Tag: Book Review

English FactoidsLearning and Skills DevelopmentTopics

Book Review: 21st Century skills

About the authors

Bernie Trilling is founder and CEO of 21st Century Learning Advisors and the former global director of the Oracle Education Foundation. He has participated in different organizations which work on the development of 21st-century methodologies.

Charles Fadel founded the Center for Curriculum Redesign and has worked in a variety of educational projects around the world.

The book is written from an educational point of view, providing information on the skills and attitudes needed by teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Authors appeal to the significant changes suffered in the last years which require certain adaptations to the classroom, programs, and lessons. The book includes a DVD with examples of education programs adapted to the 21st century.

The book entails three parts. First, it describes the environment surrounding the 21st century. Second, the authors describe which would be the skills required to succeed in the 21st century, and in the last part, they focus on a proposal for learning in this age.

The 21st-century skills covered by the authors are divided into three broad groups:

  1. Learning and innovation skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and collaboration.
  2. Computer literacy skills such as digital citizenship, as well as research and the accurate use of information, media, and technological systems to achieve effective communication.
  3. Professional and life skills such as adapting to changes, developing initiative and self-direction, global and cultural awareness, and interaction, productivity, leadership, and accountability.
Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadQuick Tips

Blended Learning: Using technology in and beyond the language classroom

Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett

Macmillan Publishers Limited

Oxford, England



Blended Learning introduces teachers into the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. Though there is no doubt about the role of technology in our classrooms, it is rather a challenging task to search, combine, and take advantage of all the variety of tools and materials that one may find on the web. Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett have managed to put together a guide where they present different items of technology to be used in a language class. Their objective is to provide instructors with all the advantages of the tools, present possible problems and solutions that may come in handy, and examples of the way to enhance your classes, as they include a few model lessons plans for different levels of expertise.

If you are looking forward to introducing technology into your EFL classrooms and do not know where to get started, this book will take you by the hand on how to promote your classroom into the 21st century, engaging your students in different and diverse ways of learning.

  • It provides basic information for new technology users, though it also includes helpful websites for more advanced users too.
  • The book not only presents new technological tools, but also directions for the creation of new material.
  • It contains two appendices for beginners with detailed guidance for the use of Internet and the World Wide Web.

Check it out!





Business and ManagementMust Read

Book Review – Give and Take

41VatwrWCeL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Book Title: Give and Take
Author: Adam Grant
Year of Publication: 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books





Review by Academic Committee

Adam Grant is Professor of Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of Business. He has been recognized as Wharton’s top rated teacher for five straight years and as one of the 25 most influential management thinkers among other distinctions. His research focus includes leadership and culture, job design and meaningful work, and work motivation and success. Adam Grant holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Organizational Psychology.

His second book, Give and Take, was listed as one of the favorite books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal, as one of Financial Times’ books of the year, and as ideas that shaped management by Harvard Business Review.

Prof. Grant states that success not only depends on motivation, ability, and opportunity, but on the ability to interact with other people and nurture this network, more specifically on how much value an individual contributes and how much it claims. He discusses three types of people according to this premise: takers, givers, and matchers. Takers put their own interest ahead of others’ needs, they like to get more than they give, and they make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. On the other hand, givers like to give more than they get, and they focus more on what others’ need from them. In the middle ground, he places matchers, who try to keep a balance between what they give and what they take.

Giving and taking preferences are not about money, instead they are related to attitudes and social dynamics. In all areas, these preferences have their own benefits and drawbacks, and professionally they present highly complex interactions. Individuals with either of the three preferences are able to achieve success, but there are important differences in its degree and spread. The book emphasizes there must be a balance between these approaches, but giving allows individuals to maximize their abilities and leverage opportunities to achieve higher levels of success and well-being. Giving is both a powerful tool, but it can also be dangerous.

