Review ~ Grammar Sense 3A multi-skill Upper-Intermediate grammar text
Grammar Sense 3 is a massive, multi-pronged attack to the question “How should I teach grammar?” 18 chapters each focus on one grammar point. At over 411 pages the book has room to teach each point’s form, meaning, and use in great detail. Reading, listening, speaking and writing exercises mean there is a lot to get through; using all this material effectively, especially without overwhelming students, will require careful planning. The book may need the teacher to be selective, but, if used well, can provide the grammar students need as well as a springboard to more meaningful communicative activities.
Each chapter is broken down into two parts. The first introduces the form. It does this through authentically-sourced readings, grammar tables and sentence building/completion exercises. The second half of each chapter delves into subtler points of use. It asks students to compare and analyze each grammar point’s different meanings. This knowledge is reinforced through speaking and writing exercises, and tested with critical thinking questions.
The downside of the book’s thoroughness is that students can be left overwhelmed. A typical unit can present upwards of five uses of one grammar point and twenty tasks to do. The tasks also jump in level and complexity from simple drill practice to quite challenging readings and sentence analyzing activities. Some tasks can take just a couple of minutes, whereas other could easily fill a one-hour lesson. This means the teacher will have to filter the book; choosing what information and tasks the students need to be exposed to and expanding or skipping the parts which are right or wrong for them.
My experience with this book (and its predecessor which I taught from for 3 years) was that the speaking activities and critical thinking exercises make for very good classes. The speaking activities are a good foundation into longer and more meaningful communication. The critical thinking exercise can help identify those students who have understood the finer points of use and those who haven’t.
A CD (ExamView Test Generator Level 1-3), bought separately, provides more form and critical thinking test material for this book and the other two lower books in the series (Grammar Sense 1 and 2). It could be useful if you were planning to test students more comprehensively, or if you want more of the same types of questions the book has.
The reading and writing sections worked less well in class. The readings tended to be harder than they needed to be as a medium to present the grammar. The writing exercises at the end of each chapter seemed undeveloped; it would have been nice to have seen more examples of what the book wanted students to write. The listenings too are rather lackluster. Most of them simply require identification of which form of a verb is being used, or to just choose the sentence they heard from a choice of two.
If you have taught Grammar Sense 3 before then the major, non-cosmetic, differences are the addition of more sections on the informal use of the grammar points and the online practice site. The informal sections detail what might be heard in everyday conversation. They are pretty short and were mostly useful as awareness raisers. The online section is, on the other hand, a huge new addition. It effectively doubles the amount of practice available to the students. The teacher can easily monitor students’ progress online by setting up an online classroom. Rather generously, the full audio of the student’s book is available for free download – so if you don’t find them useful in class at least students have the option of doing them alone.
As said above, there is a lot here, but I’m not sure all of it is useable in class. I think it best serves as something supplementary rather than as a full course, as in the latter case quite a lot of the book will have to be skipped for both the sake of both needs and preferences. Instead, it could be used to add some structure and grammar to a communication skills class for motivated Upper-Intermediate students.