Recommended Reading for TEFL Students

Recommended Reading for TEFL Students

One of the main things we’re asked as a TEFL provider is about recommended reading to make the most out of a course. While everything you need to pass is included in the course fee - no tricks up our sleeves or extra costs - teaching is a vocation, and it should be imperative for any teacher to have as much knowledge as possible.

No course could cover everything there is to know about TEFL life. The learning certainly doesn’t stop after you’re TEFL qualified – see our post about further learning for EFL teachers for some great tips and ideas. 

The following are some of our picks for reference books that will help you along your TEFL path. Some you’ll undoubtedly want by your side for the duration of your career as an EFL teacher, and some are very accessible reads that will help you get your head around grammar in an engaging, re-readable way. Others will find themselves a place on your bedside table.

Not only that, we’ve provided some online reading materials that aren’t just useful, they’re fascinating insights into the history of the English language. If you’re teaching it, you’re best knowing your history; it’ll seriously impress students if you have the answer to one of their curveball questions!

So without further ado, what reading do we recommend for the fledgling and experienced TEFL teacher alike? We’ve looked at both hard copy books and online resources to give you the very best in English-learning literature!

A woman reading a hardback book

6 recommended books for TEFL students

For Who the Bell Tolls, David Marsh 

If you can squeeze a bit of (admittedly geeky) wordplay into your book title, then you’re alright with us. David Marsh’s ‘For Who the Bell Tolls’ proves that grammar doesn’t need to be boring! Entertaining and informative, Marsh’s very readable book makes English grammar accessible and interesting. If you’ve struggled with the dryness of other grammar books - and let’s face it, they can be arduous reads - then this is for you!

In Marsh’s own words: “Clear, honest use of English has many enemies: politicians, business and marketing people, local authority and civil service jargonauts, rail companies, estate agents, academics… and some journalists. This is the book to help defeat them.”

Entertaining, and brutally honest, journalist Marsh deciphers the laboured and strained uses of English we see in culture and devours it.

English Grammar in Use , Raymond Murphy 

If you’re looking for a quasi-biblical tome about English grammar, Raymond Murphy has you covered. Originally released in 1985, ‘English Grammar in Use’ has been updated to include a CD-ROM, making it perfect for self-directed or group study. 

Packed full of examples and answers for either learning or running classes, ‘English Grammar in Use’ has been the go-to grammar guide for teachers for a long, long time. It’s really not hard to see why.

Ship or Sheep? , Ann Baker 

Let’s be honest - the English language, specifically pronunciation, can be a minefield for new learners. The title of Ann Baker’s guide to pronunciation is a perfect example; words spelt entirely differently can sound like each other. If Ann Baker wanted a more crude example, she might’ve considered ‘sheet’...

Light-hearted, accessible yet comprehensive, ‘Ship or Sheep’ handily comes with audio CDs so you and your students can learn and use real-life examples in the classroom, or studying alone. 

700 Classroom Activities , David Seymour and Maria Popova 

An absolutely essential text for countless TEFL teachers, you’ll never be left short of ideas with ‘700 Classroom Activities’. The aforementioned activities can be adapted for all kinds of classes and levels, from beginners to advanced, children to adults, and it’s ideal if you have limited resources at hand in your classroom as most activities require none. This book, teachers tell us, is a very worthwhile investment that you will make use of throughout your entire teaching career.

The activities are divided into four key sections: conversations, functions, grammar and vocabulary, meaning there’s always something different and new to work on. You’ll never be stuck for class planning ideas ever again!

Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language , Bill Bryson 

Trust Bill Bryson - yes, that Bill Bryson - to write such an entertaining guide to the history of the English language. From its “mongrel” origins to becoming the “world’s language”, Bryson hilariously and passionately details the journey the English language has taken.

Written in Bryson’s typically charming and erudite manner, this is a fun read, to be sure, but it’s also packed with useful information that’ll be fun to share in any classroom environment.

Practical English Usage , Michael Swan 

If you sell over 2 million copies of a guide to English, you’re probably doing something right. Michael Swan has become one of the foremost voices in English learning, and his ‘Practical English Usage’ has been an influential tome in the TEFL teacher’s library.

In this book, you get a guide to over 250 common word problems, a complete topic-by-topic guide to grammar, and so much more. It also comes with a year’s access to an associated online learning portal - can’t say fairer than that!

Books on a library shelf

Recommended Online Reading 

Of course, nowadays, reading up on the English language and finding resources for learning isn’t limited to physical formats. Between checking Twitter and reading the news, you can access a wealth of brilliant online resources for personal development or for use in the classroom.

There is, of course, more out there than we could put in one blog post. We’re sure you have your own favourites, and we’d encourage you to share them in the comments section. Here are, though, some of our favourites from the web, and you can find even more resources on our TEFL Resource Guide .

Grammar guides 

We’ve already written a blog on grammar guides on the web because there are plenty of great ones! There’s Grammar Monster , where you’ll find an exhaustive list of grammar terms, quizzes, and those pesky commonly confused words: ‘affect’ vs ‘effect’, for example. 

Grammar Girl - Mignon Fogarty to her friends and family - has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show as a grammar expert. ‘Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing’ was a New York Times bestseller. Her ‘Grammar Girl’ blog is an excellent online reading resource. Equally, you can’t go wrong with EnglishGrammar.org , which is full of great exercises and quizzes - as well as, of course, plenty of decent reading for teacher and student alike.

If you’re looking for depth, you’ll find it in the Oxford English Grammar Course Teacher's Guides , for which the Oxford University Press are allowing free access. That’s a big deal, as there is a wealth of materials available, at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. If you’re looking for something less text-heavy but still very much worthwhile, EF (English First), have this handy resource guide to keep in your bookmarks.

If that’s not enough, we have our own glossary of online grammar guides , and an exhaustive list of resources for TEFL teachers .


If you’re looking for online reading about punctuation, it’s a bit more limited than grammar, but no less interesting. ThoughtCo’s guide to Punctuation is a must for your bookmarks, whether you’re learning to teach English or you are actually in classrooms or online with students. It has examples, too, so you and your students can know when to correctly use semi-colons, exclamation marks, question marks, and even how commas can dictate clauses.

The BBC has this fantastic article on the history of English punctuation , which takes us form the 3 BCE to the modern day, with reflections on everything from early exclamation marks to emojis. It’s a fascinating overview, written by Keith Houston, the author of ‘Shady Characters, The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks’. Houston’s website, Shady Characters , is a great resource unto itself - its entry on the Ampersand alone is, as far as we’re concerned, required reading!

Blogs and Resources 

We’d be remiss not to mention our own blog as a vital resource for TEFL teachers, both new and prospective. Every week, we cover something new, from details about our courses to more esoteric topics, including interesting facts about the English language .

While the internet, especially online communities, can be a bit like the wild west, and the content is unpredictable, there’s a lot of really useful reading for TEFL teachers over on Reddit . The open forum’s TEFL community is constantly giving each other tips and pieces of advice, talking about courses, cities and countries they’ve taught in, and lots, lots more.

Reddit probably isn’t the place to go in terms of theoretical approaches to teaching, so don’t expect too many Harmers, Bakers or Murphys popping up, but in terms of finding information about TEFL in different parts of the world, conferences and networking opportunities, it really is worth keeping tabs on.

So, it’s not just gigantic books you need in order to thrive as a TEFL teacher. However, they help enormously, and we know from experience that investing in the right TEFL teaching materials early on can be a massive advantage.

Best get reading!

Interested in getting TEFL qualified? Check out our range of courses and start your own TEFL adventure!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

(0/1500 characters)

Quick Maths Test