[Andrew E. Bennett. Tokyo: Nan’un-do, 2017. pp. 90. [Includes Teacher’s Manual, CD-ROM, DVD, and audio CD.] ¥2,000. ISBN: 9784523178422.]
English Listening and Speaking Patterns is a three-level series written for university-level Japanese EFL learners of aural and oral English. Student book levels are Introductory, High-Beginning, and Intermediate. Each level has 20 four-page units centered on topics such as Traveling, Music, Education, and Art. Each unit can be completed in a 90-minute lesson, fitting one level into two 15-class semesters with time for review and test periods.
The series is organized for consistency in a number of ways. Unit topics are the same across all three levels, and unit structure is also consistent throughout the series. There is a different stage of the lesson on each page, progressing from word to sentence through to conversation level of discourse. In Part I Warm-up the topic is introduced with a photograph and two questions, followed by new vocabulary practice. Part II Listening Patterns is a dictation exercise which leads into a comprehension check. Part III Usage Patterns transitions to productive skills. Two grammatical structures are presented under a functional title such as Giving examples, Showing empathy, and Responding to circumstances. Students must manipulate the patterns to answer questions or give responses. The culmination of the unit is Part IV Conversation Patterns. In this section, four questions, along with two sample answers for each, form the basis for a guided conversation.
Unit structure reflects the philosophy of “using receptive skills early in the lesson for the students to first absorb and …learn the new material” in order that later “they will demonstrate what they have learned through the productive skill” (Millsom, 2016). Bennett incorporates passive and active skill-based activities in working towards a conversation at each unit’s end. For example, in Book 1, Unit 9 (Health), Part II begins as follows:
Aya: Are you all right, Matt?
Matt: I’m fine. It’s just a small cut. (p. 44)
On the page opposite this exchange, Part III examines Talking about how people feel and includes both “Are you all right?” and “I’m fine” (p. 45) in the patterns to practice in written and spoken form.
The sample questions of Part IV Conversation Patterns are opinion-driven and relevant to students. For example, “How do you like the school cafeteria?” (p. 38), in Book 1, Unit 7 (Food), elicited varied responses. The sample answers are succinct but detailed; trite yes/no answers are not welcome. These exercises help in crafting the guided conversation, called Your Turn. Your Turn feels authentic in two important ways. Firstly, the two speakers are given equal opportunity to ask questions and express themselves, often using some version of “How about you?” Secondly, these and other discourse markers such as “Actually,” “In general,” “Oh, OK,” and “Let me think…” are sprinkled through all Your Turn exercises, reinforcing native-sounding habits. Through this support Bennett has provided the explicit scaffolding necessary for free and open student expression in an Asian EFL context (Sybring, 2016).
I use Book 1 with first-year high school students in an English Conversation course. Although the text is written for university students, the topics and format are also relatable to younger students. My students report liking the textbook for its natural English examples and the useful practice it offers in listening and speaking. The activities lend themselves to pair or group work, so active learning strategies like think-pair-share can be part of standard operating procedure. In this way students who struggle with language or confidence can try out ideas with a partner before announcing them to the class (Gholani, Attaran, & Moghaddan, 2014). At the same time, many students expressed a desire for more context, whether through Japanese translations, explanations of the usage patterns, or more example sentences in English.
The series’ biggest drawback is the dearth of support materials. The Teacher’s Manual is a collection of Japanese translations of the textbook and an answer key for the vocabulary and listening exercises. No example answers are provided for the productive exercises in Parts III and IV. The Teacher’s CD-ROM is packaged to look more promising but contains only slightly more content. The most helpful file is an alphabetized glossary of all vocabulary items in the textbook. Otherwise, with the exception of Extra Vocabulary Sentences, all the remaining CD-ROM material is in the Teacher’s Manual or the Student Book.
As a result, the most time-consuming aspect for the instructor is planning and creating evaluation materials. Conversely, the smooth week-to-week lesson planning and classroom activities I have experienced are testaments to the strengths of the series. Repetition and consistency in unit structure helps develop a comfortable rhythm. The B5 size of the textbook is comfortable to use, and the pages are not littered with side notes and extras. Most importantly, my students successfully manage a guided conversation with at least one if not multiple partners. English Listening and Speaking Patterns clearly maps out a path of patterns that leads to a satisfying exchange of ideas at every class meeting.
Gholani, V., Attaran, A., & Moghaddan, M. M. (2014). Towards an interactive EFL class: Using active learning strategies. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 4(19), 190-194.
Millsom, K. (2016, November 21). Choosing and using focus skills in EFL teaching. EFL Magazine. Retrieved from http://eflmagazine.com/choosing-using-focus-skills>
Sybring, R. (2016). Structure for fostering discussion skills in the EFL classroom. Journal of the Nanzan Academic Society, 99, 221-229.