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Ventures- Basic (Students Book) G. Bitterlin, D. Johnson, D. Price, S. Ramirez, K.

L Savage (Series Editor) Cambridge University Press 2008, 160 pp., ($18.32 with CD) ISBN: 978-0-521-71982-7 (pack consisting of Students Book and Audio CD)

The predominance of teaching materials in the international ESL and EFL contexts has been evident in the widespread presence of UK publishers all over the world. The recent 2008 Ventures Series is an example of a packaged textbook series that includes a workbook, a students book, a teachers book and an audio CD. We will be looking at the Basic Student Book which addresses the basic survival, or life-skills needed for a class with low-proficiency, or even beginning learners. Looking at the textbook within a unit, we can see some mismatches and discrepancies between what the textbook would like to claim, and what it actually does. We can therefore also question whether this widespread use of the Series is of real benefit to the learner in a specific proficiency and contextrelated classroom.

I.

Introduction: theoretical frameworks

Savignon (2007) states: CLT thus can be seen to derive from a multidisciplinary perspective that includes, at least, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and educational research. The focus has been the elaboration and implementation of programs and methodologies that promote the development of functional language ability through learner participation in communicative events1. This idea of functionality in language learning as well as textbook analysis is important when addressing one of the theoretical frameworks that is covered in this Ventures textbook. Indeed, a functional theoretical framework is often used in life-skills or survival-skills books because it specifically relates to the What can you accomplish with language?.The functional-notional syllabus can be clearly seen by the functions column in the syllabus of the book. In addition, if we take the premise that this textbook is geared towards low-level proficiency learners (as by the title Basic) , we can see that several main research aspects transpire in this textbook. For example, the aspect of life-skills, which might be needed in a community-based ESL program, for example, is a definite focus in our analysis. In other words, what can the student aspire to actually do with the language at this level? Kathleen

Savignon, S. (2007). Beyond communicative language teaching: whats ahead? (pp. 209). Journal of Pragmatics. 39. p.207-220.

Graves states that communicative functions are the purposes for one uses language.2. She says In my experience, functions have been expanded to mean any kind of transaction or interaction such as buying something, asking for directions, making small talk, and so on. Functions were initially paired with notions, in constructing a syllabus. Notions include concepts such as quantity, distance, smell and texture.3 If we consider Savignons claim about British linguistics, with the idea that these Series were published in the U.K, we begin to have an idea of what contextual and theoretical frameworks we can base ourselves on. Savignon asserts In Europe, the language needs of a rapidly increasing group of immigrants and guest workers along with a rich British linguistic tradition that included social as well as linguistic context in the description of language behavior (Firth 1930, Halliday, 1978) led to the development of a syllabus for learners based on notional-functional concepts of language use4. If we think of this textbook with the framework of functional-notional, the idea of notions is however inherently linked to the abstract. This poses an immediate problem for the learner of this textbook: that is, at this low-level, the beginner learner would probably not have vocabulary needed to acquire abstract concepts. In effect, the whole syllabus in this textbook is entirely geared towards a very practical, day-to-day uses of the language with the question of What can you do with language?. Indeed, Graves says In terms of syllabus types, the functional syllabus can be the organizing principle for a course, however because functions need to be contextualized, they are often paired with situations [..] Notions tend to be abstract in conceptualization, so teachers often find it easier to make notions concrete in the form of topics.5. Indeed, the term notions seems not to work as well in this textbook as the idea of situations and topics. Within the theoretical frameworks, we can also think of communicative competence here. Savignon uses the term to characterize the ability of classroom language learners to interact with other speakers; this ability to make meaning was distinguished from their ability to recite dialogues or to perform on discrete-point tests of grammatical knowledge6. Some of the questions we can ask ourselves about this textbook is, with these frameworks of communicative competence and functionality in mind: is meaning extracted from activities related to actual meaning-making or by discrete, grammatical or vocabulary knowledge? Does this book promote learner autonomy? creativity? Are there problem-solving activities? Is it learner-centered? Is there real interaction between students in the activities? Can we consider it to really be a representation of a communicative functions textbook? As per an article by N.S Prabhu (1992)7, does this book promote a routine-ish rhythm to the style of teaching?

