A Book Review
Background of Reading
Teaching is noted as a series of procedures taken into account by educators as they go along particular responsibilities of engaging in the process of passing on knowledge to their students. In relation to the concept of teaching, teachers are expected to take on necessary procedures that are considered essential especially when addressing the different needs of the students given that they are all unique learners. One of the most common patterns of approach taken into account by teachers is the idea of implicating holistic instruction; an approach that affects not only the thinking process of the students but also that of the behavior the learners develop through the time in relation to how they interact with their peers, their instructions and others in school especially in consideration to how they apply what they have learned in class. In the aspect of teaching language subjects, H. Douglas Brown’s book provides a simple yet in depth discussion as to how the problem of dealing with student diversity could be dealt with.
Summary of the Book
Teaching by Principles an Interactive Approach to Language pedagogy by H. Douglas Brown is a perfect start for novice teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Along with this, it also serves as good reference for veteran language instructors who would want to innovate the way they teach and the way they reach out to their students. Though it has elaborative explanations and many examples, it is written in a simplified, easy to read, and comprehensible language that is easy to relate to both for teachers and language teaching enthusiasts. The development and evolvement of topics is perfect from theoretical at the first half of the book to practical at the second half of the book; from general themes in language teaching (e.g. teaching across age, and teaching across proficiency levels) to specific ones (teaching speaking, listening, reading, and writing assessment).
Methodologies of Teaching
Establishing the history of methodologies in language teaching, giving broad historical recognition of various "schools of language teaching thought" and offering short description of the renowned and recent methods at the first two chapters is essential for a novice language instructor to take into account. With the use of the three primary principles of teaching as the pilot themes at the beginning of the book, the author was able to prepare his writers for what was to come forth through the following chapters of his book. For example, the book says that we should teach students how to correct their own errors. If I associate that with one of the principles, it would be related to the concept of autonomy which enforces teachers to give their students the freedom they need to learn especially in writing and comprehension activities.
Twelve Principles of Teaching
The highlight of the book for me has given itself away from the book title. He tied the twelve principles and connected them together in a beautiful way. Although other books have more than twelve principles as stated in this book, I think that the twelve principles that Brown listed in his book are the most essential ones. My rational for this point of view is for two reasons. First, The book itself proceeds from its foundations -- what the principles are and how they were derived they are the essence of almost all the approaches to language teaching seen throughout the chapters as you complete reading the book. For example, the two principles: strategic investment and atomicity are illustrated later on through teaching students strategies for reading comprehension (p.366) and by teaching strategic reading including meta-cognitive strategies of self-planning, monitoring, and evaluating one’s own reading process.
The principle of intrinsic motivation is deeply rooted in the wash back effect of formal and informal assessment and peer feedback (p. 451). As explained by Brown, when students know that they will receive back their test with the teacher’s feedback, they are intrinsically motivated. Thus brown advices teachers to provide generous comments on test performance (p.474). According to Brown, the principle of the native language effect is clearly demonstrated learners written work. He backed his assumption by Connor’s work in which he thought that each language has a certain patterns of written discourse and contrastive rhetoric. Thus brown advices teachers to provide generous comments on test performance (p.394). Thus, Brown advices teachers to understand and validate students’ rhetorical traditions while not trying to eradicate them (the language ego principle).
The principles do not exist separately from the pedagogy or the practices Brown later on shows how the principles are applied in the classroom. For example, the principle of atomicity and the willingness to communicate principle, which discusses affective factors such as learners’ self-efficacy, risk taking self-confidence, and anxiety. Brown differentiates between grammatical global and local errors, mistakes (slips) and errors (recurring issue) in learner’s speech and written pieces (p.426). He also gives teachers suggestions on how to treat them. For example, teachers should only correct global errors because they may impede meaning and comprehensibility of the text or the speech and because correcting local errors may raise learners’ anxiety level and decrease their confidence (p. 348). Also because correcting the local errors may obstruct the conversational flow, which hinders the aim of principle 12: communicative competence.
Reflection on the Reading
Throughout his book, Brown made connections between instruction in communicative and interactive language courses for teacher to follow and the principles they are built on. At the same time, he left space for teachers to make the rest of the connections themselves. For instance, he says that writing instruction should be profoundly embedded in the 12 principles of language learning and teaching. For instance, automaticity is obtained as students develop fluency in writing, which can be endorsed through several phases of a process writing approach. Meaningful learning and intrinsic motivation are utmost importance as teachers choose topics of students’ interest and getting them involved in authentic writing tasks.
