by Peter Viney & Karen Viney
Oxford University Press, 2005
This is the third level in the in English series, following on from in English Starter and in English Elementary.
There are thirty units at each level, plus a pre-unit to familiarize students with the course components. The main units are designed to be of even length in teaching time.
A major feature of the course is the clear division between sections within the units. This enables the maximum flexibility. You should never have to stop a lesson in the middle of a section, because there are so many additional materials available. If you're on Section C and you feel you won't have time for Sections D and E you can use the Extensions, leaving a clear starting point on Section D for the next lesson.
The Communication Activities section is referenced from within the teaching unit. These communication activities provide pair work information gap activities, keys and other paired activities. Students cannot see their partner's instructions.
Some teachers dislike having Transcripts in the Student Book, but an overwhelming majority of students request them. We have noticed that students often spend time working on the Transcripts section on their own.
The Extension pages are an integral part of the course. It is impossible to write an exactly-timed lesson in a course book because every class is different. The Extensions enable teachers to fill out short lessons, or to extend longer lessons into full double lessons. They should be your first recourse for changing pace. We have selected activities that vary the approach.
Extensions may be used at any time during the lesson. At this level, there is one extension activity per unit. We have directed some activities towards weaker students and some towards stronger. If you don't have classroom time available, most activities can be done for homework.
We have not included an extensive grammar reference section at Pre-intermediate level (unlike Elementary), because students are now at a level where they capable of accessing monolingual reference grammars. Also, because of the level the units are longer on average, and incorporate language boxes and grammar notes within the body of the unit. Instead, we have indexed the language boxes from the units.
The 3 in 1 Practice Pack
Practice Book A: Grammar and Skills
The Grammar and Skills Book is for students to work UNIT BY UNIT. There are mixed practice exercises for each SB unit, three or four audio exercise scripts (see Student's audio CD below) for each unit, and a grammar table for reference. The activities address the structural syllabus, and also have work on vocabulary and function related to the unit. The units are conventional in approach and are designed so that they can be tackled without a teacher.
There is a sounds / spelling section in each unit, with its own syllabus.
Student's Audio CD
The Student's Audio CD is for students to work ALONE. Because of this, the CD focuses on structural manipulation and repetition. Drills are deliberately simple to operate. We have included work on stress or intonation. The models have been recorded carefully, and students should be made aware that they are listening for stress and intonation patterns, not simply manipulating structures. (We feel that more complex work on stress and intonation is best done with a teacher.)
Practice Book B: Vocabulary
The Vocabulary Book is for students to work at their own pace. They can work ahead, revise, and choose for themselves how to use it. The work does not relate to individual units, but the overall coverage is related closely to the SB syllabus. The activities address the lexical syllabus, as well as the learner's need to set their own pace outside the scope of the course. The activities are designed to be fun and useful. They are valuable for five minutes or for much longer. Recommend students to keep this book in a pocket or bag, and to dip into it when travelling to class or work. The activities are organized into the following sections.
The Teacher's Book
The step-by-step notes are divided into clear sections. This makes it easier to plan breaks between the various parts of a unit, and makes the material easier to handle should it be shared between two or more teachers. The procedure we suggest gives a thorough and competent route through the materials – but not the only one, and perhaps not the best one.
We have used information boxes to seperate comments, cultural background and more discursive notes from the main point by point plans. Because they have a tinted background you can read past them. Pitfalls warns of possible difficulties that can occur in teaching particular phases. These are based on long experience. Unlabelled boxes are background, culture, notes on grammar or points of vocabulary, including explanatory answers to questions raised by teachers piloting the material, e.g. Why do we teach top rather than blouse?
We have tried to avoid gender stereotyping throughout the course. One device has been the use of the neutral third person. For example Each student compares with their partner in preference to the alternative his or her .
The 30 Photocopiables are optional. We have kept them short. They form an additional phase, never a complete lesson. They are designed to enhance flexibility and to enable you to slow things down or to extend things. The photocopiables will add the element of surprise, because students won't have read ahead. Every class is different and timings can vary enormously with the same material. We would use some with some classes, none at all with others. There is a seperate section of teaxher's notes for the photocopiables.
There are six simple photocopiable progress tests. They can be used at the end of each five unit section. They can be taken back in and stored (or destroyed) after the tests. They are three-slot multiple choice tests, designed for ease of marking. You can make a marking template from tracing paper if you have large numbers to correct. Each test is marked out of twenty. The test items are all based entirely on the Student Book structures and vocabulary. Additional items in Extensions are not tested.
