student the complete experience. I like that it pushes the student toward critical thinking, individuality, and some of the units can be quite interesting. Unfortunately, some of the units can be so boring (they ruined Kaftka for me making me cringe whenever I hear the name). The books can also be very restrictive regarding adaptability. Good luck taking tasks out or trying to put something in; can greatly disrupt the flow. The series is also divided in two with reading and writing in one book and speaking and listening in another; that can be both good and bad.
Spectrum (Prentice Hall Regents) can be hit and miss. Some of the levels seem really great while some seem really dull and drab, including the lack of colour in some. Each unit contains specific functions for practice along with reading, speaking and some exercises. Some pieces seem forced and awkward (Would you ask a store clerk their life story?). To keep one’s sanity, adapting is encouraged.
I have to mention Ventures (Cambridge) because every time I happen to open it thinking I’ll find something in it to use, I end up shaking my head instead. I’m sure CUP had their best intentions in mind, but it fell a little flat. Even though they worked with an ESL body from Toronto and put in lots of information about Toronto (because we all know that every ESL learner, like every Canadian, centres their universe around Toronto) every unit lacks flow and beneficial practice. The font and pictures seem better suited to a preteen learner because in my opinion, they appear childish for adult learners.

Grammar Fun
Grammar Games & Activities (1&2) has been around for many years and encountered updates for the times and type of English (British or American) and there’s a reason for it. I’ve worked with teachers who have used activities from Grammar Games time and time again, and I’m included in that group. Activities are grouped by level and the contents quickly tells you the time needed, the grammar/topic focus, and the type of activity (pair/group/etc). The teacher’s notes provides more  information on the language focus and how the activity works. Although the writers have their vision for the activity, many activities are flexible enough for a teacher’s idea. Plus they could be used for another level ( a warmer or extended task). And coincidentally, some of these activities have found their way into my bag of tricks.

Mario Rinvolucri is one of those names synonymous with ESL. If you don’t recognize it, you more than likely know his Grammar Games and More Grammar Games. Like Penny Ur’s Grammar Practice Activities, if you need something to practice a certain grammar point, you’ll find it here. Another bonus is every level is represented within its pages.

Beginners can be tough, especially if you’re used to higher levels. They can also come in a wide range – knowing absolutely nothing; having studied English before, but can’t use it; then those who can communicate something, but are very limited. There are materials that can help you feel more comfortable, some mentioned above, and there are  more.
A Conversation Book 1 contains lessons about numbers, clothing, everyday life, routines, holidays, weather, food, homes, shopping, community, work, and health. Each lesson is two pages, contains a coloured picture, target vocabulary, and some kind of task/activity, and some lessons have more than others.

Word by Word is a picture dictionary that can also be brought to higher levels. The coloured pictures are detailed and there are a few restricted activities. Oxford Picture Dictionary is another.

High Five!!
Slang, idioms, phrasal verbs – those things that come up in language, can be hard to teach, and may even change by the time your students get the hang of them. There are many books out there to help you out, some are great while some are not. Two that I’ve used and liked are Essential Idioms in English which has some practice activities to go along with the language and The Slangman series. 

The Slangman series presents the language with pictures then follows it with some exercises. These easily lend itself to pair and group work and are adaptable. Sometimes there will be a word/expression that just isn’t used anymore so the students either scratch it out or I’ll give them some others to replace it with (and these will come up in their answers so it’s great to see them using something you just gave them 10 secs before). There is also a business version which can lead into language that is appropriate or not and with whom.