Critique on Concepts of Teaching
Strategic investment is at the heart of the writing process (p. 416). Second, they encompass the three essential elements that make up the language learning process or any learning process for that matter; linguistic, socio-affective, and cognitive. This is proven to be true by looking at the major Second Language Acquisition theories; the socio-cultural theory (Vygotsky), cognitive constructivism (Piaget), the affective filter and i+1 theories (Krashen). This is a hugely essential background knowledge that any educator should be armed with so that they would be able to make informed choices of their future methodologies in the classroom instead of picking methods on mere guessing or by selecting the ones that mostly appeal to them or because it was popular at that time. For me personally, I like to know why I am doing what I am doing and the theoretical reasoning behind my teaching style.
Implicit in much of Brown's discussion of the interactive approach is the integrated nature of language itself and of the language learning classroom. Reading does not exist separately from writing, or listening from speaking. In chapter 17 entitled “Integrating the Four Skills”, Brown stresses the importance of integrating the four skills for a richer and more authentic and interactive lessons in which students become intrinsically motivated to learn. A novice teacher may be mistaken by the fact that each skill is taught in isolation from the other. They might be eluded by the titles of some books or the topic for some exercises.
Comparison with other Readings
Compared with the reading we have done on writing assessment by Aerbersold (et al) entitled Aebersold, JA and Field, ML. From Reader to Reading Teacher: Issues and Strategies for, Brown offered much more elaborate, clear and direct explanations. For teachers who are not native speakers of English, those elements are crucial. For example, I was stumbling upon a specific point concerning how to balance between praise and criticism. In chapter 15, Brown offered a simple yet has all the information needed in a table showing effective praise versus ineffective praise. Another major theme obvious throughout the book is it cohesiveness and connectedness as illustrated above. There is always reference to the 12 principles of teaching English, which aids understanding and make the teacher’s approaches more authentic (p. 253).
The book itself can be viewed overall as an integrated whole. Brown looked at the student as an intellectual complex human being with needs and desires. For example, the student need to be successful in the classroom but at the same time is able to communicate with his friends and family outside the classroom. The student need to engage in multiple thought processes that take place at the same time such as monitoring their speech while talking but in sensible portions. These are known as meta-cognition processes. Brown kept referring to the meta-cognitive process that students engage in and how it could be helpful for the teacher to be aware of that fact. However, he did not sufficiently explained how to take advantage of this thought process. For example, in the text “From reader to a reading teacher”, chapter 5, reviewing reading, (p. 100), it was mentioned that a teacher should ask guiding questions, pre, during and after reading questions that would elicit students attention to the reading strategies they use and use them more often.
Moreover, the chapter on lesson plans outperformed suggestions from other books and readings in the structure and organization of the lesson presentations. The lesson plans are clearer, more organized, and more integrative of the four skills and this integration is clearly demonstrated. For example, in the text “From reader to a reading teacher”, chapter 5, the lesson plans did not have sufficient explanations and had some ambiguous terms that might be hard for readers to understand such as “SWBATs”. However, provided hands on application of the lessons, and specific directions that the teacher could directly implement in her classroom. Classroom 5c, intermediate (Kelly) and advanced (Sasha) language proficiency in “From reader to a reading teacher” book, (p. 116) is an authentic example that could be imitated easily.
Overall Reaction to Reading
The overall context of Brown’s book is able to contend with the current needs of teachers coming from all backgrounds and addressing the needs of learning of students from all over the globe. With diversity becoming a common element in most classrooms today, the suggestions of Brown on how to handle general issues of language barrier, especially in teaching language subjects, will help so much in determining the real worth of comprehensive and efficient teaching. The utilization of anecdotal examples makes his writing and suggestions much easier to realize and apply in actual learning setups. Not seeing the teachers as superficial beings who are expected to accomplish everything, Brown is able to create visual indications on how good culture of teaching could be developed without necessary being perfect.
The suggestions he has given are practical enough for any teacher to take into account. With the aim of providing their students the best kind of learning process that they deserve, both novice and veteran teachers could benefit well from this reading. Times are changing and so are students; the nature by which they are taught accounts so much as to how they might be able to accept and apply what they have learned from class. In relation to this consideration, Brown’s approach towards indicating possible solutions to such issues would help well in making teachers more competent in their position as instructors, mentors and examples for their students’ success.
Aebersold, JA and Field, ML. From Reader to Reading Teacher: Issues and Strategies for Second Language Classrooms. Cambridge Language Education: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, H. D. Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Regents/Prentice Hall.