Saturday, 24 October 2009

English Result Intermediate

English Result – Intermediate
Students Book ISBN - 978-0-19-430480-1
Teacher's Book with DVD Pack 978-0-19-430242-5
Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald
Also available
Student's Book with DVD Pack 978-0-19-412956-5
Workbook with Answer Booklet and MultiROM Pack 978-0-19-430500-6
Workbook with MultiROM Pack 978-0-19-430496-2
Class Audio CDs (2) 978-0-19-430512-9
Teacher's Pack 978-0-19-430041-4

Elementary, Pre-intermediate, and Intermediate levels are already available. Upper-intermediate available 2010.

I have the intermediate student’s and teacher’s books to review.
Description and Overview
English Result is a four-level adult course with what looks like excellent teacher support and resources. I see this book as General English as opposed to Business English.
First Impression is of clear contents pages, the book opens so that you can see the contents of six chapters at one time. There are 12 chapters. This two page structure is repeated throughout the book. I really liked this style because you go from the warmer to the ‘Put it all together section’ without having to turn the page which means the content is easily accessed and more importantly referred back to during the lesson. The pages are full of colour and very attractively illustrated, this will certainly appeal to the younger learner. For the teacher’s book I really love how the content of the student’s book is repeated in the teacher’s book with the comments and lesson ideas alongside. Does this mean that I no longer have to take two books to the lesson? If so that is a real boon for a teacher like me who is moving around constantly between lessons when carrying the student’s book and the teacher’s book along with the CD player etc becomes very tiring . The chapters contain practical outcomes which are said to take students from how?- to can do in every lesson.
New Teacher Resource Packs (available 2010) include photocopiable activities for every unit.
New Student's Book and DVD Packs (available 2010) include a DVD of culture-rich material
Extras are available on

Who is the book written for?
It is written for adults and young adult learners and focuses on increasing motivation of the learner by inciting curiosity, challenging the student and allowing space for personalization of the content. The idea of this and the other properties in the book is to attract student’s attention thereby increasing their motivation.

Structure of the book
The book is divided into twelve chapters and the contents pages show the Grammar, Vocabulary and pronunciation topics related to each chapter. Each chapter also has an essential review section.
Each chapter has a strong theme and also contains a writing section where the topic is strongly related to the theme of the chapter. At the end of the book there are Pairwork, Irregular verbs, Audio scripts, Grammar Bank and Pronunciation sections.
What do I especially like?
The layout is an excellent feature especially of the teacher’s book, and I really like the way the instructions for each task are place next to a copy of the task. In some books it is very hard to relate the teacher instructions or task answers to the exercise as the numbering systems are not always this clear. This is the best teacher’s book I have ever seen I think.
The review sections are also good features and I appreciate the additional material available on the website. Very few groups are, in my experience, either all at the same level or progress at the same speed, and it is great to have the chance to give the quicker students an extra task related to the topic in hand, without having to design the task yourself on the spot or find something out of the bottom of your bag.

Would I use it for my students?
Yes I would for sure, the next time I am asked to recommend something for a general English class this book will be the first one I will think of.
Unfortunately, it would not have much relevance for my current crop of Economics students but I am sure I will find a use for this book in the future.

New Inside out

New Inside Out – is the revised version of the original Inside Out course.
by Sue Kay and Vaughan Jones, with Peter Maggs and Catherine Smith
Published by Macmillian

Beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, and Upper intermediate are now available.

Future releases: Advanced levels

Upper intermediate
Student’s book ISBN 978-0-230-00914-1
Workbook 978-0230-00923-3

New Inside Out includes the features from the original series - including the personalized speaking tasks - and has been extended with a lot of new features.
For example:
Useful phrases – a language bank of functional English, Vocabulary Extra pages.
Grammar sections – providing support needed for teaching grammar effectively.
New multimedia CD-ROM included with every Student’s Book. The workbook also has its own audio CD which covers the listening elements in the workbook.

Who is the book written for?
I have the Upper-intermediate to review, this book is written for adult students at the B2 level. In my opinion this is an excellent book for a higher level general English or conversation course. Perhaps also as a pre Cambridge FCE course. The workbook mirrors the topics in the student’s book and provides a good extension of the topics.

Structure of the book

The book contains 12 chapters covering a wide variety of general English topics, ranging from the historic story of the American Gold Rush to the pop queen Madonna, touching on the way some useful general topics such as charity, weddings and eating out. After each three chapters, there is a very useful review section.

What do I especially like?

I really like the illustrations; they are modern, colourful and interesting, including Obama and the very topical Secret DVD. I think they would interest and attract younger students who seem to expect more colourful books.

Would I use it for my students?

