Review ~ Everybody UpAn ambitious and modern package for YLs that almost lives up to its promise.
Everybody Up is a seven-level series for Young Learners (YLs) that ranges from young beginners (Starters) to older advanced students (Everybody Up 6). The course is comprised of a Student Book, Student Audio CD, Student Workbook, Picture Cards, Teacher’s Book, Class Audio CDs, CD-ROM with placement and practice tests, iTools computer software package and an interactive website.
As the range of components suggests, this is a very ambitious package that according to the authors, aims to “develop students’ speaking, listening, reading and writing skills through activities that build students’ independence and confidence, leading them to really use English”. They claim to achieve this through Linked Language Learning (connecting the classroom language to their own experiences and recycling the language that they already know) and CLIL (the cross-curricular learning of other school subjects through English) by adopting a Communicative Approach that uses “scaffolding” from the teacher as its central tenet.
On paper, this sounds like a thorough and up-to-date package that utilizes the very best of contemporary YL methodology whilst giving complete support to the teacher. However, I can’t help thinking that in their attempt to be thorough and contemporary the authors have simply plucked some attractive buzzwords and shoehorned them into what is in essence a fairly standard student textbook, just with a lot of bells and whistles.
Each Student Book is divided into eight themed units, each of which is divided into four “lesson units” that follow the same pattern. Unit 1 of each of the themed units introduces lexis (six vocabulary items) and grammatical structure. Unit 2 gives different but related lexis (six more vocabulary items) with the same grammatical structure and a “What about you?” section for personalisation and freer production of the grammar and lexis. Unit 3 consolidates the lexis and structure through Reading and Conversation with the stated aim of introducing “chunks of functional, communicative language in a conversation, and a global value to help students become better citizens”. Unit 4 presents a topic unrelated to language using the same grammatical structure, with four new vocabulary items. The authors claim that “critical thinking activities and graphic organizers help students practice age-appropriate academic skills” and this part is intended to have a strong CLIL focus.
The Teacher’s Books give a complete suggested lesson plan for each section with clear directions and tapescripts. They also contain companion photocopiable materials for each unit, along with review tests.
The iTools software can be used by installing each textbook onto a computer as an Application, which then has a digitized form of the textbook that can be used and manipulated much like an interactive whiteboard (IWB), with features for highlighting phrases, adding notes and screenshading parts of the screen.
On the plus side, the student textbook is colourful and easy to navigate with vocabulary presented clearly, often in short lexical chunks, using modern-looking photos and drawings. Similarly, grammatical structures are shown in clear boxes with colour coding to show possible noun/pronoun etc substitutions. Also, the CLIL-focused sections often provide non-frequent content-specific vocabulary that is not found in other textbooks and are often interesting and educational for students.
Despite these appealing features, there is little evidence of vocabulary recycling over a range of more than two pages, making it difficult at times to retain new language. The pictures used, although new and colourful are an awkward and seemingly random mix of stock photos, lower quality photos apparently especially taken for the book and basic clip art. Also, the decision to present the structures as isolated grammatical sentences in boxes makes it difficult to justify the modern CLT approach that the authors claim and reduces the teacher to traditional grammar teaching, albeit with nice colours. This also means that the range of activities that can be generated from these exercises are limited.
Some CLIL-focused sections work very well. For example, Unit 3 of Everybody Up 4 uses the topic of appearance to give a science lesson on various animals that seems like it could be a genuine biology class for YLs. Others are completely contrived grammar or function practice with a subject tag slapped on them. For example, Unit 8 of Everybody Up 4 has a transportation theme with the grammatical structure “How’s he going to get to the department store?” at the centre of the lesson. This would seem to me to be unlikely to be included in a regular, non-CLIL social studies lesson.
The Teacher’s Book has a number of positive features and would be useful to less experienced YL teachers. However, the range of activities suggested in the lesson plans and the unimaginative photocopiable material make it difficult to actually use all of the stuff provided. I have been teaching a small group of advanced YLs using Everybody Up 5 for the past few months and have yet to come across a photocopiable activity that I have wanted to use and have subsequently been forced into producing my own supplementary worksheets.
The iTools software is very well made and presented and in small groups (as in my own situation) I have found it to be very useful in spotlighting certain aspects of the text and engaging students in a more visually pleasing way than the book. However, this relies on having a computer readily available with the software installed in all teaching locations and may be superfluous for the majority of teachers dealing with larger groups in low-tech classrooms.
Overall, I think that the Everybody Up series is an important step in the right direction for YL resources that provides a good support package for students and teachers alike. It also attempts to incorporate current YL methodology in an engaging and user-friendly way that is better than most other YL textbooks on the market. However, I can’t help feeling that it contains a lot of wasted opportunities. Providing a wider range of activities and a more integrative approach to grammatical structures, more useful teacher resources and a closer CLIL match in all units of all books would help the reality of Everybody Up match the vision of its creators.
July 2013 | Filed under Young Learners
Luke Lawrence has been teaching in Japan for 11 years and is currently working at the British Council Tokyo. His main interests are cultural context in ELT, innovations in methodology, and Young Learners.
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