Many years ago the school I was working for changed the curriculum and I was presented with 15 mins more of lessons each day. After some thought I brought pronunciation work into my/our routine and we fell in love with Clear Speech

Gilbert breaks the book down into chapters that concentrate on different sounds, like stops, rhythm, sibilants, voicing, and emphasis. Each chapter contains lots of practice either comparing sounds or putting together sentences/phrases. For me, pronunciation needs to be somewhat energetic or exciting to do it and so that’s what I did with my students. I didn’t follow it from one exercise to the next. There was repetition and drilling, but it was fast and fun. We went in circles around the room for one exercise, then across the table for the next. Sometimes the students had time to work through the language by themselves to work through something tough or a poem that needed some extra concentration. With my students, they liked the routine of working on something they knew they really needed and it wasn’t for a long period of time, and it was made fun. We were noisy, we laughed, and their confidence grew a bit more. (Clear Speech is available, I believe, in three levels. The middle one is good for low-high intermediate students. Instead of buying the CD, the teacher can model the language.)
Focus on Pronunciation is another pronunciation series (of three books) that concentrates on the phonetic sounds, stress, rhythm, etc. I haven’t worked with this series as much, but did during a few weeks of supplying another teacher’s class and it’s interesting. Phonetics are not my strong suit (and maybe this book would help improve that) so that’s the only reason for me not using it more. There are some diagrams to help show how some sounds are made, especially ‘the tricky ones’, spelling combinations, and some listening and speaking practice.

Organizing Yourself
Just because I’m crazy organized doesn’t mean every teacher has to be, and every teacher can have their own system that works for them. And that’s key – what works for you. Listed are some suggestions and you may even want to take them one step further.

Grammar Activities: You come across activities that are great for practicing grammar points. Whether it’s for introducing, practice, reinforcement, or review, they are great activities and ones you tend to refer back to time and time again. I divided mine into grammar points and as I’ve come across new great activities I make a copy for myself and pop them into the binder. Some grammar points have more activities than others and as the years have passed, one binder turned into two, then three.

The Skills (reading, listening, reading & writing): For activities based on a skill, like speaking for example, they can be put into a binder/folder/section for later use. Instead of flipping through books looking for something, I’ll check out my binder first. Sometimes it’s for that ‘last 10 mins of class’ or a short activity to get students into ‘English mode’ at the start of class, or something to fit a specific theme or topic, or merely something to do for the ‘conversation class’. These activities have come from everywhere, wherever and anywhere. If I see something I like and it works in class (aka the students like it and it’s beneficial to language learning), into the binder it goes. I’ve also done this for music and video. You know, those songs and videos (tv/film/Youtube, etc) that you tend to come back to because you and your students over the years love them. It’s better than trying to remember the comprehension questions or discussion points six months later.


Awesome Lessons: These are lessons you or your colleagues think are great – they are the perfect lesson. The students learned so much and really enjoyed this particular experience. These lessons are great for the day you’re totally exhausted and can’t even put your mind to planning a lesson for the following day. They are also ‘fun’ just for something different. For those times you can leave the book/curriculum or just want something totally different and your students are up for it. Another nice thing about these great lessons is that they can be in any form – a created lesson from beginning to end; a lesson based on something from a textbook, article, or activity; or a lesson found online.

A Mish-Mash: Sometimes there are activities you find that are fun, interesting or have a je ne sais quoi about them. They are great to have, you like them and so do your students, but they don’t really fit anywhere. Put them into a binder so you have them, and if they get resorted, great. If not, that’s ok. This mish-mash of activities can be anything. Mine has debate topics, trivia game questions, discussion questions, and probably even some grammar activities too.

And don’t get me wrong, being organized is great, but it can have its flaws and hiccups. Some of my activities are in multiple binders and that’s ok because it may be great for the 2nd conditional, a speaking topic, and may also come from one of my Rez Packs.

Having a bag of tricks
Every teacher needs one, and if they don’t think they have one, they may without realizing it. In the beginning mine was a binder, but eventually it morphed into a box. Sadly that got left behind at a crummy school I worked for and had to start all over. I used a big plastic folder bag (that’s the best way to describe this thing) which actually made it easier to travel around the city with.
This bag contains lots and lots of plastic baggies with activities and exercises. These are great for whatever and everything. Have five minutes left of class? Whip something out. A group finished the task quicker than others? Give them a quick activity to do. Need those cards to practice/reinforce the present perfect simple? Pull them out.
These are things you know like the back of your hand. You no longer need the instruction sheet. When planning your lesson, you know the cards you need are in the bag, copied (& coloured), cut out and ready to go.
The original is probably also in another binder (or a few). Perfect for those times when you’re flipping through your binders, you lost your cards/bag, or your students decided to fold/crumple the papers up not knowing you wanted them back.

