SpeakOut (Pre-intermediate) by Antonia Clare and JJ Wilson, Pearson Longman
Reviewed by Stefano Federici, IH Roma Manzoni
“The real world in your classroom” This is one of the quotes describing the new Speakout multi-level series from Pearson Longman. Written with supplementary material from the BBC, the authors have certainly succeeded in bringing interesting authentic material into the classroom. Aimed at an adult audience the content is relevant and stimulating, creating numerous occasions for discussion. I used the Pre-intermediate level which presents the students with multiple practice opportunities while at the same time maintaining interest with a well-thought-out selection of material and artwork.
While I did not use the IWB resources for this level, the student eBook still lends itself well to technology, producing an up-to-date and modern feel. Having used the eBook with a computer and external screen, the students appreciated the DVD lessons given their interactive nature and authenticity. With extracts from famous BBC productions such as The Two Ronnies and The Money Programme, Speakout allows students to enter the world of British popular culture as they expand their command of the language.
The Student’s eBook:
The book is divided into 12 units, each with an individual topic which is carried over four sub-units. The units contain a good variety of skills promoting oral fluency and expanding the student’s level across all lexical areas, with a set structure from start to finish. Functional language is given ample space with a full sub-unit dedicated to topics such as complaining, giving opinions and finding out information.
The units are packed with exercises but at no point does it feel like the coursebook is trying to adapt the language to fit the context, and the authenticity remains strong throughout.
Extra materials include authentic podcasts which can be downloaded onto a student’s Smartphone. Supplementary handouts are available to accompany the podcasts. The content is challenging but pushes students to take their learning outside the classroom. As well as being very impressive to students who were experiencing their first English language course, it also sent a clear message to those who had studied in previous years that the world of English language learning is constantly evolving to keep up with the times.
The Teacher’s Book:
The teacher’s book is well laid out in the standard manner with useful optional extra activities to further discussions on the previous units. At the back there is a well designed resource bank with photocopiable activities designed for further grammar, vocabulary and functional practice.
I had very few criticisms on a general level as the quality and variety of the content is very good. From a teaching perspective I did feel there could have been more emphasis on pronunciation. Secondly, given the digital nature of the coursebook, I thought a digital format of the teachers’ book might have been a nice addition to allow the teacher to maximise the extra resources in a similar manner to the eBook.
Overall I would sum up the Speakout series as very modern, user friendly and up to date. I would give it a gold star for its manipulation of technology and authentic material, finally bringing an English language course into the 21st century. While the language content is very similar to other content already available I believe the collaboration with the BBC is very appealing to students who certainly enjoyed gaining an insight into British popular culture whilst they expanding their command of the language.
I would highly recommend Speakout for its modern feel and praise the authors for their efforts in integrating authentic material into a coursebook series.