Graves, K. (2000). Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers. (pp. 46). Boston: Heinle 3 Graves. (2000). Ibid 4 Savignon. (2007). Ibid. p. 209 5 Graves. (2000), Ibid p 46 6 Savignon. (2007). Ibid, p. 209 7 Prabhu, N.S. (1992). The Dynamics of the Language Lesson. (pp. 235). Journal of TESOL Quarterly. 26 (2): 225-241.

II. Factual Description of the content/organization of the textbook A. The syllabus In the syllabus, eight different categories are addressed. They address the four skills but also specifically include, in order: 1. functions 2. listening and speaking 3. vocabulary 4. grammar focus 5. reading 6. writing 7. life skills 8. pronunciation In addition, at the back of the book, several pages are included for the audio-script, maps and grammar tables. Two aspects in the back of the book are important to note. First, for each unit there are projects outlined, with ideas such as to make a class booklet, to create a community map. The second important aspect to note is that at the end of every Unit, (Lesson F) leads to a students self-assessment. At the back of the book, there is a page for each unit with a self-assessment in the form of multiple choice/check-off for vocabulary and skills, and also to check if the learner is ready for the next lesson. Lastly, in the beginning of the book, four pages are devoted to the correlations that can be made with standard exams, such as CASAS, EFF, SCANS.

B. Lessons within a unit There is a total of ten units in the book, and within each unit there are six lessons which are divided into six different skills and linguistic focuses. In each lesson, there are three different activities presented. Lesson A Get ready, involves three activities. The first is a warm-up, usually involving introduction to new vocabulary (as well as assessment by the teacher if there is already familiarity with the terms) with a picture. The visual aid (used by many textbooks at this proficiency level) serves the purpose for a prompt for introduction of new items, also a warming-up. The second activity involved in this lesson is a listening component. The third involves a group or partner work using the new vocabulary. Lesson B involves a vocabulary focus which supplements and expands on the vocabulary dealt with in the Lesson A. In other levels of this Series, Lessons B and C involve a grammar focus. Here, the assumption is that a need for vocabulary is primary to grammar due to, once again, the level of the learners. Then a practice exercise is included. The lesson finishes with an activity involving pair and /or partner work. Lesson C is a grammar-focused lesson that introduces the structure in a chart form. The next activity is a practice exercise which checks comprehension of the form. The last activity in this lesson is a communication or production of the form in a pair or group activity. Lesson D is a reading lesson, which includes pre-reading, reading post-

reading exercises. The Basic Levels (there are 2 Levels in Basic) also have picture dictionaries included in the unit. Lesson E is a writing lesson which includes the prewriting, writing and post-writing activities. The last Lesson F is called Another view and has also three activities, first, a life-skills reading (specifically concerned with scanning and skimming in technical documents such as charts, schedules, ads etc..). Secondly, another activity addresses preparation for test-taking with multiple choice questions. The next activity is called Fun with Language which provides interactive, creative new sets of activities not provided in the Unit. The last activity is a wrap-up to the lesson. C. Sequencing of the units As for the Units themselves, the very first three pages are a Welcome Unit in order for students to obtain familiarity with the alphabet. Beginning with the first unit, after every 2 units, there is a review. Units 1 through 5 have a progression of going from the self to the other (which can be usual in life-skills ESL textbooks). The sequence goes from the personal identification (Personal Information) to the less personal and to describing friends and family; then to the community (Around town). The other 5 Units seem to be related to activities outside of class (shopping, daily living, leisure), in other words, what can the students accomplish with the language? Language is viewed here as a way to do things: work, leisure, daily living, shopping.

III. Evaluation of the textbook My critique of the textbook will be vis--vis an imagined teaching context in mind, that is a beginning level ESL context perhaps in a community centered program with students (adults) with various backgrounds, countries of origin and professions. The aims of the book are acquiring literacy skills as well as life-skills, based on the theoretical framework mentioned in the introduction. For a general overview, there is integration of the four skills plus function-related activities. The linguistic task is integrated in the function. There is also a clear representation of the present-practice-produce which can be considered to have many mixed reviews within the SLA methodology. It seems also that the Life Skills Lessons at the end of each unit are exclusively dealing with reading and writing, the syllabus mentions specifically the skimming and scanning activities. However, there is no introduction of Life Skills in the other three skills of writing, listening or speaking. Therefore, is there really integration of the four skills? Another difficulty is the dealing of grammar. Although in the syllabus there is a grammar focus, grammar is implicitly taught within the vocabulary and reading activities. There are no grammar rules actually written in the book, therefore the theoretical assumption is that, for this specific level, this book should have no explicit grammar explanations taught in the class. This could potentially be a problem for metalinguistic awareness on the part of the students, who, first of all, might feel reassured that they are learning grammar; and secondly, some students may have had a traditional

