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Welcome to Essentially English

Essentially English is a series of text books for upper primary  to intermediate high school students. Each text book focuses on one of the vital skills that students must develop in order to become proficient users of their language.
Essentially Writing cover
Essentially Reading contains activities to extend all levels of readers, from the most reluctant to the most voracious of students. The activities encourage students to explore a variety of genres and styles, from graphic novels through to classic literature.

Essentially Reading Cover
Essentially Writing
exposes budding young writers to various styles of writing. Students have the opportunity to explore creative and formal writing in lots of different forms. It also contains fun sources of inspiration for the person who believes that that they have nothing to say, and great structuring techniques for the person who knows that they have too much to say!

Essentially Language helps students to discover the theory behind the language they use every day! Grammar and metalanguage are essential skills for a true practitioner of the English language, and this text introduces young communicators to the basics in a fun and inventive way.

For more information on any of these texts, select the title from the menu on the left. Sample activities from each book are provided, as is information on ordering copies for your school.

While not offering to provide teachers with answers to all their questions about teaching these skills in the 2000s, series author Helen Y Smith  is able to provide some background to young teachers trying to learn how to teach these skills for the first time. Experienced teachers will also welcome fresh new approaches to familiar material. Students too will find the work to be easily accessible. In some case extension work has been included to help the able student go exploring in their studies.

The Author

Why the Y? The answer is far too simple. It is a name that is very "popular" and there is more than one Helen Smith in the publishing game. In order to differentiate, I decided to use that otherwise not very useful middle name to help clarify the matter. That's why the Y.

I have been a classroom teacher for over 25 years. I realised that teaching for that time had given me a great many opportunities to trial, reflect, read and practice my profession. My students have taught me a great many things during that time and it was time to record some of them for my fellow teachers and learners. So began these books.

My experience as a teacher has been in 6 secondary schools in 2 states, co-ed and single sex schools, government and independent schools. I have taught programs for the gifted and talented, mainstream classes and classes for those struggling to make sense of their complex world. I have published other work, more particularly texts for VCE English and Literature.  I was awarded a National Excellence in Teaching Award and was twice nominated for other teaching awards.  I have held several significant leadership roles in schools although for a short time I have been lightening the load on classroom contact, to allow for a chance to write.

I believe that learning should be fun and energetic and that we should not shy away from the intellectual. My students know my commonly expressed maxim that "knowing stuff is good". The range of "stuff" to be known is huge and  it is everybody's right to know "stuff" and everybody's responsibility to teach "stuff" to others. This gives the experience of shared knowledge and valued learning and equips everyone for a lifetime of discovery.  I am currently working in schools to promote approaches to learning that support the different learning and thinking styles of students. While keen on the effective use of ICT, I also hold that nothing  teaches quite as effectively as human interaction.  Students may remember the learning, but will be able to use it wisely and well if the way it was learned was accompanied by happy memories of the process and the people.

I have been an advocate for students as well as young and experienced teachers for many years.  The journey is certainly not over yet and there may be more texts on the way. Keep an eye out and visit this site again for updates and resources. Students are particularly invited to contribute their book reviews or other work (verified original by the teacher)  and to read the ideas of other young writers.

I hope you enjoy the books and this site.

Helen Y Smith

Next page: Essentially Reading