Review ~ Progressive Skills in English

Progressive Skills in English builds the skills required for academic English in an engaging, varied and stimulating way.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Clare Welch
Progressive Skills in English

Progressive Skills in English

I’m not usually keen on skills-based courses, as there can be a danger when focusing on individual skills that it takes away from the holistic approach to language learning that many students benefit from. However, these books from Garnet offer a variety of tasks, a crossover of language skills and engaging materials, and avoid feeling as forced or contrived as lessons can be when you try to isolate one particular skill.

The course is called Progressive Skills in English, and it’s fair to say the course title actually reflects the course. It is possible to make good, solid progress in language learning with this book. It is focused on working towards the IELTS Academic test or building university students’ academic English skills. However, I’ve also found this course book works very well with motivated General English small groups or individuals learning in a more intensive manner.

It works well for adult learners and I like that the course maintains some aspects of fun, discovery-based tasks that children and adolescents often enjoy in their courses but which can be missing from adult-orientated courses. While commonly used in materials for younger learners, the colour coordinating of new grammatical structures worked particularly well here, allowing students to visually feel their way around the new language and to feel more engaged.

It’s a four-level course, from Intermediate to Advanced. Each Course Book is supplemented by a Workbook, and includes CDs and a DVD. The “learner’s dictionary” with course section references at the back of the book is a really useful addition – more course books should include this for ease of reference.

The Course Books are broadly divided into five themes, which are then examined skill by skill. While it is possible to chop and change between themes and skills, following the material from start to finish makes it easier for students to progress onto more intricate and involved tasks. Overall, I felt the pace of the book was good and there is a constant sense of moving forward, meaning my students were keen to see what came next.

My only gripes are that in places the page layouts don’t have as much space as they could, giving the impression at times that there’s too much going on. I also found that the Teacher’s Book could have gone into a greater depth about the material in general. It would also have been nice to see photocopiable resource material included in the Teacher’s Book. Some additional resource material is provided or linked to on the course website, but it is not as complete as you might expect.

Minor gripes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent using this course and actually look forward to using it again in the future. I should point out that the aim of this series is to prepare students for university or academic life, whereas I was using it with a more General English learning goal. I think that it says a lot about the quality of this title that I was able to use it with learners who didn’t share its specific purpose and still enjoy success with it.

Reviewed by Clare Welch for July 2013

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