ESL Book Review “The Future: English For Results” Series

June 17, 2013

Here is an ESL Book Review on The Future: English for Results Series published by Pearson Education, Inc.

This book is broken in to six levels for students of varying English abilities. The Intro level is for beginners in English language. The Student book for this level is written by Yvonne Wong Nishio, and aims to give learners exposure to and practice in basic communication in English.

Intro is intended for use by adults and young adults who are at the beginning level of English proficiency. Each unit in Intro builds on the four essential skills of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. As outlined in the “Scope and Sequence” section of the introductory pages, each lesson also presents material related to the areas of Vocabulary and Phonics, Grammar, Life Skills, and Numeracy (Numbers Skills). Each of the units in Intro offers opportunity for a variety of learning experiences. There are sections for presentation by the teacher, individual student work, work done by students in pairs, and work done by students in groups. The combination of the various methods of presenting and working with new information takes advantage of several theories about how students learn, and should offer opportunity for each participant to learn from the lessons. Included in the book is a separate section of Team Projects, and sections of vocabulary words for each unit, maps of the United States and Canada, Postal abbreviations, a map of the world, writing practice, and transcripts of the audio scripts found on the CD that comes with the book.

One of the most appealing features of the book is the inclusion of a CD containing interactive practice activities and the listening sections for each unit. This gives the student the opportunity to use a computer for part of their study activities and begins to build workplace skills through exposure to program layout commonly found in the United States and Canada. The CD contains user interface programs for both Windows and Macintosh environments, and should work with computers and operating systems as old as ten years. Beyond the appeal of the included CD, the book itself is well laid out, and includes high quality photographic, hand drawn, and computer-generated images on the excellent quality paper pages. Structurally, the lessons progress logically from basic introductions to interpersonal interactions to shopping and work situations, building skills along the way. One of the stated goals of the entire Future: English for Results series is to build Persistence (a desire to continue learning) in the students. Nishio and the series editors, Diaz, Magy, and Sals-Iznardi, appear to have succeeded in creating a course with which students will want to continue. The activities are engaging and the built-in student cooperation in the lessons will encourage interpersonal relationships among classmates.

To meet the goals of the Intro course and the Future: English for Results series, the resource pool for teachers needs to be deep, and it is. Unfortunately, the resources are split in to several components. In addition to the rather weak “To the Teacher” section in the student course book, there is a student workbook (with CD), a teacher’s edition and lesson planner, a test and test prep book, a book of reproducible art and handouts, and a book of originals for making overhead projector transparencies. There is also a training DVD to assist teachers new to the Future: English for Results series with learning how to conduct the lessons. While this modular approach to resource production seems to have the advantage of allowing a teacher to select and purchase only the necessary materials, it also has the effect of increasing the cost of the teacher’s materials greatly when first starting to teach the course. In addition to disappointment with the segmented resources for the class, the CD included with the student book, while helpful, also comes with some disappointments. The user interface provided includes links to the interactive practice activities and the student book MP3 audio files. While the practice activities are available within the user interface itself, the link to the MP3 audio files simply directs the user to the folder on the CD containing those files, and the user is expected to play the files through the MP3 player on their computer. The result is one that may be confusing to a student not proficient with computers. The MP3 files should be accessible through the user interface as well as directly through the file hierarchy of the CD.

CD and teacher resource shortcomings aside, the Intro student book is well thought out and handsomely executed. It is a course book that students will find both easy to use and educationally valuable. Those who begin their study of English with Intro will gain a solid framework upon which to continue to build their language skills.