Yes, I think I would, if I had the correct type of group. Most of my students are older and more interested in Business English or English for Specific Purposes, so at the moment I do not have a suitable group.

East of the Sun

East of the sun- Julia Gregson ISBN 978-1-4091-251-9

East of the Sun Julia Gregson’s second novel is a wonderfully engrossing novel, telling the story of three young British women who leave cold cheerless England in search of a new life freedom and hopefully love in 1920s India. Gregson writes characters you can care about and this is what makes her writing such a pleasure to read.
In this book it is 1928, the three women are Rose, a beautiful but na├»ve bride-to-be, who is anxious about leaving her family, in particular her father who is ill, and also not sure about marrying a man she hardly knows. Victoria, her bridesmaid, she is a buxom but beautiful girl, who couldn’t be happier to get away from her overbearing mother to whom she will always be a disappointment. Victoria is determined to find herself a new future and a husband in India. Finally Viva, their totally inexperienced chaperone, is in search of the India of her childhood, trying to lay ghosts from the past and make a new life for herself. In order to pay her way she also take charge of a young man recently expelled from school who becomes an very significant figure in her future life.
They are each totally unprepared for the reality of the voyage and for the difference of life in India, even though Viva lived there as a small child. Reading this novel, written about the last days of the Raj is a wonderfully exotic experience as you read you can almost smell the spices and feel the summer heat.

The Water Horse

The Water House– Julia Gregson ISBN 0-75286-580-3

Julia Gregson’s first novel is the story of Catherine Carreg who comes from a beautifully described small Welsh village, it is set against the background of the Crimean War and sheds wonderful light on the position of a nurse in Florence Nightingale’s days. In fact Florence Nightingale herself is an important character in this novel which shows a side of this heroine of medicine which I had never even thought of before having been brought up to accept the accuracy of the historical accounts of her methods. However, this impression does have a ring of truth and perhaps draws back the curtain a little on a period of history.
Catherine was a wild child, a tomboy, who had been allowed to ride her ponies as she wished and who had developed a relationship with Deio who was the son of a cattle drover. Her life of freedom was about to change for ever and she decides to escape to London where via a position in a rest home for sick governesses in Harley Street, she eventually meets Florence Nightingale.
The war in the Crimea breaks out and reports of the conditions for the soldiers shock people, including Miss Nightingale who sets up an organization to send women of many classes out to Scutari . Catherine volunteers as a nurse and despite those around her, she manages to get to Scutari where the conditions are too horrible to believe. It is a living nightmare. Her idealistic notions are swept away as she battles first to actually be allowed to help and then to try to relieve the suffering of the dying men. Growing up quickly and painfully, and learning the hard lessons of war.
It is at this point that Deio comes back into her life and the love story begins again. …………….
The characters are very well drawn, and the writing is very skillful and quite unusual for this type of story. It is very hard to put down once you have started to read it. Julia Gregson writes a fabulous historical novel and I will look out for her future books.

The Water Horse on Amazon

Saturday, 4 July 2009

With Love From Ma Maguire

Ruth Hamilton –With love from Ma Maguire

Ruth Hamilton is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. She writes sagas about Northern England going back to the previous century. Ruth Hamilton is the bestselling author of A Whisper to the Living, With Love From Ma Maguire, Nest of Sorrows, Billy London's Girls, Spinning Jenny, The September Starlings, A Crooked Mile, Paradise Lane, The Bells of Scotland Road, The Dream Sellers, The Corner House, Miss Honoria West, Mulligan’s Yard, Saturday’s Child, Matthew and Son and Chandler's Green. Born in Bolton, which is the setting for many of her novels, she has become one of the north-west of England’s most popular writers. Ruth Hamilton has spent most of her life in Lancashire. and now lives in Liverpool.

With love from Ma Maguire is a saga which spans 40 years of life in the Lancashire cotton mills. This book tells of the lives and loves of two families from different backgrounds, the rich Swainbanks and the poor Maguires.

Those of you who like Catherine Cookson will love the Ma Maguire story it contains all the ingredients you and I look for in a book to relax with at the end of the day. The characters are well drawn and the plot complicated and believable. It is one of those stories which you don’t want to stop and I am sure the characters would make an interesting television programme for family viewing.

Read and Enjoy.

Ma Maguire

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Webquests in the Busines English Classroom

The pedagogy of WebQuests and their place in the Business English Classroom.

Sheila Vine

1. Introduction to this article
2. What is a WebQuest?
3. Why use WebQuests for language teaching?
4. What WebQuests are not
5. Relevance and Business English uses
6. WebQuest production
7. Webquest evaluation
8. Webquest trouble shooting
9. Bibliography


This article is based on a talk I hoped to give at BESIG in Berlin in 2007 but had to cancel as the conference clashed with the Cambridge BEC Exams.

