Monday, 13 May 2013

Book Review: "Spotlight on Learning Styles" by Marjorie Rosenberg (Delta)






Spotlight on Learning Styles
Teacher strategies for learner success
Marjorie Rosenberg
Delta Publishing 2013

ISBN: 9781905085712
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Sample blurb: "Spotlight on Learning Styles focuses on how we learn rather than what we learn. It sheds light on our personal learning preferences and what we can do to learn and to teach more successfully..."
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It's always fun to review titles in the Delta Teacher Development Series, and recently The Company Words Keep, Teaching Online and Digital Play have all come favourably under the ELT Resources Review's critical fingers.

Spotlight on Learning Styles is no exception, although this one is even more succulent because some tend to find its premises funny ha-ha or even funny-peculiar in addition to simply 'fun'.

For in considering learning styles we are edging inexorably towards the shadowy extremes of mainstream teaching precepts and principles. Most of us are perfectly happy to  incorporate as wide a variety of learning activities as possible into our lessons, but some of us are unable to take the more left-of-centre ideas on board, either personally or in their professional context. So be it.

Read on and you too can decide whether this particular volume by Marjorie Rosenberg, whose interests also include Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), is right for your particular teaching and learning style. "The book," we are told, "... provides opportunities for us all to step outside our 'comfort zones', multiplying our possibilities for success." You have been warned!

Personally, I enjoyed doing a very lively 'learning styles' session outside in a park as part of a TEFL Certificate course I used to run, so I'm a fan, within reason. Anyway...

Spotlight on Learning Styles is divided into three sections.

The first part covers the theory of preferred ways of learning, and how they affect how learners learn and teachers teach. The aim is to include and motivate all students as fully as possible in the learning experience  through a wide range of different activities covering the famous audio, visual and kinesthetic learning preferences.

We're also introduced to the fascinating Global-Analytic model, and the abstract and concrete ways in which students perceive, process and store information about the world around them, all of which have ramifications in the teaching and learning process.

The second section, and the guts of the book, is a large number of inventive activities focusing in turn on all of the approaches covered in part 1. This includes an introductory mini-section for determining what our learners' styles actually are, although a fairly good level of English would be required to actually perform this activity competently.

Then come the main activities. Under the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic learning styles category we have activities for Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic emotional, Kinaesthetic motoric and Mixed VAK learners. In the Global-Analytic learning styles category there are Global, Analytic and Mixed Global-Analytic activities. And  for the Mind Organisation learning styles part, Flexible friends, Expert investigators, Power planners, Radical reformers and Mixed mind organisation learners are all taken care of admirably.

If this is all making your tiny minds boggle, I can only empathise. But my aim isn't to explain all of these terms - that's what the book's for. Rather it's to give you a taster of this undeniably intriguing field in case you want to take your studies, and indeed your teaching, further down this subtly shining path.

The last section is, appropriately, a Further... section - further approaches, further applications, further activities and further reading for those who want to pursue it, well, further.

Now this is all well and good, but whether you actually believe it all, or, alternatively, can realistically envisage using these activities in your classes is another matter. It very much depends, vitally, on you as a teacher, the openness of your learners to new ideas, and of course the philosophy of the teaching establishment you work for. If nothing else, Spotlight on Learning Styles should allow you to understand where you stand as far as that is concerned.

I only wish I had the patience, err, the time to tell you about some of the wonderful activities the author has imagined and what a fun, lively lesson it would be that included one or more of them to complement the rest of the session. But I haven't (I think I'm an impulsive-expressive learner, if such a thing exists), so I'll leave you with some page shots to give you a tiny idea and encourage you to at least check out this title in the book shop or on-line if you feel it could be for you.

In the world of English teaching, the teacher is often remembered more than what was taught, and often for the wrong reasons; by incorporating some of these activities into your lessons you should be able to have both and for the right ones!