Photocopiable Material
Quite a number of the books found on my shelf are photocopiable, meaning you can legally copy the activities to use in class. Many more activities in my assorted binders are from other photocopiable books found on the shelves of the schools I’ve worked in over the years. These books and activities can be magical taking your lesson to ‘awesome’. Levels and topics vary widely; some for the advanced business student and others for beginners learning furniture vocabulary. If/When you come across photocopiable resources, whether at a bookstore or conference, take some time to flip through it. They are a little bit pricier, but if it’s the right one, it’s so worth it.

Some more titles are:
Grammar Activities by Will Forsyth & Sue Lavender (Macmillan Heinemann)
Ready-Made English by Kurt Scheibner (Heinemann)
Vocabulary Games by Peter Watcyn-Jones (Penguin)
Fun Class Activities by Peter Watcyn-Jones (Penguin)
Elementary/Intermediate Vocabulary Games by Jill Hadfield (Longman)
Timesaver Vocabulary Activities by Julie Woodward (Scholastic)
Timesaver Phrasal Verbs & Idioms Activities by Peter Dainty (Scholastic)
Timesaver Grammar Activities by Mary Glasgow (Scholastic)
English Puzzles by Doug Case (Heinemann)
Word Games with English by Deirdre Howard-Williams & Cynthia Herd (Heinemann)
Instant Lessons (1&2) by Deidre Howard-Williams, Mary Tomalin, Peter Watcyn-Jones, Edward Woods; (3&4) by Mary Tomalin (Penguin)

Pulling Your Hair Out
Ironically, one of the things that irks me most in ESL is trying to find useful and good resources, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve created this list of mine here. There’s something about many North American materials that lack that ‘omph’ and I can’t pin down why. One of the reasons it gets to me is because it is often the publishers who decide in which market the material appears. Most publishers are on both sides of the pond, yet much of what they offer is different. If you fall in love with a book, you think ‘Great I’ll order it when I return home’ only to discover upon returning home that it is either unavailable/out of print or the North American websites don’t even list/carry it.

Luckily, I have a friend who has let me use her UK address and she’ll mail it to me, but that can become inconvenient for both her and me. Sadly, what I began to do was bring home books whenever I was overseas. This can be a pain, mainly because it can weigh you down while travelling around. It will also increase the weight of your bags at the airport so be prepared to pay a surcharge. Shipping them home may also be an option, depending on what you’re willing to pay. In England there are reduced/adjusted rates for mailing books.

Now, if you’re like me, you can go a little crazy so I suggest taking a step back and deciding which ones you’ll take and any limitations (budget, size of book, etc). It may sound and look a little silly. And yes, I was the blonde in Blackwell’s (Oxford) with books neatly laid out on the floor deep in thought.

If you happen to be overseas, here are some great titles to check out:
Headstarts by Natalie Hess (Longman)
Alternatives by Richard & Marjorie Boudains (Pilgrims Longmand Resource Books)
Creative Questions by Natalie Hess & Laurel Pollard (Pilgrims Longmand Resource Books)
The Recipe Book by Seth Lindstromberg (Pilgrims Longmand Resource Books)
Lessons from the Learner by Sheelagh Deller (Pilgrims Longmand Resource Books)
The confidence Book by Paul Davis & Mario Rinvolucri (Pilgrims Longmand Resource Books)

Vocabulary to Use
Vocabulary books can be hard to find. There may be a page here and there you can use, but not much else. There are thematic books for nursing, hotel management, etc, but for general English or business there isn’t much. English Vocabulary in Use (CUP)is vocabulary for anything in English – topics for travel, home, dating, anything. Each section has one page for the vocabulary then a page for written practice. It is then up to the teacher to take that vocabulary into further practice. The series also has a variety of levels, from beginner to advance. 