Dr. Grant presents unique approaches on how giving works in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing. He presents solid research and cases on how to manage each of these domains strategically to achieve greater levels of success. Furthermore, he presents possible drawbacks and problems and how to deal with them. Finally, the book explains practical actions to apply the principles presented, and it provides tools an resources for their incorporation and evaluation.


Must Read

Book Review – Unbroken

Book Title: Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Year of Publication: 2010
Publisher: Random House




Review by James Cordonero

Some of you may have already read many self-help books or some other type of literature intended to assist some souls in distress in finding the ever-elusive key to happiness. But, if you want to read a book that can give you a boost of positivism when facing seemingly unsurmountable challenges, you should get a hold of “ Unbroken”, a best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand.

In her book, Hillenbrand narrates the true-to-life story of a World War II soldier named Louis Zamperini, who was stranded in the Pacific Ocean for 46 days, survived the ordeal of a Prisoner Of War (POW) in Japanese camps, and later turned into an inspirational speaker.

Zamperini’s extraordinary story is a vivid recount of not only the horrors of war in a scenario -US combat against the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II – that is almost unknown to most of us but also of the human resilience and perseverance in the face of the greatest adversity. The toughest challenges that we could conjure up in our minds in times of peace or the ones that we are actually facing in our poverty-stricken Nicaragua would pale in comparison to those Zamperini had to overcome.

In Zamperini, who passed away at the age of 93 in 2014, Hillenbrand found “a man of complexity and wisdom” who was able to look back on his ordeal and saw the pattern of his life emerge. This is evidenced in the fact that almost as soon as Zamperini returns to the US in 1945 as a hero, he contemplates the idea of restarting his career as an athlete but soon discovers that his legs, damaged due to repeated beatings and accidents, cannot do the job. Consequently, he falls into the habit of drinking, and in a last ditch effort tries investing in various crazy schemes. Spiraling downwards, he becomes obsessed with the idea of returning to Japan and killing his former tormentor (Mitsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed “the Bird”).  In a passage of the book, Hillenbrand explores the psychology of revenge: “Louis believed that only the Bird could restore him, by suffering and dying in the grip of his hands. A once singularly hopeful man now believed that his only hope lay in murder.”

In short, this is the story that few of a dying breed of soldiers have dared to tell: of a man struggling to flee an inescapable past. There are no tunnels, no massive prison breaks, no climbing over the wall or razor blade fence. Zamperini’s confinement is an escape-proof prison and the chief torturer is his own mind.

The book is certainly a great source of inspiration for all of those grief-stricken fatalists who think that with every step they take the earth beneath their feet will crack open and swallow them. However, there are many lessons that all of us can derive from the story, lessons which can help us to cope with our everyday problems, become resilient and be more perseverant under excruciating circumstances.

This is not meant to be a book spoiler, for I would like to encourage our readership to relish this page-turner narrative and not get a summary of it in a matter of minutes. That would be such a great disservice to both Hillenbrand and Zamperini’s memory himself! If you have not read this book, I invite you all to put it at the top of the list of books to be read in the near future, but make sure you read it in English as there is always something lost in translation.

English Language TrainingMust Read

Book Review – Essential Teacher Knowledge

cq5dam.web.1600.9600Book Title: Essential Teacher Knowledge
Author: Jeremy Harmer
Year of Publication: 2012
Publisher: Pearson




Review by Jose Tapia

When you hear that Jeremy Harmer has published a new book it might feel like you have just hit the jackpot. But without sounding too biased, (though I must confess I have a few of his books), I am sure that Essential Teacher Knowledge will find a good number of fans.

ETK could be described as a hybrid between his previous bestsellers How to Teach English and The Practice of English Language Teaching, but perhaps more thorough than the former and more accessible than the latter and is divided into six different sections.

The section titled ‘Language’ covers the four main areas of the language system (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, text and discourse) and is simple, straightforward but detailed enough, thereby making it great for both newbies and those with some experience.  The truth is if you don’t use it, you lose it and these pages will serve as a great revision tool. As in its predecessors, theory is linked to practice so you are given information on the different types of conditionals but also suggestions on how to teach them. An original feature is that each language point is introduced with a short text or dialogue about the life of a teacher somewhere in the world. Therefore, it is contextualised around the topic of teaching making it relevant and appealing to the reader.