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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Spotlight on Learning Styles"
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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Book Review: "Macmillan Global Business Class eWorkbook"






Global
Business Class eWorkbook
Pre-Intermediate & Intermediate
Campbell, Metcalf, Hogan, Moore, Tennant
Macmillan 2013

ISBN: 9780230443754 (Pre)
9780230443778 (Inter)
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Sample blurb: "global is a ground-breaking 6-level adult course for today's learners of English. It enables you to learn English as it is used in our globalised world, to learn through English using information-rich topics and texts, and to learn about English as an international language."
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The Global Business Class eWorkbook is a professional addition to Macmillan's Global coursebook series which I reviewed in some depth here so I won't be going into as much detail this time.

It consists simply of a CD-ROM in the same style as the general English offering that comes with the original course but with more professional topics covered.

Either as a complement to the course books or perhaps more likely as a stand-alone component, the core package consists of 10 units. Each unit has a variety of interactive gap-fill and matching vocabulary exercises, a business skills video and worksheets, along with listening, reading and writing activities. A colourful booklet explains how it all works.

Further sections include comprehensive coverage of grammar points, vocabulary and pronunciation with more interactive exercises, additional videos and audio recordings and a range of other back-up material such as word lists and dictionary, grammar help, writing tips and tests.

Your results are charted as you progress through the units so you know what you've already done and what needs more work.

An 'On The Move' section allows you to download recordings and videos for use on your mobile device and the recordings from the course book are also available if you are using the two in tandem.

My feeling is that this is a worthy component to the over all Global course which can also stand alone and be used conveniently by the busy professional both at home and on the move.

It's also further evidence of the industry-wide drift away from physical dead tree coursebooks over to the digital medium, and it's a constant delight to see what the ever-inventive publishers will come up with next.


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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Macmillan Global Business Class eWorkbook"
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Book Review: "Advanced Grammar in Use" by Martin Hewings (Cambridge)






Advanced Grammar in Use
Third Edition
Cambridge University Press 2013
ISBN 9781107699892
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Sample blurb: "Advanced Grammar in Use Third Edition meets the advanced-level learner's needs with comprehensive grammar coverage and a user-friendly layout."
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A long, long time ago, I can still remember... when I interviewed the likeable Martin Hewings back in my superstar ELT interviewing days. Sigh.

The first edition of Advanced Grammar in Use had just come out and I remember a very pleasant and interesting conversation although don't ask me what we talked about. This, that and the other, no doubt.

Now the third edition is here and I don't intend writing as comprehensive a review as I did back then. Simply a nod to let you know the book exists and that it's somewhat of a bible for the ultra-keeno advanced learner to get their grammatical teeth into.

100 meaty units take you from the basics like the differences between the past simple and the present perfect, through in-depth analysis of stuff like few, little, less, fewer, and rapidly into deeper, darker territory such as gradable and non-gradable adjectives, and two- and three-word verbs: word order.

The units are split into the following sections:

 - Tenses
 - The future
 - Modals and semi-modals
 - Linking verbs, passives, questions
 - Verb complementation: what follows verbs
 - Reporting
 - Nouns
 - Articles, determiners and quantifiers
 - Relative clauses and other types of clause
 - Pronouns, substitution and leaving words out
 - Adjectives and adverbs
 - Adverbial clauses and conjunctions
 - Prepositions
 - Organising information

As you can imagine we're not talking red Murphy (the elementary member of the series) here. This is serious stuff and many a lay English teacher would break into a cold sweat if asked to explain some of these concepts off the bat, I suspect...

The blurb reminds us that this third edition is now 'in full colour', which in reality means a coloured picture, photo or diagram every two units or so. I'm a big fan of images and colour as a bona fide aid to learning so that's pleasing to see, even if each image necessarily tends to illustrate a single sentence from any given unit.

Once the 100 units are done the book is far from over. The 'study planner' is effectively a 12-page test allowing learners to see which areas they need to brush up on most. Answers are provided.

There's a glossary and also an 18-page 'grammar reminder' reference section if you want your rules and regulations in a more condensed format, with a lot of cross-referencing to keep you busy.

Then there are 11 pages of additional exercises as well as the CD-ROM but we'll get to that in a moment. Cambridge tell us that the book is ideal preparation for IELTS, as well as the Advanced and Proficiency general English examinations.