For general business there is Business Vocabulary in Use (CUP), which is now also available in a variety of levels. In working with the business books I would often have my students choose the units to cover taking in their interest, then I’d add others for their needs or to work with other units.

All about communicating
At times I have had low level students and there isn’t much work related and business language going on. We do some building and while in the end they may not be able to go in depth and technical about work, they can take part in conversations, so some summarizing, and have some confidence in their ability to communicate in English. Communication Spotlight (ABAX Ltd) was a helpful tool for the longest time because it was perfect for a large number of my students – maybe my most utilized book for a few years. The CD was amazing for listening practice whether for pronunciation, comprehension questions, or summarizing. This book makes it easy to choose or discard tasks. There is a large portion of the book that I didn’t use for one reason or another, but there is al an equal portion that was so beneficial to my students and their learning.

More grammar practice
There’s a book I like that can also be great for a few uses. Sometimes I have students who…
* are just starting with me and need a quick review of specific grammar points and a business context would be ideal.
* are starting to make some slip-ups and could use a refresher here and there.
* want grammar review for homework.
* need continued work on their grammar, but the other materials have been used and the business context is a big bonus.

Business Grammar and Practice by Michael Duckworth is great for helping out with all of these and it isn’t time consuming. There’s a page presenting the language followed by a few pages of practice, mostly written. I’ve normally used this book with short time slots; review the grammar and move on. It is meant for students who have studied the language before and the business context is a nice spin in refreshing the language without having to spend pages upon pages reviewing it.

Reading & Listening
You may be able to swing a discount when buying books at a TESL Conference, especially if the salesman knows you’re buying them out of your own pocket. I had come across the Just! Series and the listening and speaking books caught my eye. 

Having materials to help improve your students listening can be far and few. There are staggered levels and they seemed pretty decent. One of my students used the listening tasks during her self -study period to work on her comprehension skills and vocabulary. Some of the listenings were more interesting than others and a variety of challenge within the same book. But overall, she enjoyed them and found herself improving. The reading and writing versions didn’t really do anything for either one of us and I found they didn’t really fit my students. You can always take a peek at them and see if they may be of use to you.

If I had more time or the opportunity….
There are books on my shelf that I have picked up over the years that looked awesome and I wish I had the time to read them, or the time to put it into practice, or have the type of learners where I could do both at the same time, but…. So here are they:
* Doing task-based teaching byDave Willis & Jane Willis (Oxford Handbook for Language Teachers)
* Communication in the language classroom by Tony Lynch (Oxford Handbook for Language Teachers)
* Language activities for teenagers by Seth Lindstromberg (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
* Lessons from nothing by Bruce Marsland (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
* The standby book by Seth Lindstromberg (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
* Teaching business English by Sylvie Donna (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
* A practicum in TESOL by Graham Crookes
* Making Business Decisions by Frances Boyd (Addison-Wesley Publications)
* Meanings & Metaphors by Gillian Lazar (CUP)
* Cambridge Business English Activities by Jane Cordell (CUP)
* Business Roes 2 by John Crowther-Alwyn (CUP)
* In Business by Marjorie Rosenberg (CUP)
* Decisionmaker by David Evans (CUP)
* React Interact by Donald Byrd & Isis Clemente-Cabetas (Longman)
* Consider the Issues by Carol Numrich (Longman)
* Five-Minute Activities for Business English by Paul Emmerson & Nick Hamilton Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
* Creative Writing by Christine Frank & Mario Rinvolucri (CUP)
* Imagine That! by Jane Arnold, Herbert Puchta, & Mario Rinvolucri (CUP)
* Sound Ideas by Helen Fragiadakis & Virginia M. Maurer (Heinle & Heinle)
* Test Your… series by Peter Watcyn-Jones (Penguin)