Webquests have been an important topic in online and blended English language teaching for some years now. However, they tend to be a misunderstood tool and are often dismissed by many Business English teachers as ‘some sort of quiz using the internet’, and a ‘good idea for children but unsuitable for adults.’

Those teachers who have taken onboard the pedagogy of the WebQuest find that they are an engaging topic both in the writing for teachers and in the completion for students of all ages.

What is a WebQuest?

Bernie Dodge of San Diego State University defined a WebQuest as ‘an inquiry-orientated activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet…’ Bernie Dodge is the father of the webquest and although many others have written on the subject, it is his ideas that underlie the WebQuests in use today.
One way to think of them is as a type of project where students complete a task using the internet rather than books as their source material. These ‘projects’ can be designed for group work, pair work or for one student working alone. They are very useful in a situation where the students do not have regular class meetings or are working entirely separate from each other, and then the Internet allows an exchange of ideas, which can often be missing from other forms of online learning.
The WebQuest is an entirely modern way of learning but it is underpinned by many pedagogical theories. For example constructivist theory, the tasks are framed by open ended questions and so simply to know the facts is not enough the students must be able to use them. When a WebQuest passes John Keller’s ARCS, Model of Motivational Design the students will be much more motivated to complete it. Attention and Relevance come from the choice of topic the more relevant to the students needs the better. Confidence comes from the scaffolding and support provided by the group and the design and the teacher and Satisfaction comes from completing a task with ‘Real World’ feedback.
The webquest is like a complicated recipe and a good result depends on the preparation, a well-prepared webquest can motivate and encourage the students a badly prepared one is simply an excuse to use the Internet in class time.
Why use WebQuests for language teaching?

WebQuests provide a way to introduce the Internet into a conventional classroom setting. The Internet is such a part of most people’s lives today that the idea of education without involving it is becoming more and more outdated.

Well designed WebQuests involve the learners in communication exercises and the sharing and transformation of knowledge these are principle goals of language education and teachers make use of a variety of methods to encourage them. In this way, WebQuests can act as a simple linguistic tool, which the students can follow at their own pace investigating the language via online dictionaries and by actually seeing the words in context.
Students who are not yet involved in the business world can role-play the tasks that they will be expected to perform in the business world in a safe environment.

What WebQuests aren't.

A webquest is not a book that has been years in the writing, publishing and distributing to the learners and teachers, it is an up to the minute resource its use to the student can easily be understood. They, when they are well designed, are not activities where the students can simply copy and paste information or regurgitate half-digested facts in an exam situation. The information they find has to be transformed to answer the question.

INPUT (from Internet) - TRANSFORMATION – OUTPUT (real world document)

Relevance and Business English uses

Webquests are a very good example of an interdisciplinary approach to education. When we are teaching Business English we are quite often actually teaching doing business in English, this is very different to just learning the language for its own sake. Teaching doing business in English involves intercultural knowledge and business skills, which are often out of the reach of the typical language teacher. A well designed WebQuest that has been put together by someone who is aware of other cultures and ways of doing business can open the students eyes in such a way that potential future or past problems are understood and can be avoided. Exposure to websites from different cultures can improve the students ‘Real World’ understanding, as the examples are not from dry textbooks.
Webquests encourage critical thinking skills including, comparison, classification, and analysis of findings. When the questions are well set, the students cannot simply copy the information they must transform it to answer the question. These motivational aspects encourage learners to make greater efforts increase concentration and give them a real sense of a job done for a purpose.

Examples of real world business English skills which can be taught via a WebQuest- CV writing and job hunting and interview skills, email netiquette, marketing a product, environmental purchasing, planning a business trip.

WebQuest production

While producing a webquest may not call for detailed technical knowledge, it does involve the teacher in developing a completely new set of skills involved with computer and Internet usage. For example-research skills, analytical skills, word processing skills, planning and production skills, this can turn out to be a very time consuming business. The resulting WebQuest will then need to be transferred on to a suitable server for online use.
Whilst it is possible to find many already constructed WebQuests on the Internet and simply adapt them to your situation these may also need a large amount of time input to check and update. However, if you are able to make a reasonable investment into the project there are organisations that will develop WebQuests to your specific requirements. See bibliography.

Webquest evaluation
Webquests are good for helping learners to evaluate their performance in a non-threatening way. They give students a way of assessing their own contributions (self-assessment). Where appropriate the teacher can show what is required by including an evaluation step – allowing learners to view this before they embark on the webquest can help them focus on the skills and language that they will be using. Several rubrics to help novice teachers are available on the internet www….

Teachers using WebQuests and modifying existing shared WebQuests will find Tom March and Bernie Dodge’s criteria for assessing the best WebQuests useful.