The CD-ROM took a little while but installed itself on my computer without any hiccups and opened to a straightforward, crisp and clean welcome screen.



Included are 200 practice exercises, organised into the same units as the book, and customised tests allowing learners to target specific language areas. There are also audio recordings of all the main exercises, something which adds considerably to the richness of the package.

As well as attractive screens, they've slotted in a little pic for each exercise and the whole thing is a fairly pleasant experience.

So to sum up, this is a great package, perhaps the package for the serious student of English grammar at the higher levels, and particularly those studying for exams where such esoteric knowledge is liable to be tested. It's certainly the most comprehensive volume of this sort and level I've seen so far.

Well done to Cambridge for continuing to update what was already a leading volume and making it more and more user-friendly, as they say. Power to your grammar!

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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Advanced Grammar in Use" (Cambridge University Press)
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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Friday, 18 January 2013

Book Review: "Punctuation..?" (User Design)






Punctuation..?
User Design 2012
ISBN 9780957071223
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Sample blurb: "Punctuation..? explains the functions and correct uses of 21 of the most used punctuation marks. It is humorous, fully illustrated using real life scenarios and is for a wide age range (young to ageing) and intelligence (emerging to expert).
This book also makes an ideal gift, birthday present or special occasion gesture."
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Ingenuous, somewhat endearing line drawings combined with simple and straightforward punctuation rules and examples make Punctuation..?, from User Design, a bit of a one-off.

I must admit I didn't even know there were 21 punctuation marks, much less how to use some of the more obscure ones such as the Pilcrow (so that's what it's called), the Guillemets (so that's what they're called - despite living in France) and the Interpunct (so that's what... etc.). See the contents page below if you're not sure what I'm talking about either.


The book is aimed at a general audience and seems to be gunning for the Eats, Shoots and Leaves (by Lynne Truss) category of fun-but-frightfully-useful-if-this-is-your-thing literary self-help volumes.


Curiously, for a self-proclaimed humorous book (see blurb) there isn't any in the actual explanations or examples, which are dry enough to have been lifted directly from a scholarly grammar tome, but there's no denying their clarity and indeed brevity, err, efficacy.


In the end it's a pleasant little book, certainly original in its design, and if you are looking for some crystal clear explanations, especially on things like the dreaded apostrophe, which gets six pages, or the subtleties between dashes and hyphens, commas, colons and semi-colons, you could do worse than to check out Punctuation..?.

You need to know that it's slim though - Amazon call it a pamphlet - and at £10 new (although check Amazon, hint, hint) a little steep considering...



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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Punctuation..?" (User Design)
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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Book Review: "Cambridge Learner's Dictionary" Fourth Edition (Cambridge)






Cambridge Learner's Dictionary
Fourth Edition
Cambridge University Press 2012
ISBN 9781107660151
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Sample blurb: "The ideal dictionary for intermediate learners of English.
NEW! English Vocabulary Profile levels: all words and phrases at CEFR levels A1 to B2 are shown with a level indicator, helping you to decide which words to learn first.
NEW! A section on common learner errors at particular CEFR levels helps you to avoid common mistakes in exams."
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This is how I look at paper dictionaries these days: I love them but. But what? But I don't use them as much as I used to.

Now, I don't have one of the de rigueur CD-ROMs running on my computer all the time, but then again I'm not a serious language learner, in which case I might. No, my criterion for using a paper dictionary is very simple: is it within arm's length? If it is I'll probably reach for that reassuring and highly reliable resource (neologisms notwithstanding, oh dear...).

If, however, I have to bend down to get it, or, heaven forbid, actually leave my seat, I'll probably use Google. As often as not I get the information I'm needing by typing the word itself into the search engine, followed by 'definition'. Sometimes I don't even have to go that far before the confirmation (spelling / meaning) pops up in the automatic suggestions.

What future, then, for the erstwhile essential but laterly humbled paper dictionary, and learner dictionaries in particular? Cambridge evidently believe there is one, or enough of one not to abandon one of their stalwart product lines just yet. But for how long?

