Hana Svecova (2003)
Oxford: Oxford University Press
Pp. x + 62
Cross-curricular Activities by Hana Svecova approaches English language learning through the concept of cross-curricular teaching and the use of cross-curricular activities in the language-learning classroom. The activities in this book do not limit the English language learners to a set of grammatical rules or lists of words. Instead, Cross-curricular Activities allows the students to: a) explore a variety of cross-curricular topics through a wide variety of interactive activities; b) effectively engage in they key English language skills of reading, listening, writing, and speaking; and, c) think creatively in the language they are learning.
Cross-curricular Activities is an excellent source of supplementary material for those language teachers whose students are at an elementary or intermediate level of language proficiency. The thirty units cover a wide variety of subjects in the areas of art, biology, drama, geography, history, literature, mathematics, music, physical education, and science. The strength of this approach is that it links language learning to other subjects across the curriculum. Thus, language learning does not take place in a vacuum, as it often does with other language teaching approaches.
The book contains an excellent introduction, which provides the teacher with a clear explanation of how and when to use the text, the kind of learner best suited to the activities, the benefits to the learners, ways to adapt the material, where to find and prepare resources, how to facilitate better learning, and the role of the teacher in the activities. Each of the thirty units offers a practical lesson plan, which begins with a short introduction that guides the teacher through the lesson. The information in the introduction is organized into five sections: Target language, Cross-curricular links, Resources, Preparation, and Time guide. According to the author, "Target language tells you [the teacher] what vocabulary, structure, or function is being introduced or practiced in the unit. Cross-curricular links informs you which cross-curricular subjects the unit is related to. Resources lists all the resources and materials you are going to need to teach the lesson. You may need to prepare these before the lesson. Preparation tells you what you should do before the lesson and Time guide suggests how much time you need to teach the lesson" (p. vii). These features help the teacher to have a better understanding of what exactly he or she will be teaching when he or she starts working through the activities in each unit. The introduction is followed by clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on how to conduct the activities in the unit and help the learners get the most out of them. The activities are varied, and involve interaction between teacher and learner as well as between learner and learner. They appear to be well suited to language learning, since they get the students involved in both 'meaning-focused' language use and 'form-focused' language use, which are the main areas that language learners need to have practice in when learning a language (Ellis, 2003).
However, there is some doubt as to whether the approach taken in Cross-curricular Activities will be as effective in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom as it might be in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. In the EFL context, what is learned in the classroom in terms of 'meaning-focused' language and 'form-focused' language will almost certainly not be reinforced by the learners' experiences outside the classrooms or in the real-world as it will in the ESL context.
Overall, Cross-curricular Activities by Hana Svecova is a fine classroom text that encapsulates the concept of cross-curricular literacy and provides activities that will almost certainly motivate most learners and help them achieve success in their language-learning efforts, whether they are ESL or EFL learners.
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