Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach
All English teachers are happy and proud when they get their students really talking. Engaging the students with a loud and lively conversation, discussion or debate is the goal of many an English language lesson. It can often be the most interesting part of the lesson, and, most importantly, can be exactly what an ESL/EFL student wants from their lesson.
Teaching Speaking: A Holistic Approach acknowledges this, but says that simply getting students to talk is not enough. The first two parts of the book give an overview of what fluent speaking means for a language learner, and the discourse and structure of speaking. The next two parts then show how to turn academic ideas into a functional framework for speaking activities, courses and assessments.
Parts one and two are a nice overview of research into speaking. There is information on psycholinguistic models of speech production, in-depth synopsis on learner speaking strategies, and information on what knowledge is needed to be a competent speaker of English. There are also detailed summaries of the features of pronunciation and intonation. This is then followed up with what facts conversation-analysis and corpus linguistics can tell us about how competent, fluent speakers communicate.
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Penguin Disney Kids Readers
This is a fantastic series of readers. I love them. However, let me continue this review in a more constructive light …
There are 23 books in the series and I feel they provide a nice mixture of traditional fairytales (Cinderella, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, etc) and more modern film samples (Toy Story, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, etc). These book are undoubtedly catering to the interests and enthusiasms of YLs (young learners) today and the bright visuals and links to popular films should ensure these readers are a hit with students.
There are six levels, offering a path of progression from the very start of learning English to entry to CEF A1++ and I felt the language used in the stories at each level corresponded well to student ability. There are 14-36 pages of story, depending on level. If anything, the stories are so long by L6 that maintaining children’s interest while reading over a series of classes could be challenging.
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How about “Due to the importance of external tests (IELTS, ToEFL, Trinity tests, PET, KET, FCE, BULATS, and others), testing has become an increasingly important topic in EFL. In many parts of the world today it is also difficult to find a school in which exam classes are not a vital part of their business. Consequently, the number of publications in the field has also expanded, especially in the last three years. Although generally the new publications tend to be simple but comprehensive manuals, large collections like this book have also become more common.
Examining Speaking is one volume of the Studies in Language Testing (SiLT) series edited by Dr Michael Milanovic and Prof Cyril J Weir. The series addresses a wide range of important issues and new developments in language testing and assessment. This volume
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A Handbook of Spoken Grammar
This book, with audio CD, can be used either for self-study, or in class to supplement other material. It focuses on an aspect of language that is often neglected in course books: spoken grammar. According to the authors, it “teaches learners to speak more naturally, using the patterns that native speakers use when speaking English”. The authors relied on corpus data and recent research into spoken English to select the elements for study, which are presented in 20 units, from the simplest to the most complex. I was interested to see how well it measured up to its claims.
Each unit is a stand-alone section, with two double page spreads. The first two pages present the elements for study, with clear explanations of the focus, the reasons for use and the most frequent contexts in which the language will be found.
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Topic Talk Issues is a textbook designed for a conversation course at the high-beginner/low-intermediate level. I think it is best suited to high school students and adults at these ability levels, with junior high (11 to 13) maybe not the right fit. One of its stated objectives is that this text is designed with the Japanese student (rather than the pan-Asian market) in mind. It does this very well, using references to Japanese culture, society and conceptions throughout in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. By starting “locally” and gradually going “global” it helps students relate their life to something bigger than themselves in a way that avoids pontification.
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