Webquest trouble shooting
Anachronisms Web resources come and go and some have a risky shelf-life. If the teacher checks all the links just before designing the webquest, trouble should be avoided.
Emergency: As with all ICT activities, a fallback option or flexibility is essential.
Management: Webquests can be difficult to conduct in certain settings. When you are not face to face with your learners you should anticipate possible problem areas if you are going to succeed. Make sure that you can communicate with everyone by email or instant messaging before you start. For large classes or in a row-by-row PC lab where computers are not available around the room, careful classroom management is needed especially in blended learning contexts. The teacher will obviously have to manage the movement between web-based and non-web based activities carefully, which itself is a skill and takes time/experience/training to acquire. But haven't nearly all teachers always had to cope with problems like this in a traditional setting? When WebQuests are carried out at a distance, forum space can be included for asynchronous feedback and email tasks can be used to keep the group working at the same pace and on track.
Language: Some learners may feel that WebQuests lose sight of the language-learning aspect of a Business English classroom. Please remember, the best WebQuests are never driven by neat grammatical areas or airtight vocabulary areas. It will be appreciated that in the end the more realistic mixed use of language is beneficial even if it is daunting for some people at first. The teacher must be aware of this. At the very heart of WebQuest learning is the idea that learners can make their own vocabulary lists, etc. or carry out interesting interactive manageable tasks, and in doing so focus on their own success. Nevertheless, when relevant language support is required, the teacher should know how to give the right feedback.

Dodge, B. (1995) Some thoughts About Webquests .

Rubrics for Web lessons

March, T Design Process

Webquest Portal

Webquest Maker

What's a wiki-for those who keep asking me

Wiki what is that? By Sheila Vine,

In this article, I would like to introduce you to a web tool. I am sure most of you have heard of the ubiquitous ‘Wikipedia,’ the free online editable encyclopaedia. Wikipedia is the most famous example of the use of a wiki. Wikipedia has been criticised in many areas however, it does provide an excellent example of what can be done with wiki technology. However, Wikis used for educational purposes do not have to be anything like as complicated as wikipedia.

The name wiki originates from the Hawaiian “wikiwiki” which translates as “very quick.” Steve Jones (UIC) defines a wiki as “Web-based, Interactive, Kollaborative, and Iterative” .
This ICT tool can be used to exchange, store and contribute to the construction of knowledge collaboratively.

A wiki is a collection of editable pages, it looks like a website but it allows the users to add to and edit the content. Users do not need any knowledge of web page authoring. The “no HTML required” has great appeal; the easy to use font buttons alongside ‘Edit’ and ‘Save’, mean that students who can use ‘Word’ can use a Wiki. The ability to edit content is the main difference between a wiki and a website, because on a website only the owners can edit the information.

The flexibility of the wiki has led to a huge development in the use of Wikis for educational purposes. They are used in a wide range of settings, from schools and EFL learners to the Open University Masters Programme.
Creating your own or a class wiki
Anyone can set up a wiki by using one of the many free services that are available. The leading ones are Wikispaces , and Peanut Butter Wiki negative side to using a free service is that you will often have to accept advertisements on your site.

Wikis can be open to all, others are closed, or password protected, relying on invitations to access, this is dependent on the way the wiki is set up. Because a wiki is web based, interactive, collaborative, and iterative, it changes over time.
Wikis keep a chronological history for every page, so nothing is lost forever, no changes can be completely destructive, and changes can always be undone; this is known as version tracking. This means that, you can revert to an earlier version of the wiki or wiki page by simply accessing the history section and using a fetch-back button.
Another key feature is you can monitor a wiki or a particular page and receive notification of any changes to that page (by email).

How will it help teachers/learners?

Recent years have seen a huge uptake of wikis for educational purposes. The main reasons are related to increasing the opportunities for collaborative constructive authoring. Nowadays the freely available software means any teacher can set up wikis, which allow for two students, a whole class, or multiple classes to work together. This can lead to exchanges and develop a worldwide audience or simply be a useful system for connecting a closed group of learners. A wiki is a great place for learners to start posting their work so that peers and teachers can correct, improve, and discuss ideas online with them. Wikis are not based on hierarchy – all contributors are equal and can be easily accessed at any time from any online computer.
So if your class are preparing a journal article or report, putting any sort of list together or sharing project resources this could be a useful tool.

Try this video link for a simple explanation of a wiki.

What I like about Wikis
 They are simple and quick to set up, which means that the technical side is a minor aspect.
 They add an element of technology to a face-to-face course without stretching the students’ resources and time too far.
 They encourage collaboration and peer correction, which is often missing from ‘normal’ classes.
 They make it easy to set up team and group working.

