Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom- A review

Imagine my surprise and delight when an advanced copy of Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom, the much anticipated book by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins, landed in my inbox! I am so excited to share with you my impressions of the book, because if you’re reading this blogcito, chances are this book will be right up your alley! And lest you should question my motives, no one is paying me to write this review… I just really loved reading Common Ground and I think you’ll feel the same way.

Common Ground sits at the intersection of Second Language Acquisition research and classroom practicality. Henshaw and Hawkins do a masterful job of taking SLA’s big ideas, distilling them down into bite-sized chunks and putting them into action by giving concrete suggestions and examples to help teachers design research-informed instruction for language learners. And it gets even better although technically, I think this could be considered an SLA textbook…it doesn’t feel like a textbook! It is a breeze to read! The conversational tone and concrete advice make it feel like you’re out to coffee with (very wise) teacher friends, talking shop and brainstorming ideas.

Each chapter’s headings keep all the good stuff organized:

  • What do I need to know? This is the meat and potatoes of the research, the background knowledge that drives everything else. Here Henshaw and Hawkins give the 101 on what language teachers need to know (theories, linguists, definitions, etc.), in an easy-to-digest way.
  • What does it look like in the classroom? Here’s the real treasure trove for teachers! Each chapter includes a zillion (Ok, like 5-9) examples of putting the research into practice. As I was reading, I kept a running list of the things I want to incorporate in my own classes and I was so delighted that the finished list included activities for my Spanish 1 Little Darlings all the way up to my AP Big Little Darlings. Henshaw and Hawkins did a marvelous job of designing tasks and activities appropriate for all proficiency levels and to address all modes of communication. Furthermore, all the examples are in English, so you can adapt them to whatever language you teach! How slick is that?
  • Now that you know… Each chapter wraps up with discussion questions and application suggestions. I see this section being a great tool for book clubs, PLC groups, department meetings and university methods courses. I have big plans to read and discuss Common Ground with the language teachers in my district. The next time I’m teaching preservice language teachers at our nearby university, Common Ground will certainly be our textbook; this section will be be invaluable for class discussions and extension activities with future language teachers.
  • Finally, sprinkled throughout each chapter you’ll find blurbs titled In case you were wondering which address teachers’ burning questions, ranging from the role of feedback, thematic units, online translators and a bunch more. If you’ve got a nagging SLA question, you’ll probably find the answer here.

In short, this book will be a great addition the professional libraries of new teachers and veterans alike. And the best part of it all?!? Drumroll please….it doesn’t carry the typical textbook price tag! At just $24, this book is accessible and affordable! Now you’re really excited, aren’t you?! Sign up here for pre-order notifications and you can even preview Chapter 1.

A note to the authors: Thanks so much, Florencia and Maris, for your hard work! This is a book I will refer to again and again. It will undoubtedly leave a lasting imprint on our field and I can’t wait for my teacher friends to get copies of this gem! I wish we could go out to coffee to talk shop and brainstorm ideas…but this is the next best thing! ¡Muchísimas gracias!

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