Class Audio – on CD or cassette
For the class audio materials, the numbers in blue next to recorded passages throughout the Student Book are references which follow through into the transcripts. The numbers refer to the tracks on the CD version of the audio. If you are using the CD version, the numbers correspond to track numbers on the CD. There are only 99 tracks available on an audio CD, so when we get to 1.99 (CD 1, track 99) we go on to 2.02 (CD 2, track two). (Track one on each CD is reserved for identification and copyright information). This gives you instant access to any track on the CD.
They have been recorded with a variety of accents, including English regional accents, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, Irish, Australian, American, Canadian, South African and Hong Kong Chinese.
2 The syllabus
The syllabus develops organically from the earlier levels in the series. Many popular courses started with intermediate level which was published first, went up to upper-intermediate, and then went down to pre-intermediate. In our terms they were written backwards. The first choices of topic to practise language points were made at intermediate level, so that the pre-intermediate syllabus was based on subtraction . The effect on elementary courses is even worse. To us, the only logical way to write a course is upwards, starting at the beginner / starter level, then moving through elementary to pre-intermediate. In this way you know what has been done, what needs revising, and you can make sure that even when students are overlearning there is always an extra language point to give them a sense of progress. This still works when they have done other books at the lower levels, because the mindset is one of addition .
Teachers talk about the plateau predicament at the intermediate levels, when all the basic structures have been ticked off in a long list and students can no longer expect something new in each lesson (unless it's a minor point). This problem lies in the future for our Pre-intermediate student, but at this level the overload experience kicks in instead. Overload occurs at starter and elementary level, but it is a major factor to be considered at pre-intermediate level . It will have happened already to some of the students who have experienced earlier courses in which they perceive themselves to have ‘failed'.
In all courses a point comes where structure and vocabulary is accumulating faster than the students can put it into practice. There are additional reasons for overload kicking in:
1) The earlier courses may have been too linear. Students may have missed one or two vital lessons through absence, and the course may have had insufficient recycling to fill the resultant gaps in their knowledge.
2) The course may have moved too rapidly, and longer texts and dialogues may have been too dense for these students. Many ELT courses are biased toward the more academic learner who will go on to study English for five or more years, and simply overload the less language-motivated student.
3) When students have studied two or three similar level courses one after the other, the overload point is predictable because there is a common consensus on the broad order of presentation of structures. As a result, the same structures arrive late in every one of the courses. Because so often coursebooks do not get completed within the allotted time, these areas get hurried every time (or students fail to reach them every time).
Our response to the overload predicament is control of progression, a spiral recycling of structures, vocabulary and formulas, careful attention to learner skills and a syllabus which always gives a second chance to meet new major structures in a presentational mode.
At all the levels above Elementary, students suffer from repeated exposure to the same tired but essential topics (Friends & Family; Leisure Activities; The Environment etc). While they need to revisit these topics, they also need to spread into a wider range of topics and experience novel themes, which is why we believe in a greater number of short units to ensure variety, so that we have 30 units rather than 12 or 15 ‘modules'. This is another good reason for developing a multi-level course from the bottom up, starting by writing Starter level, because then you know which topics you have already covered and how. It also ensures a smooth structural progression and recycling.
Another way of increasing variety is by approaching things from different angles. We include a whole unit on Number / Mathematics at this level. We have found that students can get to the highest levels without knowing how to describe simple calculations in English, because it isn't regarded as the language teacher's job. Students can reach advanced level without encountering add, plus, subtract, minus, take away, times, multiplied by etc.
A further angle is to focus on communication skills from time to time, and let the communication skill (starting conversations, pausing, gaining thinking time, phone etiquette, using nuclear stress) dictate the language content.
5 The visual dimension
A modern coursebook consists of text, audio and visuals. These three elements must be integrated and planned together. Visuals should not be in a book simply to decorate the page or look pretty. They should be in the book because they are a vital part of the teaching and learning process. When we are writing, we spend as much time planning and working on the visual element as we do on the text. We would always choose a picture over a typed list of ‘pre-reading vocabulary.' By this level, pre-teaching vocabulary before reading a text or listening to an audio can positively hamper students' learning, because it takes away their practice in the essential skill of guessing from context and illustration. Visuals stimulate and motivate students to carry on working, they help to explain what is happening. This is just as true at pre-intermediate level as it is at the earlier levels.
6 Playing with language
A sense of humour is important, not all the time, because a constant diet of light-hearted and humorous topics is as wearing as the opposite. However, by using some amusing contexts, some deliberately funny recordings, and by asking students to role-play funny or exaggerated situations, you are setting a mood and atmosphere where students will feel less afraid of error, and more able to play with language. We all learn by playing. A study of people learning computer skills showed that the most successful learners were those who were prepared to mess around and play with the tools and possibilities, in other words to experiment. The same is true for language learning.