Sunday, March 4, 2007

Simon Howell: Recommended books

By Simon Howell - Burleigh Heads Language Centre, Australia

A teacher asked for recommendations for coursebooks available in Japan.

Here are some books that I've found useful. I've always found it hard to use the same conversation book(s) for majors and non-majors but you can certainly do so if it works best for you.

For Conversation

Non-Majors: Levels of Non-Majors can really vary and are usually lower then English Majors, sometimes abysmally low. I had a lot of success with "Nice Talking To You" (2nd Ed) by Tom Kenny /Linda Woo. It's a good core textbook but like all texts, it needs to be supplemented to bring it to life. Fortunately, the topics are quite good ones and are easy to supplement with your own materials/stuff from the usual sources.

English Majors: Communication Strategies by David Paul. Published by Thomson Learning. Quite a good book and is easy to supplement with your own materials. I have also used "Nice Talking to You" (same as above) with first year English majors, and with a bit of extra supplementing to adjust it to the level of your class it can also work very well.

Avoid the Nice Talking to You Too (2nd book in the series) at all costs. It is simply not ready to be used with a class.

For Listening

I quite like the Impact Listening series and have used Impact Listening : Book 3 with 2nd year English Majors. I haven't used Book 2 before but the level is probably ok for 1st years. I also got the students to do listening homework from Randall's Fantastic Listening Website. It's an excellent site and the students can select the topics and levels they wish to do. You can find the homework sheets I used to use at here. On their course feedback forms, almost all the students mentioned that they really enjoyed the web homework. You can also put the students in small groups / pairs to chat about the homework at the end or beginning of the class: Which topics did they do? Any new interesting vocabulary? Would they recommend their topic to another student? etc?. It's a good warmer or ending for the class and you can then easily check who is or isn't doing their homework.

Sample copies of all the books above are available from the publishers if you don't have access to a copy right now.

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