Get Set! to Learn English

Writer(s): 
Steve T. Fukuda, Bunkyo University, JALT CUE-SIG
Publisher: 
BTB Press

[Mutsumi Kawasaki & David Barker. Seoul, Korea: BTB Press, 2017. pp. 95 + 15. ¥2,052. ISBN: 9784905088530.] 

Get Set! is an excellent fit for the Japanese university context because it aims to prepare EFL students to become successful language learners by developing language learning skills. Each unit in the 15-unit textbook is based on a language skill (e.g., pronunciation) or learning skill (e.g., goal-setting). Supplementary materials include a teacher’s guide, answer key, audio files, and a vocabulary app.

Studies continuously report on how classroom hours of instruction are insufficient considering the goals of EFL education in Japan (e.g., Hato, 2005). Meanwhile, Fukuda, Sakata, and Pope (2017) reported that many students have less than 30 minutes of out-of-class study time per week due to low levels of learning skills and motivation, as well as habitual procrastination. Get Set! is a textbook that can help tackle these issues. 

All students entering university in Japan now have at least eight years of English learning experience. Unfortunately, many do not learn how to learn English effectively, for instance, how to use English in the classroom, how to set learning goals, or how to maintain learning motivation. Furthermore, because of the transition from a teacher-centered secondary school language classroom to a more student-centered learning environment at the tertiary level, many students cannot cope in their new environment which can increase their language learning anxiety. The topics in Get Set! allow students to think about and learn what can help them overcome these problems. Because Get Set! consists of topics ranging from psychological aspects of learning to content aimed at specific language skills, it is well-balanced for the Japanese EFL context. In Unit 2 for example, students get a chance to understand the differences between internal and external motivation by answering a questionnaire and then discussing the results. In course evaluations, students reported an increase in out-of-class study time and a decrease in tendencies to procrastinate and learning anxiety.

Get Set! fits nicely in a one semester 90-minute weekly course. Get Set! naturally made the EFL course a content-based course meaning students were learning not only language but also learning how to learn skills. Although my class included 35 freshman English majors, I needed to translate some parts entirely or add an occasional Japanese explanation because the textbook is almost entirely in English. All students used the free Learning Vocabulary app, which not only helped them learn the most frequent 2000 words, but also increased their confidence in English because they realized how many words they actually knew. As such, the textbook also provided many good activities for students to reflect on their learning.

We completed one chapter a week. Each unit starts with discussion questions (e.g., When you hear the word grammar, what other words does it make you think of?) to increase student’s motivation to engage in the content. The discussion questions are followed by five to seven activities. For instance, Unit 8 on speaking skills includes activities such as attempting conversations using only one word at a time in turn, paraphrasing unknown words, and understanding nonverbal communication. 

Students’ out-of-class learning was also scaffolded with assignments provided for each lesson in its appendix (e.g., a TED talk assignment for the unit on listening skills). My students gained a deeper understanding of the TED website itself, and discovered how useful it was for independent study. In the students’ course questionnaire, students reported continued usage of the TED website during the course and even branching out to other web content for independent study. 

Every chapter ends with various recommendations of learning resources to encourage independent study and to gain a deeper understanding of unit topics (i.e., three websites, three YouTube videos, and three books). For homework each week, students had to visit at least one of these recommendations. This assignment generated active peer discussions the following week on learning how to learn. In the course evaluation, students reported increased study time from peer advice and recommendations during these discussions. The librarian also confirmed that students were putting in orders for many books recommended in Get Set!

It is rare for a student to enter their first university English class not wanting to learn anything or improve their English. However, it is often the case that students’ motivation declines as classes move forward. This course allows students to understand how to maintain motivation by learning how to learn. I recommend every student get the opportunity to use Get Set! for a more effective language learning experience during and after courses at the university level. 

References

Fukuda, S., Sakata, H., & Pope, C. (2017). Developing self-coaching skills in university EFL classrooms to encourage out-of-class study time. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 18, 1-15. 

Hato, Y. (2005). Problems in top-down goal setting in second language education: A case study of the Action plan to cultivate ‘Japanese with English abilities.’ JALT Journal, 27(1), 33-52.

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