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Review ~ Active Grammar (2 and 3)

Realistic and communicative grammar practice that is suitable for both class and self-study.
Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kayla Noel
Active Grammar

Active Grammar

The Active Grammar books are published by Cambridge University Press and this is a review of the 2011 editions of Levels 2 and 3. The levels correspond with two levels of The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF). Level 2 corresponds to B1-B2, and Level 3 corresponds to C1-C2. According to the description of the text at the beginning of the books, the Active Grammar series takes a communicative and interactive approach to learning.

The units are divided into the following grammatical concepts: tenses, modals, questions/multi-word verbs/verb structures, determiners and prepositions, adjectives/adverbs/passive/conditional, and word formation and sentences. At the beginning of each chapter there is a different context in which the particular grammar concept can be found. The books also provide brief comprehension questions after the introductory activities. After that, there is an immediate explanation of the specific grammar concept. There are numbered explanations with up to three examples per explanation. In between explanations there are “tip” boxes, which provide helpful extra attention to questions that may be raised by students.

After the explanations of grammar concepts, there is a practice section. There are a variety of exercise types that integrate reading and writing. A majority of these practice exercises are similar to what learners might see on the Cambridge ESOL exams such as FCE. In the practice section there are also “My Turn” and “My Test” sections which personalize learning and help students use the language they’re learning to express themselves. They also help them further check their understanding.

Every few chapters there is a review unit where the previous units are brought together and students can see the grammatical forms mixed together. There is also an appendix with a glossary for the highlighted vocabulary words found in the units and a CD-ROM that includes extra practice activities for the grammar and printable progress tests.

There are a lot of strengths to this text. For starters, the chapters start out with authentic language scenarios where the particular grammar can be seen in situations that students would be likely to encounter in the English-speaking world. The practice activities aren’t all the same written format, which enhances authenticity. The units aren’t necessarily thematically related like traditional foreign language textbooks, but the grammar concepts are shown in a variety of scenarios. The “tips” provide extra help and serve as a guide to when the particular language item is used elsewhere in English. The practice sections offer a variety of response formats, which makes it challenging in more than one way for the learner.

Overall, these texts provide opportunity for learners to develop communicative competence in reading and writing, but there isn’t much opportunity for speaking or listening in the series. There are no thematically-related units as in mainstream foreign language textbooks, which could be seen as a weakness.

I would be willing to use these texts in my class. I would use them more as a guide for explaining concepts to my students, rather than as a main textbook. The CD-ROM allows teachers to create tests and exercises and comes with a dictionary, and there are progress charts that would be helpful in assessment. This book is perfect for a classroom that isn’t totally teacher-based or student-based, but contains a nice balance. The intro activities provide inductive exposure to language, and right after, there is a more deductive approach so it would take teacher guidance to make students think about the reasons for why the grammar concepts and language exist in the context. This book would be useful for self study since these texts correspond with B1 and B2 level learners, who usually are familiar with the grammatical terms used in the books.

Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kayla Noel
October 2011 | Filed under Grammar