learning experience and might be used to having explicit grammar explanations, or written grammatical exercises. A grammar supplement to the textbook may be needed. Another critique could be the clear lack of recycling and assessment at the end of the book: Savignon states Functions were based on the assessment of learner needs and specified the end result or goal of an instructional program8. After each couple of units, a review is included in the book; however, a full comprehensive review and recycling of earlier vocabulary terms are not included. In addition, the activities in the unit do not build on one another-therefore there is little schema activation from one unit to the next. Following Littlejohns (1998) framework, the textbook can be seen as tasks-asworkplans, in effect, pre-designed tasks which are offered as a frame. Maggie St John calls it framework materials where the teacher provides the frame. This frame, or source, can be taken from the textbook. In effect, the entire textbook can be seen as a workplan or blueprint. This task-as-workplan is in contrast with the idea of the task-in progress or the negotiated syllabus; or task as outcomes which is the learning derived from the task9. On the whole, the teaching style in concordance with this textbook seems to promote a kind of routine. The way the lessons are sequenced within a unit, the way the activities are sequenced (described in the factual description of the book), this textbook present many routine-like activities. This can be a negative aspect or a positive aspect. The routines of a classroom, as per Prabhu (1992) are not just routines but carriers of a more complex though less perceptible balance of the different forces at work10. There is a perhaps reassuring notion associated of routines, which could benefit the low-level learner. In addition, the promotion of learner autonomy and creativity seems to be hindered by this routine concept. At the low-level proficiency, does this systematic treatment of language reassure the learner and can put him/her in a comfort zone involving the classroom context; or does this on the other hand, stifle the pedagogic interest in the learner? As can be seen from my previous discussion, keeping in mind the learner context of a low-level proficiency is important when looking at this textbook. Indeed, the contextual factors of an imaginary group of learners is important, as a textbook analysis cannot be done in isolation, as per Littlejohns (1998) claims when describing an evaluation and analysis. Perhaps the difficulty of discussing a low-level group of learners is that communicative competence involves an association of different techniques such as Total Physical Response (TPR), the heavy reliance on the use of visuals, a heavy reliance on listening and group/pair work. This textbook uses these activities or techniques in large amounts. However, these associations may have more to
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Savignon Ibid, p. 209 Littlejohn (1998), The Analysis of language teaching materials: inside the Trojan Horse. (pp. 191). In B. Tomlinson (ed.) Materials Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10 N.S Prabhu (1992). The Dynamics of the Language Lesson (pp. 234). Journal of TESOL Quarterly. 26 (2):225-241

do with the level of the learners than with communicative competence itself. Moreover, there seems to be, perhaps again due to the low-level of the learners, a copious amount of input from the teacher; making it more teacher-centered. This will be discussed in an example in our in-depth study. These concepts again might have more to do with the level of the learners, rather than really utilizing the theoretical frameworks such as communicative competence or functionality. A conflict may arise, because of the low-level, between too much input and a sense of overwhelming feeling from the learners. How much input is enough in a textbook? How much learner creativity and autonomy be present in a textbook for lowlevel learners? Many SLA theories have noted the importance of teacher input. As we will see in our in-depth analysis, this is an important question to ask. For example, in each of the Lesson D-Life Skills, the learner output is only reading and writing. There are no speaking skills, learner output, nor pair or group work in these lessons. The focus is on reading and writing, with completion-based exercises. There is no opportunity for writing a full paragraph. All the activities and four skills are centered around the sentence-level. In other words, the input in this textbook does not go beyond the sentence level, and doesnot address the discourse level. There are longer exercises for writing included in the book, however they do not involve any creative writing. Therefore, is this really communicative? Doesnt a Life-Skills lesson need to involve oral communication? For example, in the unit which will described in depth, which involves identifying buildings (banks, library, school, supermarket), shouldnt there be a Life-Skills activity dealing with what happens at a bank? What do you say when you want to check out a library book? These suggestions might make the Life-Skills Units more communicative and more real-world and authentic.