What I am less happy about
 The advertising pop-ups, which it is possible to avoid by paying for a premium service.
 Once the students start to experiment themselves, the basic design is often a little limiting.

Some ideas of how to use Wikis
 Uploading documents that contain the types of errors your students often make, and setting them the task of editing the documents. Different students could use different colours for example or they could each have their own version on the document on their own page.
 Collaborative story telling - Give the title of a story and let the students continue it sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. You could give them a vocabulary list of words to use. Or set up a beginning and an end for them to work between.
 Set up a page for typical errors, which you could list without identifying the students concerned but using quotes form their work and asking for corrections.
 Make a list of idiomatic expressions or phrasal verbs that the students could add to as they come across them during the course. Individual students could print this off at a later stage.
 Encourage the students to share pieces of writing they are proud of with their colleagues on the course, get the students to vote for the best piece and award a small prize.

Using Wikis can make education two-way; they open up new possibilities for collaborative writing projects and can capture and disseminate knowledge in unexpected ways.
Wiki wiki! What are you waiting for? Encourage your learners to participate! The power of “wiki” technology lies in flexibility and multi-dimensionality.

Thanks to Valentina Dodge and Nik Peachey for some of the information in this article.


A Really simple way to keep up to date

RSS – a Really Simple way to keep up to date

This time I would like to introduce you to something that I took a long time to decide to use and now wonder how I ever managed without it.

I am sure you have all seen this orange symbol on blogs and lists you visit on a regular basis and thought as I often did. ‘What is that for?’ or ‘What does it do?’ Well this article is my attempt to clear up this issue for you.

RSS means Real or Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary - its main benefit to users, is that it provides notification of a change to a particular website, news group or blog. This is done via a behind-the-scenes code, which we do not really need to know about, called XML. This information is then stored in a place where you can access it easily. You read your RSS feeds by means of a feed reader or aggregator. So instead of your email inbox being filled with notifications of changes, you decide when you want to check to see if a change has been made.

The first step is to set up a feed reader; if you use Internet Explorer (IE), there is one already set up for you . If you click on the ‘favorites’ star you will see two boxes underneath - one is favorites and the other is RSS feeds. If you use Mozilla Firefox then your RSS feed reader is in Bookmarks and you simply have to add the feeds.
This is how you add the feeds; if you see either the symbol or this symbol on a site you regularly visit, or the in your browser bar, you can start setting up your feed reader list today. There are also other ways to subscribe to feeds - see the commoncraft video link at the end of this article.
If you click on either or you are taken to the subscribe screen, you click on the ‘subscribe to this feed button’ and a pop up box comes up and you have to click on subscribe. This then clears the pop up and you get a screen where you can go directly to view your feeds.
There are also many online readers, for example Bloglines or you could install an RSS reader like Sharp reader on to your computer. Other possibilities include Juice: and Great News: . But for most people the IE feed reader is adequate. You simply access it from IE and no other program is necessary.

When you want to review your feeds in IE, you click on the favourites star and then on feeds and the feeds appear. You can tell if new information has been added as these feeds appear in bold and you can click on the headline to read the article, thus allowing you to keep up with a lot of different sites on a daily basis in a time saving manner. The other possibilities mentioned have similar ways to access information, you will be able to learn these on their sites.

How can I use this with my students?
If they are using blogs as writing practice, you can check who has added to their blog from your feed reader, without having to type in all the blog addresses. Also if they are researching a project, they can use the feed reader to collect lists of sites, with relevance to the topic they are studying and so they can see if any changes have been made to the site. For example most news websites and newsgroups use RSS.
Or they could use it to see if a fellow student’s blog has been amended, so that they can go to it and comment.

If you work in the English for Special Purposes field, RSS feeds can help you stay up to date with your students’ subject matter, or pick up material relating to new developments. You simply have to search for the topics once, then subscribe to them and watch out for updates on the important websites on your RSS feed reader. This should make your life a lot easier. You can easily set up exercises knowing that the material you are using is right up to date.

What I like about RSS feeds.
• The way my inbox stays just a little bit clearer than it used to do.
• Being able to keep up to date with topics more easily.
• Knowing when a blog has been updated.

What I don’t like about RSS feeds.
• There are still too many sites which do not have the RSS facility.
• The way many people still think RSS is too complicated to use and so don’t use it.
• With the IE feed reader if you have a problem with your computer the information might be lost if windows has to be reinstalled after a computer crash.

