[Brian Cullen & Sarah Mulvey. Nagoya: Perceptia Press, 2008. pp. 80. ¥1,995. ISBN: 4-939130-84-7.]
Scraps is a unique topic-based, student centred ESL textbook focused on students making a scrapbook about their lives. It can be used as a main text or supplementary material for a conversation, discussion, or presentation class. This book is versatile in that it can be adapted and used for any age group from junior high school level to adults. However, it is ideally suited for university level students, pre-intermediate, and above.
The textbook has eight units with a review unit coming after Unit 4 and Unit 8. Each unit is divided into Lesson A and Lesson B. Lesson A focuses on preparing a scrap page while Lesson B focuses on presenting it. Each unit looks at the life of a different character and focuses on a relevant topic (e.g., music, books, family, and school) in his or her life.
Each character in the book provides his or her own scrap page and dialogue, which serve as models for students and help to contextualise learning.
Lesson A is divided into four sections: Brainstorm, Scraps, Interview, and Prepare. Before doing listening activities, it is important that students “activate prior knowledge, make predictions, and review key vocabulary” (Richards, 2008, p. 10). Scraps does this in the Brainstorm section. This is a good lead-in activity as it gets students interested in the topic and prepares them for the coming listening activity. In the Scraps section, students look at some example scraps from the unit’s character. Whilst looking at the scraps, students listen to the person talking about his or her scraps and answer comprehension questions about the dialogue. In the Interview section, students listen to a dialogue in which the character is being interviewed. Students can shadow read the interview, practice pronunciation with the teacher, and read it with a partner. In relation to designing good listening activities, “the post-listening phase typically involves a response to comprehension and may require students to give opinions about a topic” (Richards, 2008, p. 10). This is achieved at the end of Scraps section and in the Interview section, where students interview three other students, using the same questions they just heard in the interview. Finally, students prepare for their presentations. Students are introduced to relevant vocabulary and expressions they will need for their presentation. They are also asked to start thinking about what type of scraps they would like to use for their own presentation. Students are then asked to prepare their own scrap page as homework to complete Lesson A.
Lesson B starts with a cardboard page for pasting scraps onto which can be pulled out when finished. Students then present their scraps to the class and the audience will listen, make notes, ask questions, and then finally judge who gave the best presentation of the day. The final two pages of each unit consist of the Scraps Magazine, which extend the topic with a reading passage, comprehension and discussion questions, and a crossword activity which recycles the vocabulary of the unit.
At the end of the textbook, there are sections for useful presentation language, extra conversation questions, and the scripts for all the recordings in the book. The teacher’s guide is provided free online at <perceptiapress.com/books/scraps/index.html> with many tips, teaching techniques, and the answer key which will guide teachers smoothly through the course. Generic worksheets for each unit that allow teachers to get the most out of each student’s scraps are also provided free online.
I used this textbook in my pre-intermediate and intermediate communicative English classes, which range from six to twelve students. These classes meet three times a week, for 90 minutes per class. This book was suited for these classes because it really got students actively speaking about topics that are relevant to their lives, which is important as “students are only motivated to learn things that are important and meaningful to them” (Biggs, 1995, p. 83). This textbook allowed students to be creative and provided an open environment for them to learn about each other’s lives whilst improving their English skills. It is good for building students’ vocabulary and international cultural knowledge, while improving their listening and speaking skills. This book would work well in mixed-level classes. It is a fun textbook, and students are left with a scrapbook at the end of the course that will be a good memento for them.
Biggs, J. (1995). Motivating learning. In J. Biggs & D. Watkins (Eds.), Classroom learning (pp. 82-102). Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Richards, J. C. (2008). Teaching listening and speaking: From theory to practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.