20 May Book Review: How To Teach English By Jeremy Harmer

Right at the top of the recommended reading list for Eton Institute’s TESOL program is How to Teach English by Jeremy Harmer. Alisa W., TESOL graduate from Eton Institute, shares with us a review of the book and how it helped her own personal TESOL journey.

Prior to the training course I took to learn how to be an EFL teacher, I had no formal teacher training, I had a limited exposure to different styles of teaching, and I had never even done basic self-reflection about why I preferred some instructors over others (I always assumed it was their personality that I enjoyed). If the CEFR gave teacher ratings, I would be at the A1.1 level.

I read ‘How to Teach English’ by Jeremy Harmer as part of my TESOL training course, and it was perfect for my level. It is by no means a replacement to a full teaching course, but it is a valuable supplement to those who are learning and a good refresher for those who have been out of practice for a while. It provides contemporary teaching practices and keeps its descriptions pithy and hands-on.

While some of the sections are a bit obvious or too shallow to be useful, the book is so well organized that it is easy to find what you need and skip over what you don’t. Each chapter is divided into main sections (also listed in the table of contents), and subdivided again, bolds important words, and features a list at the end of the chapter that allows you to briefly review what you just read.

As with any well-designed reference book, the glossary, index, and appendices in the back are good sources for extending your self-education as a teacher.

The book comes with a DVD that has clips from real classes so you can observe good teaching practice in the comfort of your pyjamas and the support of a bowl of chips. The DVD wouldn’t play on my MacBook, so I can’t tell you if it is helpful or not. Another feature that is nice-to-have-but-I-didn’t-use is the “Task Files” at the back. After completing a chapter, you can quiz yourself by completing info tables, answering multiple-choice questions, matching definitions, and the like.

This book earns its keep in my nomadic suitcase because of the following four chapters:

Teaching Reading

Those chapters give clear, easy-to-follow steps for planning lessons based on one of the four skills, multiple examples, common pitfalls, suggestions for adapting the lesson to different levels, and a plethora of alternative ideas to keep your students (and you!) from falling in a rut. Oftentimes, I glance through the provided course book for my students and then thumb through How to Teach English to get ideas for a better way to use the course materials.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes! It’s worth keeping in your teaching library, and if your “teaching legs” are a little shaky, it might just be the support you could use.

Book reviewed:

How to Teach English
By Jeremy Harmer
Published in 2007 by Pearson Education Limited.


Jeremy Harmer is an internationally renowned writer, trainer and teacher. He is one of the best known names in English language teaching and one of the people whose opinions help shape ELT. Among his many books are The Practice of English language Teaching, How to Teach English, How to Teach Writing and Essential Teacher Knowledge.

 Become a CELTA certified English teacher. Find out more information here.


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