[Jennifer Wilkin. Boston: Heinle, 2011. pp. iv + 137. ￥2,596. (Includes CD-ROM). ISBN: 978-1-4240-6127-3.]
Time Zones1-4 are the latest in a series of global issues-themed collaborations between Heinle and National Geographic. Intended for a younger audience, the series provides content for elementary to intermediate English communication needs, while utilizing the cultural and scientific content that National Geographic is known for. Full color layouts with vivid photography and Japanese-style manga characters capture students’ interest and inspire them to explore, discover, and learn about the world around them in English.
Time Zones 3contains twelve units divided into four themes: People and Places; The Natural World; History and Culture; andScience and Education. Each is accompanied by short videos highlighting different exciting subjects. While other textbook topics fade out of style after a few years, Time Zones’ are timeless (e.g., Pompeii, and the solar system) and timely (e.g., global warming and natural disasters).
English skill practice is provided in each unit of the text, after key vocabulary and target grammar have been introduced. Speaking practice is included as controlled repetition exercises and fluency-based communication activities, such as games, interviews, and conversations. Reading lessons include sub-skill development tasks, e.g., predicting, skimming, and scanning. Writing assignments like emails, travel posters, essays, and short stories, expand unit topics and encourage the students’ creativity. Curiously listening is not given as much attention. Recordings are intended mainly for pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar acquisition. This leads me to ask Scrivener’s question regarding choosing the right task, “[a]re we really helping students to become better listeners by using recordings like this?” (Scrivener, 2005, p. 173). I would have preferred more comprehension activities that actually teach students how to listen for gist and detail. It should be noted, however, that Time Zones 3 readings can be converted to listening lessons by utilizing the CD recordings of the passages. The accompanying videos also have listening questions in the Time Zones Teacher’s Edition 3.
For teachers residing in Japan, Time Zones 3 fits in well with Japanese high school English Education curricula. There is a great deal of overlap in grammar structures and vocabulary included in Time Zones 3 and standard Japanese English textbooks. Time Zones 3 is also compatible with other education programs, such as the IB Middle Years Program and is aligned with the Common European Framework (Council of Europe, 2001).
For teachers wanting a global studies themed text, we use Time Zones focus on World Heritage sites and topics like globalization and conservation are in line with UNESCO’s Third Principal of Intercultural Education: “Provide all learners with cultural knowledge, attitudes and skills that enable them to contribute to respect, understanding and solidarity among individuals, ethnic, social, cultural and religious groups and nations”(UNESCO, 2006, p. 37).
Through this textbook, my students have gained knowledge of the world and other cultures; they have improved their English ability, and they have learned to think more critically and creatively. In other words, they have received: Content, communication, cognition and culture or the “4Cs” of Content and Language Integrated Learning (Bentley, 2010, p. 7). When surveyed, my students reported that they love the layout and view Time Zones 3 as “challenging” and “useful.” I was curious to see how they would react to the content, as readings about the Huli Wigmen of Papua New Guinea, for example, may not seem practical at first. Yet over 70% reported that they enjoyed the topics. Some even commented that they were able to pick up practical language and vocabulary. Only four stated that they did not like the content and would have preferred more everyday topics.
Time Zones 3comes with a variety of supplementary materials and support. It can be purchased with or without the CD ROM, or in Combo Split format, which includes only the first or final half of the student textbook. A thorough and easy-to-use teachers’ guide and workbook are also available, and the ExamView CD ROM is helpful for creating quizzes and tests, as well as managing grades. Heinle has also created online games and activities for ongoing study of each unit. Teachers can even register their students and involve them in Heinle’s worldwide social network of teachers and students engaging in thematic projects.
For teachers wanting a text for four skills instruction, communicative grammar, and content-driven lessons, Time Zones 3 is the best all-round book I have encountered for junior high and high school age students. With Time Zones, you can be part of National Geographic’s mission to inspire people to care about the planet while teaching English at the same time.
Bentley, K. (2010). The TKT course CLIL module. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Council of Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR). Retrieved from <coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/CADRE_EN.asp>
Scrivener, J.(2005). Learning teaching. Oxford: MacMillan Education.
UNESCO. (2006). Guidelines on international education. Paris: UNESCO Education Sector.