Here is my favourite video explanation of RSS feeds

I hope you have enjoyed your introduction to RSS feeds. Happy Subscribing.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Times 100

Time for something different

Last week I was looking for some material for a business studies course I am running at a local college and quite by accident I stumbled upon The Times 100.
This is a free resource for business studies teachers, which is great for EFL as well. It contains 100 free lesson plans as well as worksheets and exam packs.
One of the wonderful things about the site, is the different ways in which you can search the content, to get the best case study for your situation. You can search by topic - Finance, Environment, Marketing etc, or by company for a specific type of company.
For the careers teacher for example, there is a page which links to specific job opportunities in the company and then lists the qualifications relevant for those specific types of job.
The companies are all well known businesses and the site allows teachers to link through to the company website for further information.

When you investigate the site, you find even more resources, like the Revision of Theory section where there are excellent detailed pages of notes on specific topics; all these resources are also downloadable.

As for the case studies themselves, they are short - around four pages while still being suitably detailed to interest non-native speaking students or adults. However, they are written for the native speaker student and so the language is of a high level. Each case study is accompanied by detailed teachers’ notes, including key vocabulary and some additional questions to be incorporated, as required.

Teachers can print off the case studies as a PDF, their layout includes relevant pictures, making the style similar to a corporate brochure; so they appear very ‘real’ and so totally unlike the dated case studies in text books. They are produced in a clear type-face and well set out and paragraphed, with plenty of white space for clarity. Important vocabulary is highlighted in bold, for easy reading.

I thoroughly recommend this website. Let me know what you think of it.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Get caught reading

About Get Caught Reading
Get Caught Reading is a nationwide campaign to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read. May is Get Caught Reading month, but the campaign is promoted throughout the year. Get Caught Reading is supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Launched in 1999, "Get Caught Reading" is the brainchild of former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officer of AAP, the industry association representing book publishers. She saw the opportunity to spread the word about the joys of reading through an industry-supported literacy campaign.
Because of research indicating that early language experience actually stimulates a child's brain to grow and that reading to children gives them a huge advantage when they start school, we hope to encourage people of all ages to enjoy books and magazines and to share that pleasure with the young children in their lives.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Educating the Net Generation

Educating the Net Generation : How to Engage Students in the 21st Century. - Bob Pletka ,Ed.D. published by Santa Monica Press
Describes how the educational needs of the Net Generation differ from their Generation X parents and baby boomer grandparents and discusses ways to minimize the increasing dropout rate and student disengagement.
In this little book Bob Pletka opens a baby boomer teacher eyes so that I was enabled to see the huge gulf that exists between these generations. I think it should be essential reading for every educator of young adults on the planet.

Bob describes how he used his “My So-called Digital Life” project to engage students who had become totally switched off by the current educational system.
The book provides an insightful examination of the reasons for recent increases in student dropout rates and disengagement from school learning it also challenges parents and educators to create a learning environment that is relevant, connected to society, and meaningful in the context of the 21st century.

In an appendix at the back of the book he provides two surveys. If you are a parent I dare you to try them they will open your eyes too. If you are an educator then check his inventory for teachers. Even is you only implement some of his ideas I am sure your students will appreciate it.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Macmillian Dictionary

Try the new dictionary.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Great resource

Visuwords™ online graphical dictionary and thesaurus
Look up words in the Visuwords online graphical dictionary and thesaurus to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate

Friday, 13 March 2009

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Sterling Silver 2-New edition

Sterling Silver 2-New edition –Published by Cornelsen
ISBN -13978-3-464-20411-1

This book is specially written for older learners with a basic knowledge of English. It comes complete with two CDs with the listening exercises and useful phrases.
In the back of the book is a useful vocabulary list with the vocabulary first in Unit order and then in alphabetical order. My students find this choice of methods very useful as some prefer to learn vocabulary before they try the unit and others like to be able to look words up easily as they go through the units. There is also a key to the exercises and to the Home Practice in the back of the book.

As a teacher with very little German knowledge, I find the Information and Tips sections particularly helpful as they give the students confidence that the book is not all strange to them, and they help me with my German sometimes.

The course is clearly presented and there is no sense that the students are in any way being treated like children. The illustrations are modern and colourful but the people portrayed are obviously adults.

Another of the things I like about the book is the story idea, the participants are following a story which leads the students through a realistic holiday in the UK situation and exposes them to real life situations on the way. This would be a good book to use if the teacher was planning to take a group to the UK on holiday or also for students to self-study before such a trip.

Finally, I would like to mention the revision pages at the end of every other chapter, it is an excellent way to go over the language and vocabulary again and check for misunderstandings. They help to build the student’s confidence, which is generally what older students lack and the reason why they are doing the course in the first place.

Better Days by June Tate

Better Days by June Tate

ISBN 0-7472-6324-8 Headline Book Publishing

This is a book for the Cookson and Cox lovers among you. It is set in 1954 and is the story of Gemma Barrett who goes to sea on the Queen Mary as a stewardess. She has two romantic opportunities a goody and a baddy.