IV. Close examination of a unit: Unit 5, p. 58 to 69 Littlejohn states: For a snapshot impression of the general nature of a set of materials, I have found it useful to analyze about 10% to 15% of the total material, ideally chosen around the mid-point11. Therefore, I have chosen, out of the total of ten units in the book, to concentrate on Unit 5, Around Town, (pp. 58-69). I have decided also to analyze the types of teaching activities in detail, as per Littlejohns three-fold framework (p. 211-213 in Appendix). Based on this framework, we can obtain an idea of the types of implicit teaching and pedagogic beliefs from the authors of the textbook. Moreover, the definition of a task is in order at this point. A task, based on Breen (1987) is defined as any proposal contained within the materials for action to be undertaken by the learners, which has the direct aim of bringing about the learning of the foreign language12. In addition, three key components are identified when discussing task: first, it is a process through which learners and teachers go through. Second, there is classroom

11 12

Littlejohn (1998). p. 196 Littlejohn. (1998). Ibid. p. 198

participation involved. Thirdly, there is some kind of content that the learners are to focus on (Littlejohn, 1998: 198) From the data I analyzed for each activity in the unit (specifically pages 59 to 63), I was able to arrive at certain conclusions involving the theoretical concepts that are implicit in the book. The first component I analyzed for was turn-take which specifically relates to the role in classroom discourse that the learners are expected to take. Are they expected to respond to direct questions, to initiate language not supplied by the book, or not to take any direct role at all?. I found that all the activities in the unit required a response of some kind, in a guided oral or written form using language that was largely supplied by the textbook. The learner is expected to express him/herself through language which has been narrowly defined (Littlejohn: 1998, Appendix, p, 211). No initiation is required of the learners, using language that is not supplied by the materials, for example, free writing, or free discussion. The activities in this book were all guided, with a specific script or prompt of some kind. Here, we may think of the concepts of learner autonomy, creativity and schema activation. The learners are not asked to discuss some of the vocabulary related to what they know about places. In this sense, always having guided and controlled activities may be interesting for the promotion of teacher input and routine, but is it really communicative? Learner-centered? Also, I have found that most of the activities require the students in responding to the specific content in the textbook. This idea could provoke a mismatch between the idea of learner-centeredness and the activities themselves. Indeed, Littlejohn also states If, for example, the materials claim to be learner-centered yet we find that by far most of the tasks involve the learners in responding and in working with content supplied by the materials, there would appear to be a serious mismatch13. If the textbook is supposed to be communicative, and learner-centeredness is not promoted, maybe, once again this is because of the low-level of the learners at these Basic level which requires more teacher-centeredness simply because of the amount of teacher input needed? Maybe in the more advanced levels of the Series, the theoretical framework of learner-centeredness is more salient. Also, at no place in the unit the student is required not to take on any direct role at all, for example when listening to a grammar explanation. Indeed, no grammar explanations are given in the textbook. In effect, even in receptive skills, the listening components in each unit are always accompanied by another skill. In other words, the textbook always has Listen and doing something else with this listening, either writing, repeating, pointing, etc.. In this sense, the listening skill is not treated as an isolated skill but in a way that seems to be communicative in this textbook. Another positive aspect in my analysis of activities is that meaning-making is clearly promoted. Every activity I analyzed in terms of focus, defined as whether the learner is asked to focus on the meaning of the word, its form or both; meaning was especially salient. The reason for this may be also because no focus on grammatical form is made explicit in the book (for example, nowhere in this unit is the word prepositions) In this textbook, the vocabulary lessons are compiled with grammar-therefore there is no
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Littlejohn (1998). Ibid. p. 200

