DELTA Book Review – Beyond the Sentence

Since getting on a DELTA course I’ve read three books related to teaching English. Not a massive amount in two months, but I’m on the way. Here’s my first review.

There's a lot more beyond...Photo by David Boyle
Book details
Beyond the Sentence – Introducing Discourse Analysis – by Scott Thornbury, published by Macmillan 2005.

Book Description from Amazon:
How do we design sentences to fit their purposes and how do we combine them to communicate complex, contextualized meanings? This work takes discourse apart to show how it is organized and how it aids communication.”

What’s the book about?
Beyond the Sentence is about using texts to engage students in class and help them to learn English.

As Scott says “A text is a continuous piece of spoken or written language, especially one with a recognizable beginning and end.” Texts are everywhere and we can use them in the class in more ways than we think. Scott explores the structure and purpose of whole texts in discourse analysis. In case you’re wondering, because I was, discourse analysis is the study of language and analysis of the features and uses of texts. In short, Scott illustrates how important texts are in the classroom and various ways we can use them.
How has my teaching changed?
Before reading Beyond the Sentence I was very much a sentence man.

“Okay, I’m going to dictate four sentences to you.”

“Now write four sentences using the past simple.”

“Who can give me a sentence about what they did this weekend.”

Boring? Yes, now I think about it (that’s another reason why I’m doing the DELTA).

Now I dictate long texts from books and novels. It’s great because it kills at least an hour of every lesson; only joking. I do dictate, but short texts which have more meaning and more linking words. My students produce better, more cohesive texts now, rather than useless random sentences. My classroom is covered in beautiful texts, which are great for the students who wrote them and also for other students to read (normally when I’m speaking).

I’ve become more aware of different types of texts and various ways to engage students. I use more gist type activities to get students involved and get them to predict what the text is about. They have become more engaged in even the dullest texts in the course books.

I’m also more aware of how important it is to teach our students about cohesion, not only in understanding texts but in their writings and speaking too.

Best New Classroom Activities
Scott’s book is full of classroom ideas, but a couple of my favourites are the following:

·       After engaging and reading a text, provide students with a photocopy with a particular grammar point tipexed out and ask them to work from memory and complete the texts. Very good with articles and linkers.
·      Brainstorming – I did this before but have now realised how important it is to build a schema in the students mind before they read a text.
·      After a gist activity get students to write a couple of questions that they think the text will answer. They then search for their own answers. Works really well with adults.
·    Getting students to sound more natural by providing them with more discourse markers and expressions.

Would I recommend it?
Definitely. It’s a great read and Scott’s way of writing is entertaining and informative. It’s an essential book if you’re doing the DELTA, but even if you’re not I’d recommend it just to give you more of an idea of how important texts are in the world of TEFL. Since reading the book my classes are more engaging and the students ‘seem’ more interested. Anything new is good I suppose.

Here you can buy Beyond the Sentence on Amazon. Has anyone else read Beyond the Sentence? Leave a comment and let everyone else know what you think.

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