This is a well written romantic novel, great to clear away those recession blues.
A good read for the ladies.

If you like romance you will love June Tate’s books.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Business Basics International Edition

Business Basics International Edition –David Grant & Robert McLarty
Oxford University Press ISBN 978-3-06-800050-2

This book is an updated edition of the popular Business Basics focusing it especially on the International market. While keeping the style and features of the previous edition it has added listening material using North American accents as well as non-native speakers of English. This adds realism from modern business life, as most of our students use their English speaking to other non-native speakers.
The free MultiROM has even more language and listening practice and can be played on a computer or a CD player.
It is a good basic book for those students who have done no English since school/ for …years as it revises the basic grammar forms in an up to date business setting. It is suitable for those in work as the activities reflect normal business situations. This business setting is varied but has its main emphasis on representing your company and its products at home and abroad, which are certainly useful topics for a basic or refresher book.
The majority of exercises are of a simple gap-fill type and the practice situations help the learning and revision of appropriate business vocabulary. These types of exercises while less interesting for more advanced students are useful for confidence building in weaker learners. The illustrations are clear and colourful and the grammar tips and language notes are usefully highlighted on the pages.
I tried this book with a group of students who were already using the previous book; we worked on Unit 9, they liked the clear colourful illustrations in preference to those in the older book. The slight language differences were confusing for them as they are used to my British English especially spellings, but they found the listening acceptable and useful.
The language topics were useful and easily transferred to a real life work situation.
I particularly liked the simple writing exercises, as writing is not a popular topic for my students; these are well scaffolded, interesting and most importantly relevant.
One point that they did not like were the games, my students are not fans of this type of activity, but they did like the short reading passages, which had lots of scope for discussion.
I would recommend this book for a false beginners group who you are leading towards BEC Preliminary exams, it would provide a good foundation, or for business people who must start to go on trips abroad, perhaps in a group, who have not travelled on business before.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Hearing by John Lescroart- A great book

The Hearing – John Lescroart ISBN 0-451-20489-1

What an excellent book. It is written by an author who clearly knows his subject-the law, and his location-San Francisco.

If you are a fan of the American court room or legal drama then this is the story for you. For the ladies it has a romantic element too so this is a book you could both read and find something special.

The hero is an ageing detective who is ably assisted by his friend a lawyer. The networking in this book is a model for us all to follow.

Lieutenant Glitsky is well known in San Francisco's world of crime and punishment. But he still has secrets. His illegitimate daughter, Elaine has been murdered and the DA calls for the death penalty. Dismas Hardy, the lawyer, battles to win a fair trial for his client, and finds himself entering a world of corruption.

Treat yourself to a classic tale.

Friday, 6 March 2009

making your mind up

Jill Mansell

Making up your mind - ISBN 0-7553-0491-8

This is an excellent girlie novel, perfect to while away a long hot summer afternoon in the garden or on the beach.
It features Lottie, single again with two children. She is great at sorting things out. Everything except herself. This book will make your day. Pick it up to brighten a wet weekend in March. I am sure it will please you.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Happy for no Reason

Read this book and learn the 21 Happiness Habits that Shimoff has refined from conducting 100 interviews with "deeply happy" people (including actress Goldie Hawn and author Elizabeth Gilbert). Shimoff takes into account mind, heart, body and soul in seven chapters that cover three Happiness Habits each, as well as corresponding anecdotes that "define what it means to be Happy for No Reason." The personal stories of happy interviewees prove enlightening, and the principles they support are sound.

This is a wonderfully compelling book that I have no fear in recommending in these days of depression and deep sadness. Shimoff shows that you can't depend on outside sources for your happiness. It has to come from inside you.

The book contains remarkable first-person stories of many happy people and Shimoff relates these stories to her ‘7 steps to being Happy from the inside out.’ Read the book and find out what she means. I loved it. It contains a holistic 7-step program which encompasses Happiness Habits for all areas of life: personal power, mind, heart, body, soul, purpose, and relationships. You'll learn practical strategies that will help you experience happiness from the inside out.
You don't have to win the lottery, or lose twenty pounds. By the time you finish this book, you will know how to experience happiness.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Business Benchmark

Benchmark written by Guy Brook-Hart
Pre-Intermediate to Intermediate-BEC Preliminary. (B1) ISBN 3-12-534303-8

Who are these books for?

Benchmark is a new three level series aimed at those students taking a Cambridge ESOL exam, either the new BULATS exam or the Business English Certificate series. The student’s books and CD’s are specific to the exam but the teacher’s books cover both exam types. They are suitable for working with a teacher and self-study too though many of the speaking exercises require a partner.
One useful feature of the students books is the Exam skills and exam practice section that contains a clear description of the exam as well as some testing material for each specific question type. There are also sample answers to the writing questions for the students to use to compare their own answers.

