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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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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