The chapter on ‘Background to Language Teaching Methodology’ is practical and relevant so there is theory and background but the focus is definitely on real issues e.g.  what types of mistakes students usually make. It addresses how teaching and learning might be different at different ages, contexts and levels rather than just concentrating on teaching adults alone.

The part on ‘Teaching Language and Language Skills’ follows a similar pattern in the sense that it gives you some input and then some practical ideas to use in the classroom. For instance, it introduces ways of presenting language such as PPP but also techniques linked to it e.g. using fingers to show language constructions.  There are also links to the DVD so that you can see these suggestions in real ‘teaching’ situations.

There are two other sections, ‘Managing Learning and Teaching and Planning’,’ Resources and Assessment’ which look at a number of different aspects of classroom management and planning from classroom set up to teaching without materials. These support and complement the other parts in the book and are appropriate to any teaching context.

Two especially important chapters are the ones on ‘Young Learners’ and ‘CLIL’. It is quite refreshing to see these focused on a book like this. The first one will be of great help to those new to YL and also to experienced teachers who have found themselves in this new territory for which they may have not received any formal training.  Similarly, the focus on CLIL (isn’t it where we are all heading anyway?) is useful and insightful.  It describes the sort of language often taught and how genre plays an important role in CLIL as well as it shows different types of materials and activities. I see this area being more in the spotlight in the next few years (especially with the increase of non-native students in mainstream schools in the UK and more schools becoming bilingual all around the world) and therefore very relevant.

Essential Teaching Knowledge is clearly organised and information can easily be found. The content is concise without making you feel overwhelmed, perfect for those of us who only have a few minutes to spare to satisfy a query. It is well signposted so you are constantly referred to related content should you want to know more about something. Perhaps the only downside is the level of detail so if you are looking for in depth analysis and description this is probably not the best book.

It comes with a number of additional perks. The accompanying DVD, mentioned above, contains 2 hours of video footage of teachers from around the world talking about their experiences and demonstrating key teaching techniques such as giving instructions. Oh, a CELTA trainee and trainer’s paradise! Needless to say, the clips could also be used for in-service CPD sessions.

There is a glossary or Glossdek which explains technical terms making it accessible and jargon-free.

Additionally, there are some links to the web which complement the pronunciation unit and provide a wide range of resources, one of which is called Revise, Research, Reflect.  Although it sounds like you might get a rash from its name, it is actually quite a simple and helpful tool to check your own learning with exercises and questions about each unit.

This book is appropriate for teachers who want to embark on an introductory course such as CELTA or TKT. It could be used by General English teachers as well as those teaching young learners and CLIL. It is suitable for native or non-native speakers, though apparently more targeted to the latter group.

There is no doubt that ETK will become a great addition to any EFL staffroom as a handbook for newly qualified teachers, for those with some experience and for ‘Deltees’ like myself who need a refresher.

English Language TrainingMust Read

Book Review – An A-Z of ELT

Book Title: An A-Z of ELT
Author: Scott Thurnbury
Year of Publication: 2006
Publisher: Macmillan




Review by

An A-Z of ELT is a fully cross-referenced, alphabetical guide to ELT that defines and explains essential language concepts and terminology from fields including grammar, linguistics, discourse analysis, phonology, etc.

It describes language teaching techniques and theories and summarizes the major issues and debates associated with each concept. The entries are clear, concise and readable, accessible to users with little or no specialist knowledge.

It is a practical, informative guide indispensable to teachers and teacher trainers of all levels of experience. Entries provide summaries of the major issues in ELT as well as their practical implications. New teachers can check the meanings of new terms whilst experienced teachers will gain a more wide-ranging understanding of topics of interest.