Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Teaching Lexically book cover

I’ve been reading Teaching Lexically [affiliate link] by Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley on and off over the last few months (off because other people borrowed it!) and finally finished it this morning. It’s a beginner’s guide to understanding the Lexical Approach and applying it to your classroom practice. The book emphasises the importance of moving away from a ‘grammar + words’ approach and integrating language practice into everything we do in the classroom, providing as much repetition as we can, and helping students to integrate old knowledge with new, rather than treating each area as ‘finished’ or ‘done’.

Teaching Lexically helped me to really understand how the Lexical Approach can work in the classroom for the first time. I found The Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis to be interesting, but largely impractical (a hallmark of all of his books, I feel!), and most of the rest of my understanding had come from Leo Selivan’s Leoxicon blog, like this post on lexical activities.

What I particularly like about the book is the way that it deals with each area of English teaching separately and thoroughly: six chapters on teaching vocabulary/ grammar/ speaking/ reading/ listening/ writing lexically, as well as one on revision activities. The layout of section B, with a principle, practising the principle, and applying the principle, is particularly clear and easy to follow, and there are worked examples throughout. It’s really made me think about how I think about language.

Generally I found the structure of Teaching Lexically very supportive, building on previous principles as you work your way through if you read it from cover to cover, or referring back to relevant sections if you just dip into it. I also like the fact that it’s grounded in practicalities, and there was nothing in the book that I looked at and thought ‘this would never work’. It also acknowledges the potential problems that a teacher might have in trying to teach using the Lexical Approach, and suggests some possible solutions.

I feel like this is a book I will refer to again and again. Thanks for writing it Hugh and Andrew!

Comments on: "Teaching Lexically: Principles and Practice (a review)" (1)

  1. geoffjordan said:

    Your review largely ignores Part 1 of the book. You neither describe nor review the authors’ “Principles of how people learn languages”, or “Principles of why people learn languages”, or their “Lexical view of language”.

    You say the layout of section B, with its “principle, practising the principle, and applying the principle” format is particularly clear and easy to follow, but you don’t tell your readers what the principles are. Let me remind you. The 6 “principles” of language learning amount to a 6 stage description of the process learners go through in order to learn “any item of language”. No explanation of what an “item” refers to is given, and no comment is made on the logical implication of Step 4, which is that all language learning involves conscious attention. Doesn’t this contradict what you yourself say about the importance of implicit learning?

    And didn’t their description of language as “grammar + words” misrepresent the views of those, including you yourself, who see the value of pedagogical grammars and of types of grammar practice which the authors dismiss? Did you think the following claim was a fair characterisation of the view of language taken by pedagogical grammarians like Swan and Parrott? “If words are to fit in the slots provided by grammar, it follows that learning lists of single words is all that is required”.


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