Pre-Intermediate – Intermediate

I have been teaching the Cambridge suite of exams for many years and have had my best successes with books that were tightly focused on the exam syllabus and contained regular exam practice. However, the books I have been using are starting to become a little dated and so I was very interested in looking at this new series.

Structure of the book
The book contains twenty-four topic-focused units that have reading, listening, speaking and writing components. Not all components are covered in each topic however there are also additional vocabulary and grammar sections.

In the exam section the exams are explained and skills necessary are discussed, there is also a practice exam for each section in the back of the book. Following this are the full answer keys for the book and the exam, a unit-by-unit vocabulary section and the tape scripts. Unfortunately the vocabulary is only explained in English which will mean more dictionary work for the students As well as the student’s book there is also a personal study book that contains additional exercises for revising the vocabulary of each unit. This also has its own key making this useful for homework exercises and self-study.

The book contains an interesting variety of exercises that make it suitable as a general course book the main components that I miss are exam type question in the normal units and notes tying the tasks to actual parts of the exam. The teacher’s book confirms that the tasks in the units do not replicate exam activities. This might make it more difficult to use for the student working alone or a teacher unused to the exam style. The occasional task tips are a useful addition also.

Would I use it with my students?
Yes, I think I will be trying it, with a group who have a longer time to study than my normal groups. I like the additional photo copy able activities in the teacher’s book and the modern layout of the student’s book.

Upper-Intermediate (BEC Vantage)

Upper-Intermediate - BEC Vantage. (B2) ISBN 3-12-5343131-5

The layout of the book is essentially the same as the preliminary version, with each chapter containing some of the essential elements for the exam. In my opinion there is too little writing practice, many of my students find this the most difficult aspect of the exam. The Vantage book especially pays too little attention to the writing of reports. This has become one of the favoured exam questions at Vantage level recently and it is not covered in enough detail here as far as I can see. Again this is acceptable for an experienced teacher who can add additional material but would be a problem if the student were working alone or perhaps with a less experienced teacher.

Will I use it with my students?

Yes, I will, I think it will prove an acceptable source of material and refresh my BEC classes, it so easy to become stale when using the same books over a long period. Thanks to Guy Brook-Hart for giving us this reasonable alternative resource.

This review was previously published in English Teaching Matters.

Double Dealing - Pre Intermediate

This book is one of a series of business English books with a difference written by James Schofield and Evan Frendo. There are pre-intermediate and intermediate editions of the book available and they are published by Summertown books and available via Amazon. Business English with a difference I hear you say, yes it really is true these books are different. The main difference between them and the other Business English books available is the theme or story, which runs through the book and ties the chapters together. The story in the pre-intermediate edition revolves around Aurora and the Grand Hotel and the things she has to deal with, customers, complaints, presenting the hotel internationally, all sorts of situations, which the students can relate to and of course use at work. The students are treated to little bits of real life conversation showing emotions as well as language as the plot of the story is revealed.

In his recent presentation for ELTAS James Schofield talked to the participants about how stories provide ‘mental scaffolding’ for the language being learned as well as helping them ‘absorb the skills and the language in a meaningful and motivating context.’

I found, the students I tried the book with, were easily and enthusiastically able to relate how far the story had progressed to those who had missed the session. The exercises work with the situations and so extend the use of the vocabulary. They were always keen to learn more of the story.

Two other aspects of the books that I really liked were the cultural case studies and the personal data banks at the end of each chapter. The cultural elements were included in a lighthearted style that also appealed to my learners, and I used the personal data banks as a revision element for the unit. They are especially useful for those students who have done no learning for some time and so are not used to recording vocabulary in other ways. They make them aware that they cannot expect to remember vocabulary without making some sort of effort. The books are modern and well illustrated an appeal across the student age range.

A further advantage of these Summertown books is the availability of a multi lingual vocabulary on the company web site, very useful for vocabulary testing and revision. I can thoroughly recommend these books for use in the business English classroom.

This review was previously published in English Teaching Matters.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The secret of life

Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937, does that mean it is out of date? No it is the number one success book of all time.
This little book has had influence on success and lifestyle writers ever since.
It is totally approachable and it should be on everyones book shelves.
I read it at a time when I was looking for guidance and I have it at my bedside still today.If you are looking for some good advice in these days of crisis this is the place to start looking for success.

The edition I have contains 14 chapters plus a forward from Vic Johnson a life style Guru. If you would like to try this book for the cost of the postage click on the link below.

click here for your free softback book

Have a great read