Vol. 4. No. 4 R-16 December 2000
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Practical Resources for Adult ESL: A Selection Guide to Materials for Adult ESL and ESL/ESOL Literacy
Anna Silliman and Abigail Tom (2000)
Burlingame, CA: Alta Book Center Publishers
Pp. vi + 167
ISBN 1-882483-80-4 (paper)
US $13.95 (introductory price)


The purpose of this book, as stated by its authors, is to review what the authors consider to be the best materials for teaching ESL to adult students in order to help select those which best suit the needs of a particular adult ESL teaching situation. The book is intended for ESL teachers, tutors, trainers, and program administrators. Silliman and Tom have reviewed more than 260 titles.


The book is organised into 13 chapters:

  1. "Methods and Techniques" gives an overview of books about teaching methodology.
  2. "Coursebooks" gives us first a brief introduction to the benefits and pitfalls of using "ready made" materials, and then describes six coursebooks that the authors have found appropriate for different teaching situations.
  3. "Literacy" describes materials for teaching literacy level learners.
  4. "Teaching Activities" includes general activity books, visuals, games, puzzles, and music.
  5. "Speaking and Listening" analyses aural skills materials that are appropriate for teachers and students.
  6. "Reading" describes a selection of texts and teacher resource books suited for adult ESL readers. The books are classified by level; there is also a selection of books suited for reading for pleasure.
  7. "Writing" includes teacher resources and student materials.
  8. "Grammar" obviously deals with books for teaching grammar.
  9. "Dictionaries and Vocabulary" is an extensive chapter, including analyses of picture dictionaries, text dictionaries, and special purpose dictionaries, as well as an evaluation of resources for teaching vocabulary and idioms.
  10. "ESL for Specific Purposes" deals with three areas: survival English, English for the workplace, and English for those who intend to take the U.S. citizenship test.
  11. "Culture and Community" includes materials for teaching North American culture and history.
  12. "Multi-Media Resources" includes three annotated resources, some information about CALL, and some Internet resources.
  13. "Publishers and Distributors" is more of an appendix than a chapter, as it includes a list of publishers and distributors for North America, but the authors also include some annotations about the publishers' specialties, which may account for the inclusion of the list as a chapter.

At the end of the book, the authors provide a guide to whatever jargon they may have used in the book so as to make it accessible to anyone working with ESL students, no matter their training. [-1-]


The book clearly shows the authors' expertise as ESL teachers. It goes beyond the authors' stated purpose, as they give us not only an exhaustive, well organised, extended list of annotated resources, but also provide hints and suggestions as to how to implement those materials. The book will be most useful for teachers working in the United States, since this is the audience for which it was written. However, I strongly recommend the book to anyone who teaches adult students at any level.

The only weakness of the book I would suggest is the part related to multi-media resources, where good suggestions about resource books are included, but few materials are actually analysed.

A companion Web site (www.handsonenglish.com/rescomp/frame.html) contains new information about items in the book (such as updated Web site references), and descriptions of materials published since the book came out.

Anna Silliman and Abigail Tom have achieved their purpose and have produced a very valuable resource, not only for teachers of adult ESL learners in the United States, but also for any EFL teacher.

Carmen Pinilla Padilla
Centro de Formación, Innovación y Recursos Educativos de Godella, Spain
<c.pinilla@digitel.es > or <cpip0001@olmo.pntic.mec.es >

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