Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Teacher, 2012. p. 336.

Reviewed by Hitomi Kambara

University of Oklahoma, U.S.A

The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide by Ferlazzo & Sypnieski provides several pragmatic strategies, lesson plans, and useful online tools that teachers of English language Learners (ELL) can easily implement in their classrooms. The book, designed for ELL teachers from grade four to grade twelve, offers an array of effective teaching methods and strategies. It even includes a chapter explicitly directed to mainstream teachers who have English Language Learners in their classrooms. The authors introduce the necessary components of ELL instruction, such as classroom strategies to strengthen students’ language skills and detailed sample lesson plans, with thoughtful understanding of proficiency levels and real knowledge about the everyday struggles of ELL students.

The book is organized into five parts with thirteen chapters. The first part provides basic information; commonly used acronyms and key terms about second language learning that teachers need to know. The authors discuss the three important Rs that are essential for promoting ELL learning: Relationships, Resources, and Routines. For example, computer routines can be implemented in daily lesson plans. A teacher reviews directions for computer use in the classroom and lets students write the directions down in their notes. Then students move to the computer lab and reproduce the steps on their own while helping each other. Overall, the computer routines enhance students’ leadership abilities and deepen their relationship with each other as well as facilitate the learning of key concepts through technology (p.34).

The second part presents daily instructions, including strategies and sample lesson plans, for beginning ELLs. According to the authors, a week’s sample lesson plan should equally cover all four basic language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Ferlazzo & Sypnieski recommend using familiar topics, such as home, animals, and feelings so that students are able to relate what they are learning with their daily lives.

The third part describes a variety of effective approaches and sample lesson plans that prepare the intermediate level ELLs to learn academic language, with focus on academic writing skills. The authors introduce several strategies for building students’ background knowledge before they start writing. Prewriting and writing activities with teachers’ support and immediate feedback are critical for facilitating understanding in the target language.

The fourth part explores important concepts for content-area teachers who might have ELLs in their classes. It is built around what the authors call the Organizing Cycle which has five important steps: “building student relationships, accessing prior knowledge, developing student leadership potential, learning by doing, and reflection” (p.205). There are straightforward and useful example lessons presented for social studies, math, and science using the Organizing Cycle.

The fifth part of the book introduces recommendations for the assessment of ELL students as well as a discussion of relevant games. For instance, the authors introduce a classroom game called Telephone that enhances students’ speaking and listening skills. A teacher divides the class into two or three groups and whispers a sentence into the ear of the first person in each group. As a rule of the game, students need to correctly deliver the sentence to the next person. The last person in the group whispers the sentence to the teacher. If the students have an incorrect sentence, they have to start over the from the beginning. The second person becomes the first person who starts the game and the first person becomes the last person. The game encourages student participation and can be enjoyable (p.243).

The central argument of The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide is that students learn by doing, not by sitting and listening. In every chapter, the authors successfully introduce learning by doing activities. These activities develop a deeper understanding of the materials while encouraging students to be active learners. Each chapter starts with an interesting story, which allows readers to form core ideas about the chapter. Then it includes teachers’ authentic reflections on implementing specific strategies. The end of each chapter features links to additional resources for readers who wish to have further information.

The authors provide readers with useful teaching methods, strategies, and tools. The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide is packed with illustrations and the large font used throughout the book is easy on the eyes. Overall, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide is a highly recommended and well-organized resource for all who teach English as a second or foreign language, but should be especially pertinent for beginning or preservice teachers.