Macmillan don't. The last Macmillan paper dictionaries have just recently rolled off the presses and, as from now, or next year at least, shall be a thing of the past.

Which is a shame, coz they were nice. Nice and red. But apparently not read enough for Macmillan to continue with them. Now the other major dictionary publishers are wondering whether they should follow suit I imagine. Only they know how much money they're making (or losing) on them or how much of a flagship product it is and how important it is to have a paper dictionary in their catalogue but I can't imagine, I mean it's unimaginable to think, isn't it, that one day there might not be a Cambridge or an Oxford paper dictionary out there.

The reason I'm going on at such length about this is for one thing because I was kind of asked to, and secondly, you know the learner dictionaries by now, surely. And I've reviewed enough of them to know that there's not much I could say which would surprise you so this will be a rather different review; a non-review, if you like, or a few random thoughts about the entire future of paper dictionaries themselves, if you prefer.

Personally, and this is not an informed opinion, I think there 'should' be a future for paper dictionaries at least for a few years to come. Not everyone has electronic devices surgically inserted into every orifice, and even those who do don't always want to use them all the time (surely). A paper dictionary is a reassuring, standard issue item of literary competence and I don't think any serious student or scholar or thinking person should be without one. I'm not of the youngest generation, however (at 47) and may not be totally in touch with reality any more.

Perhaps a sort of half-way house for the big publishers would be to go the route of selling electronic dictionaries a bit like calculators. Maybe they do already. So, instead of buying a huge heavy brick-sized tome, you buy a palm-sized, feather-weight digital device, for the same price or less, which cost the same amount or a fraction to produce in Taiwan or somewhere and everyone's happy (except the UK printers, that is).

Well, I could waffle on about this all day, but in the end progress will out and Macmillan have shown that the inexorable drift to purely digital has already started, as if we needed any more evidence.

When I worked with the British Council, I think it was, we had piles of dictionaries which teachers would borrow for certain lexically-based lessons or activities. These days I can hardly imagine a serious language learner without their own dictionary of some sort and given the already impressive weight of French kids' satchels (where I'm based), the lighter their dictionary the better. Which means digital.

Should I do a mini-review of the fourth edition of the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary nevertheless? No. I'll just say that it's great, as to be expected. Clear, pleasant and easy to use, with some 'goodies' sections such as the very useful top ten lists of words which are often confused, misused or misspelt at various CEFR levels. I've included plenty of pictures in this article for you to get the idea if you didn't have one already.

In the end, much as I hate to contemplate it, I think the sheer volume of stuff we will be expected to get through as time goes on, and the omnipotence and omnipresence of the computer in one form or another will render the good old paper dictionary redundant sooner rather than later.

Already you can have applications running which allow you to click on, or even just say a word and get instant definitions, synonyms and such like, so why should you even go to the effort of stretching out your arm when a finger will do? For a bit of sport perhaps?

Until then, though, books like the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary will carry on the tradition until market forces and technological advances allow us to simply cock an eyebrow at a word an have an instant definition there and then. It'll be a sad day for some but there's nothing like progress, and you can't stop it even if you try.

As a footnote, and to be fair to Cambridge in case you think I've painted them as some sort of ELT dinosaur, nothing could be further from the truth.

I don't think I'm giving away any secrets in telling you that not only are the Cambridge dictionaries, including this Cambridge Learner's Dictionary, available for free on-line, but you can even add their word definition boxes to your browser's tool bar or your website for virtually instantaneous enlightenment. And this has been available for years now.

In a way the definition of a word has become the equivalent of a simple phone call. It no longer earns the company any money but is used to sell more expensive services off its back.

How long before we see digital ELT books from publishers with built-in dictionaries as a de facto standard in the same way as internet service providers pretty much 'throw in' telephonic communication as an afterthought these days? I'll wait for the message from a publisher telling me they do it already...

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Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
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Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review Blog' ~ Book Review: "Cambridge Leaner's Dictionary" (Cambridge University Press)
© 2013 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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