focus on form to be made. However, one example of this focus on meaning in the unit could be problematic. Visually, the pictures could also be problematic at certain points. For example, on page 59-C-Talk with a partner, this activity could appeal to a students visual and phonological memory, without having to understand the meaning of the words themselves. In other words, the pictures are exactly the same as p. 59B: if the student recognizes that this picture is associated with the word, he/she could memorize the pictures to the words. The focus here would be on the visual patterns, not the actual meaning of the words. A solution to this visual issue would be to have different pictures, photographs from a real street. The students could even take pictures of various places in their neighborhood for an in-class task. Another example of a potential problem with visuals is the picture dictionary on page 65. How is this picture dictionary different from the vocabulary focus on page 60, number 1 in terms of content? They both have a picture and the word associated with the place described in the picture. However, the picture dictionary could potentially be confusing because of the addition of the word by. The addition of this word could be confusing for students, not only because of the association between the words and the pictures, but mainly because of the preposition (which is not explained in the unit) added to explain the mode or means of transportation. Students might also be confused by the on foot and not by foot. Lastly, the picture dictionary, if addressing modes of transportation, should probably include all the means of transportation like by plane, by horse, which could add more meaning and even a socio-cultural component to the activity. For example, the teacher could engage in class discussion of how do you get to work or school from your home in your country? How did you arrive to this city (or place?) from your home country? As for the operation feature, or the mental process required for the activity; the textbook belief is that the students can master, at this level, simple repetition or retrieval from short-term memory of items within the lesson. The repetition can be selective (the student has to choose which word) or identical repetition. There are, in some activities, oral repetition where the learner is supposed to reproduce exactly what is presented (example in Listen and Repeat, p. 63.B). This could potentially turn into choral repetition. At this level, there are various opinions on the benefits or negative aspects of choral repetition. But is it really communicative? I believe that it is communicative because the students are obtaining the maximum amount of input. However, the question of whether that input comes from the teacher or the learner can be discussed in terms of teacher-centeredness. This , however, I believe is not communicative. Also, although there are reviews after each couple of units, ,there is no recycling of vocabulary items within the unit pertaining the the previous one. All of the cognitive work, within the activities, seems to be focused on the retrieval of immediate short-term memory or phonological working memory. Another SLA methodology concept is in the idea of error-correction. In these activities, there seems to be no explicit vocabulary or grammatical statements, therefore all the potential grammatical or syntax errors, especially oral, seem to be implicit in the textbook.

In terms of communicativeness, the question of who with?, with whom are the students interacting with? there seems to be, from the analysis of my data, a large amount of actual pair work or group work. Most of the activities I found could be described as learners in pairs, simultaneously. This can be a strong argument for communicative competence or functionality. That being said, are the students really interacting? For example, in the pair work on page 63-B, if the teacher put up a set of pictures of the words on the board and pointed to different ones, would it have the same pedagogical effect? If the purpose of this exercise is to correct students pronunciation, will the teacher be able to do this in pair work? Is the goal of this pair work, due to the fact that the student does not have to create any kind of new expressions or new words in order to negotiate meaning with his/her partner, really all that communicative? Because of the specific nature of pair work being so linguistically guided and so controlled, isnt it almost like choral repetition? Another question based on the claims of this book, the question now is whether it is functional. As mentioned previously, the Life-Skills Lessons are reading and writing activities. In this specific lesson (p. 68-69), the activity on page 69 A Fun with language. Read and math is exactly the same as the matching exercise on page 60. Albeit with different content, the activities are exactly the same. Therefore, how is the exercise in the Life-skills lesson different from the rest of the lesson? No specific focus on life-skills are made, and it seems like the rest of the lessons and activities are mixed in with this Life-skills. Another example is the puzzle on page 69. How does this activity address life-skills? There seems again to be a mismatch between the belief of having a textbook which addresses life-skills, and the actual activities and exercises presented in the Lessons which are supposed to address these skills. This is deeply problematic and seems to be another serious mismatch between the beliefs and actual applications of the pedagogical and linguistic beliefs of this Ventures textbook. The next question posed by Littlejohn is about the content and the input to learners. For most of the data I collected from the activities presented in the unit, there seems to be a lot of input in terms of visuals and words presented in writing or orally. Most are individual linguistic items, words not going beyond the single word input, or sometimes very short conversation. Nothing is beyond the segmental level (no supersegmental or discourse) which leaves us to think that learner autonomy and creativity is not taken into account into the basic claims of this book. In effect that this textbook claims to be communicative, there seems to be a difficulty to accommodate between the low proficiency level of these students which hinders their ability to fully themselves in English; and, on the other hand, the strictly guided (written or oral) and controlled activities which do not - or can not- give students a lot of opportunity to express themselves. This is perhaps one of the major paradoxes and difficulties when addressing communicative competence in a textbook for a low-level group of students. A positive outcome of my data analysis, as well as an aspect we can derive as a major claim, is that the expected output from students in the activities in this unit is highly stressed on oral output. For a Life-Skills centered approach, the need for oral expression seems to be coherent. Although there is also written, listening and reading

