September 1998 — Volume 3, Number 3
Talk about It! An Integrated Approach to Bold, Dynamic Topics
Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press (1997)
Talk about It!: An Integrated Approach to Bold, Dynamic Topics was reviewed in the March, 1998 issue of TESL-EJ. As one might expect, there were both positive and negative comments in the review. However, several points about the book need clarifying to put the review into perspective.
The reviewer objected to the fact that Talk about It! is an integrated skills text but has the word “talk” in its title which apparently misled her into believing that the text was a speaking text. The subtitle of the book, An Integrated Approach to Bold, Dynamic Topics and a paragraph in the introduction of the book clearly state that Talk about It! focuses on integrated skills. The activities are designed to develop vocabulary, build learning strategies and give students the opportunity to practice language before being asked to use it. The prepare, plan, practice format is achieved through listening, speaking, reading and writing activities. Students make choices, negotiate meaning, and give feedback to one another as they work through the activities. We make no apologies for making it an integrated text or for the title. We believe that most teachers do more than run through each activity one by one; they talk about it and their students talk about it.
The reviewer asks whether the themes we cover in the text are “the sum total of young people’s interests?” Obviously they are not. We could not possibly cover the sum total of young people’s interests, nor did we try to. We chose topics and activities that have proved successful with our students.
As the reviewer points out, slang and idioms are a big part of the book. We include activities for learning slang and idioms because our students have asked for them. We agree with the reviewer that slang is often short-lived, which is why many of the activities centering on slang require students to gather slang from native speaker peers. They will learn from their peers what is current and what is passe. Again, we expect that teachers will use these activities as vehicles for discussion.
The main concern we have with the review is that, through absolutely no fault of her own, the reviewer reviewed only the Student Workbook of Talk about It! and not the complete text which is contained in the Teacher’s Manual. The reviewer walked the readers through a unit of the book and commented on each activity in the unit. As I followed along, I realized that she was missing activities. She had taken us through the Student Workbook not the Teacher’s Manual. The Student Workbook is just that, a workbook of readings and activities [-1-] for the student to write in. Pages are perforated so that exercises may be torn out to hand in to the teacher. The Teacher’s Manual contains the complete unit with pre-and post-activities designed to help prepare students for the workbook activities, practice language in the safe context of the classroom and then use that language in less structured situations. The Teacher’s Manual includes games, information searches, debriefing, discussion activities and pre- and post-reading activities. The “Live and Learn” section of each unit offers suggestions for extending the lesson beyond the borders of the classroom. Perhaps the reviewer’s impression of the book would have been different had she had the opportunity to actually use the Teacher’s Manual of Talk about It! as it was meant to be used, that is, as an integrated skills text, perhaps not. We regret that she didn’t get this opportunity.
Melinda Sayavedra, co-author
Oregon State University
So do I. And I would suggest that the authors take the issue up with the promotion department at The University of Michigan Press. I am all the more sorry as I realise from what Melinda Sayavedra writes that the real book was the Teacher’s Manual. Nothing in the Student Workbook led me to suppose that there was anything else, in spite of looking because I felt the Workbook was unfinished and superficial. No wonder. This was like reviewing a film by reading the script only without seeing the film. I hate giving negative reviews or doing a bad job. I love to love books. I am sure the book deserved better treatment and only hope it can be reviewed more thoroughly in the near future.
Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France
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