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Nope. Not a Survival Guide.
on August 1, 2014
This book isn't exactly a survival guide. It's mostly a compilation of very broad, general strategies that may work if you modify them enough to suit your personal needs. There are many great web-resources that are recommended in this book, but there's actually no direct explanation on how best to integrate these resources into the classroom. There aren't even any anecdotes on what other people have tried. Sure, you can have the students post on a blog, but how are you going to get the students to do that for homework? How will you introduce the idea of doing web-homework in the first place?
On the whole, there's none of the "meat and potatoes" on how to get students socialized into writing for the classroom blog, social media website, or anything else multimedia-related, save for the occasional reference to taking a trip to the computer lab; rather, in this book, much of the techy-stuff is just taken for granted--as if teachers have been using these social media tools since the beginning of time (which I assure you they have not). There's also no explication on how grading would be determined by the content created on social media sites, and ultimately, the recommendations end up feeling shallow and vapid, and, at least for me, leave me wanting more.
It was also really frustrating for me to have to flip back and forth between the book and the authors' websites where most of the great links can be found. When I would eventually arrive at the website, for example, I would have to spend another 10 to 15 minutes searching through the vast archives just to find what I was looking for (I don't think the website is very user-friendly)--does this sound like an ESL-life raft to you?
I've already tried incorporating some of the recommended strategies in my own classes, like for example using some of the resources for games that the authors recommend. The students have liked them well enough, but they didn't exactly bring the level earnestness that I was looking for when I first introduced these e-games; at least it wasn't on par with the level of energy they normally bring to the class when introduced to a standard PowerPoint or even an old-fashioned worksheet.
One of the biggest problems with this book, as far as I can tell, is that the strategies that the authors recommend haven't become fully mainstreamed into education yet. Therefore, many students and faculty alike treat such innovations as social media, games, and cyber maps, as "less-than," the other material typically seen in the classroom--PowerPoints, projectors, whiteboards, worksheets, etc. I'm not saying that this material shouldn't be incorporated, but I think a little more explication is required as to how to gently socialize people into seeing the worth and value in such devices and tools. Until this happens, incorporating social media will be an uncomfortable struggle for both the teacher and the students because using it, as of 2014, requires waaay too much modification of the normal teacher-student social contract (as most people understand it), not to mention the fact that using it also requires way too much bureaucratic oversight.
In sum, the authors don't provide enough explanation as to how to bring the ESL classroom into the Twenty-First Century (despite their less-than-subtle recommendation to do so). The authors also don't provide any solid material that can be directly applied to students--no game boards and no recipe-like activities with procedures that teachers can use on the fly if they're strapped for ideas. As such, the ESL/ELL Survival Guide reads more like a thought-experiment than an actual survival guide.
If you're looking for "standby activities and games" to improve your students' reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities--which is what I think of when I think "survival guide"--try any one of the following resources below. These resources have proven far more useful to me in ensuring my survival than the ESL/ELL Survival Guide:
GRAMMAR PRACTICE ACTIVITIES by Penny UR - http://www.amazon.com/Grammar-Practice-Activities-Paperback-CD-ROM/dp/0521732328/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1406882506&sr=8-2&keywords=penny+ur
FUN WITH GRAMMAR -- http://www.amazon.com/Fun-Grammar-Communicative-Activities-Teachers/dp/0135679265/ref=pd_sim_b_19?ie=UTF8&refRID=0A7GF28MYWWVCMX3V34P
GRAMMAR GAMES -- http://www.amazon.com/Grammar-Games-Cognitive-Affective-Activities/dp/0521277736/ref=pd_sim_b_9?ie=UTF8&refRID=1DM8ERREVV6A8KSB7A55
ESL CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES -- http://www.amazon.com/ESL-Classroom-Activities-Teens-Adults/dp/1478213795/ref=pd_sim_b_8?ie=UTF8&refRID=19D0T2RNGXV2G83K8GS8
TEACHING LARGE MULTILEVEL CLASSES - http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Multilevel-Cambridge-Handbooks-Language/dp/0521667852/ref=pd_sim_b_42?ie=UTF8&refRID=0W82XMXS2E969N7DZHPF