Review ~ Instant Academic Skills

A bounty of ideas for your Academic Skills students!
Reviewed for Teflnet by John Grant
Instant Academic Skills

Instant Academic Skills

The Instant Academic Skills photocopiable resource pack is a much needed collection of materials for busy instructors’ academic preparation courses. This resource book is the latest offering from the Cambridge Copy Collection, which has brought us such favorite titles as Instant IELTS and Pronunciation Games. It can be used as the basis of a whole course, or even better as a great supplementary book for prepared materials. The materials are aimed at Upper Intermediate to Advanced students, meaning it would suitable for students from a level of 5.5 on IELTS or who had passed the Cambridge FCE.

The book is clearly organized into thirty ready-to-teach lessons which are in five separate general areas: Business, Health and Medicine, Science and Technology, The Arts, and Education. Each area is covered in three units containing two lessons. A lesson has three worksheets and a page with the teacher’s notes. The notes include step-by-step instructions on how to use the material, along with suggested follow up activities. The teacher’s notes are conveniently opposite the worksheets so you don’t have to root around the back for the answers.

The integrated approach to the units mean that they fully cover the four main skills, for example with one lesson focusing on two skills such as reading and listening and the second lesson covering the other two skills. In this way each skill is given approximately the same attention. You can pick and choose the lessons based on your students’ particular needs, so the book is very flexible.

I found that I used the book more to develop ideas than a ready made resource book as it covers so many different areas of academic study, usually because the theme of a lesson may not fit in with my students’ field of interest even though I wanted to teach that particular function. For example, the ideas for funnel-type essay writing had clever ideas for organizing their writing but dealt with science, which was outside my students’ interests. However the lesson was easily adapted to fit in with their subject area. In the table of contents, there is a column dealing with the focus of the lesson such as paraphrasing, using transitional phrases etc which provided me with a bounty of useful ideas for my classes.

Although most lessons needed some adapting, the more general areas such as applying for a university, plagiarism, and online learning would be useful for any pre- and in-session preparation programme. In particular, the listening on the CD was especially practical as it had both American and British accents. On top of that, there are useful internet links to web pages that can give further extension for the lesson. I found these websites very useful for my more advanced students to give them real-world extra practice.

Instant Academic Skills is a welcome addition to the Cambridge photocopiable resource books. It covers a wide range of academic subjects and situations that adequately prepare international students for studying abroad. In short, it is a very useful resource book not only for the actual worksheets but as a treasure trove of ideas to make your preparation classes more engaging.

Reviewed by John Grant for September 2012
John Grant has been teaching English around the world for over fifteen years. He now resides in Japan and is always looking for new ideas to make his classes enjoyable and his life a little easier!

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