Teaching English: A Handbook for Primary & Secondary School Teachers

Editor(s) Goodwyn, A. & Branson, J.
Publisher Routledge Falmer
Published 2005
Pages 225
Price £18.99
ISBN 0415335272
Reviewed by Dr June Mitchell
University of Strathclyde
Review published 22 March 2005

Teaching English has been written in order to provide for primary and secondary teachers a comprehensive introduction to teaching a subject which the editors consider to be ‘vitally important’. One of the editors and many of the contributors are practising classroom teachers and the content of the handbook addresses the core areas of current English curriculum developments. While much of the advice is applicable to English teaching in the United Kingdom generally the detailed curriculum focus refers to the English education systems.

The text begins with an historical overview written by Andrew Goodwin and ends with a contribution by Jane Branson predicting how the subject may be managed in the future. In the ten training-focused chapters the contributors update readers in the areas of English teaching which have been affected by changes in curriculum structure or which have been introduced as key issues for development in recent initiatives.

Planning, assessment and inclusion are covered in detail in chapters dedicated to the issues associated with management of teaching and learning in English. There is much support given to teachers at the start of their careers and the text offers useful ideas for further investigation and reflection on the impact of curriculum change on how the subject is taught. Drama and Media Education are identified as areas which may be delivered within English curricula as course elements or as discrete subjects across the range from Key Stage 3 to A level. The chapters allocated to these subject areas offer trainee teachers suggestions, information and advice about how to incorporate strategies into the work of the English classroom.

The chapter on information and communication technology proposes many ways of exploiting technology to the advantage of pupil learning while acknowledging differing levels of teacher confidence in utilising the equipment. A further area addressed in the group of chapters about managing teaching is literacy and it is treated not only as a concern for the English specialist but equally for all teachers in schools in relation to the promotion of literacy. There are two chapters devoted to teaching for improved literacy. In addition to the sections dealing with managing teaching and learning there are two chapters which focus on the teaching role – one of these considers issues of professionalism and accountability and the other discusses planning for personal and professional development.

Most of the chapters begin with an overviewing introduction and three or four bullet point objectives. At several points in the chapters there are tasks that are variously designated as ‘reflective’ or ‘theory’ or ‘observation’ and these are distinguished from the text in shaded boxes. Where required there are lists, tables, figures and templates and these are helpfully incorporated into the text rather than provided as appendices. Most chapters finish with recommendations of five or six texts for further reading. The research and theory references are current and the links to curriculum documents are very specific.

This book is unusual in its particular focus on English teaching and must offer teachers in training as English specialists very helpful support because of the detailed and specific targeting of readership. The writers demonstrate an enthusiastic and pragmatic awareness of the roles of English teachers that makes the text a valuable addition to lists of recommended reading for teachers who are training to work in schools in England.