English Unlimited is a wonderful new addition to the ESL classroom from Cambridge University Press. There are already a few reviews on the interweb which talk about the features of the book. As such, I’ll focus on some of my own perceptions.
If you look at the vocabulary in each unit, it seems to be the building block, around which the grammar is fitted. In this vain, I have been hearing the catch phrase of “lexical approach” being bandied around our office. It’s true. This book is not a list of grammar points for students to learn one after the other, though there certainly is enough focus on grammar. Rather, students are presented with corpus informed lexical items to help them sound more natural. This appears to be a shift from other coursebooks on the market, which give students nice manageable amounts of grammar in quite controlled contexts. However, I have had some higher level students complain that they know a lot of grammar, but are “vocab poor” at this stage of their language development. I would suggest that English Unlimited avoids this eventuality, by providing more useful lexical input along the way.
I guess this post is overwhelmingly positive at this stage. If I was to find a criticism, I would say that some of these lexical items are hard to explain in class. They include many subtleties which enhance a speakers meaning. I would suggest that this may be just the point. As teachers we are often tempted to spend our time explaining everything to students. Certainly as students approach the pre-intermediate level of their learning, we should be encouraged to explain less, and let the students’ minds do the work. Again, I think English Unlimited gives us another push in the right direction to let students think about it for themselves.
Teaching approaches, such as listening for overall understanding and specific details, are implemented effortlessly using this series. I would suggest that this is of great benefit to new teachers, who are still grappling with these techniques. English Unlimited offers a guided approach for such teachers. In fact, this is quite important with the listening texts. If students attempt to understand the entire dialogues word for word, they may be demotivated. They are certainly constructed in a way that they allow students to refine their listening skills, rather than attempting to understand completely what they hear.
In addition, the listening tracks contain some great examples of World English. The authors have stepped into the proverbial “traffic” and used a collection of both native and non-native speakers. Admittedly, the students find it tough and times to understand on first hearing. However, I think the exposure to more accents is a brilliant opportunity for them.
Has anyone else used this coursebook? I’d be keen to hear some other experiences!
Happy teaching 😀
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