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by Peter Viney & Karen Viney
Real language, simple language
This is an example of an early unit from Grapevine One. Each unit consists of a double-page spread. Our aim here is to show students how much they can communicate with very simple language.
Having matched the words and numbers, students listen to the dialogue. Note the minimal language:
A cheese sandwich, please?
After each dialogue, they have a menu to use for paired practice. The menus AREN'T authentic. The sandwich bar menu has items at 40p / 50p / 60p / 70p / 80p and 90p- teaching the numbers is more important to us than the impact of a 'real' menu.
A clear progression from simple to complex
We have a mission in Grapevine! For several years, we have felt that the classic skills of the course-designer were being eroded. As more and more attention had been paid to integrating skills, learner training and so on, we have found that courses have ignored the basic importance of a clear and logical structural syllabus. We found that important structural items (e.g. object pronouns) were thrown into longer units and were never actually 'taught.' There seemed to be a lack of awareness of sentence length and structure. Courses assumed that the use of infinitive and gerund patterns did not need teaching. They could just be thrown in.
The present continuous, going to future, present simple, past simple and future simple appear in the second half of the first level. We have often been asked why the present simple is taught later than most comparative textbooks, Try it! You'll find plenty to do in the early stages of Grapevine without 'racing through the tenses.' This solid foundation means that once students are working with more tense grammar, they will not be confused by other, simple problems. Each level has a clear Grammar Summaries section at the end of the book. In the Spanish edition this includes translation.
This example is from Grapevine Two. We're going to look at the teaching of the Past continuous tense through different components of the course (see Grammar summary above). The students have met the past continuous before (in Grapevine One) but as a fixed formula in describing people (She was wearing ). We often introduce a formulaic expression before introducing the complete tense - I don't know well before the present simple, I'm looking for well before the present continuous.
The tense is introduced in the Student Book unit 9:
The unit is designed as an initial tense teaching situation. There is a clear distinction between describing the simultaneous events in a large picture (using the past continuous) and describinng a sequence of events in a series of pictures (using the past simple). You can also see the use of 'passive vocabulary' - we mark words which help carry the context of a unit, but which are not worth remembering at this stage, with a 'P' in the Vocabulary Index at the back of the book.
The unit also contains a song, Hot Air, for stress, rhythm and catenation work.
The Teacher's Book gives detailed, step-by-step teaching notes face-to-face with the appropriate student page:
In the Times Educational Supplement review of Grapevine Two, the Teacher's Book was described as "a mini-teacher training course in its own right".
The Workbook for unit 9 has a parallel situation:
Note that the activities are designed to be easy to mark and easy to do. We had our ideas on Workbooks changed totally once our own children started coming home with language homework. We tried to avoid reptitive activities. Note the variety:
THE VIDEO ACTIVITY BOOK
In unit 10, we need to see the tense used in a more meaningful way (for questioning about the past). Every 5th unit in the series has an optional video unit, which can be used to replace the Student Book unit, or in addition to the student Book unit. Unit 10 in the Student Book uses the same story with work on Listening.
The Video Activity Book gives you a chance of doing more with the material. There are pre-watching and post-watching activities for each section.
After finishing work on the video, you can go on to do more work in the classroom. Next comes an Exercise section:
STUDENT BOOK - READING DEVELOPMENT
A major innovation in the series is the inclusion of four Reading for Pleasure sections in each level. These can be used in one of three ways:
The early Reading for Pleasure sections utilise cartoon. By Grapevine Three the stories are getting long - some have as many words as the average short graded reader.
Part of 'The Secret of The Pyramid' from Grapevine One (after unit 25)
By Grapevine Three there is necessarily more attention to reading and listening skills.
There are also TESTS which are photocopiable and are incorporated in the Teacher's Book.
Learner skills appear throughout where relevant, with many references in specific Teacher's notes.However, each Workbook starts with a Study Guide section of four pages.
The vocabulary index has two features:
In levels two and three only, there are phonetic transcripts.
All vocabulary is divided into three areas: Active, Passive and Classroom (or instructional). A word may have several references. For example:
look- C1, 2
This means it is used as instructional language in unit 1, and taught actively (to be learnt) in unit 2.
Grapevine was the first book we did where we could track every vocabulary item throughout the series on computer, so ensuring that a word could be previewed as passive vocabulary, then later taught actively, repeated in Workbook units, Checkbacks and tests and recycled again in the stories. It was an enormous job, but one which should show in the classroom results.
Grapevine One was piloted as 'New English Course'. You may want to compare the pilot version with the final book:
New English Course, unit 8 page 2 next to Grapevine One unit 8 page 2
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©Peter & Karen Viney 2004