output, it does not seem to be the center of the lesson. But this can create a dichotomy between the lessons which integrates the four skills and the life-skills lesson which only addresses reading as an isolated skill. Also, there is no oral output beyond the sentence-level. The majority of oral output is focused on specific words or linguistic items. The items tend not to be decontextualized, however in some examples, there is some decontextualization. For example, words describing places (hospital, drugstore etc) on page 62 can be easily replaced with other words with other pictures. There is no story describing, or activities describing for example, what do you buy at a bakery?, or what do you do in a laundrymat which could lead to different verbs and adjectives and supplement the unit a little more in terms of input and real-world connection. The last two parts in the analysis of my data, as per Littlejohns framework, included source, where the content comes from; and nature which refers to the type of content required in the operation. Overwhelmingly, I found the source to be supplied by the materials. In other words, the content of the activities were supplied by the material of the textbook. Almost no authentic material is presented in this textbook. For example, the pictures are not authentic and do not represent any real photographs. Only one instance of 2 real photographs of a man talking on the phone, and a woman doing the same thing (p. 63-3. Communicate) are presented in the unit. One solution, as mentioned previously, would be to have real photographs or even an activity involving students taking real pictures of places in their neighborhood, or choosing real images from the Internet for a task. Lastly, as for the nature, the type of cognitive content as required by the operation, I found that the content, for all the activities, pertained to linguistic items. In other words, there were no words, phrases, or sentences carrying a specific message (for a real-world task). This is another reason why this is problematic when dealing with a life-skills, or survival-skills, textbook because the learner needs to be able to tie the linguistic content to a specific purpose. In other words, the question addressed in a basic claim of this book: What can you accomplish with language?, seems difficult. Moreover, no meta-linguistic comments (grammar rules for example) or the creation of a fictional text (oral or spoken) are required. No higher-order cognitive skills mediated through language are presented in this unit. V. Summary of overall assessment This textbook seems to exemplify some of the SLA methodological struggles between what one would like to accomplish and what can realistically be accomplished. In effect, the numerous theoretical frameworks that the authors of this textbook focus on: communicative competence, communicative functionality, issues with grammar, interaction, authentic and real-world materials, input and learner output, learnercenteredness etc seem to have difficulty with the low-level of the Series. A survival skills, or life-skills textbook needs very specific components within these theories. On the surface, this book appears to address the basic notions of communicative competence: the integration of the four skills, appropriate to this level. However, looking a bit deeper, we

can find some discrepancies and mismatches. The idea of functionality is not addressed in a way that matches the claim for expressing life-skills. The integration of the four skills is not addressed in a way that matches the claim for functionality. The ever-present present-practice-produce is still very much the case in this textbook. Also, there seems to be semi-authentic with the use of visuals, but in fact very few real authentic visuals are represented. Cultural and social appropriateness seems not to be addressed. The treatment of language focus tends to be systematic and heavily controlled by a teacher-centered classroom context. Overrall, this textbook can be seen as an attempt for adherence to communicative frameworks. It shows perhaps a problem for suitability in addressing a textbook for low-level ESL learners. In conclusion, although the attempts are clear; there still seems to be some conflicting ideologies within the pedagogical and methodology of ESL learning.

Works Cited/Bibliography

Graves, K. (2000). Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers. Boston: Heinle Littlejohn, A. (1998). The Analysis of language teaching materials: inside the Trojan Horse. In B. Tomlinson (ed.), Materials Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 190-216. Prabhu, N.S. (1992). The Dynamics of the Language Lesson. TESOL Quarterly .26 (2): 225-241. Savignon, S.J. (2007). Beyond Communicative Language Teaching: Whats ahead?. Journal of Pragmatics. 39 (1):207-220. Checklist adapted from: Grant (1987:122-6), Appendix 3.1 Extracts from an evaluation checklist Littlejohn (1998:1997): Appendix 2.3: Extract from textbook analysis

APPENDIX I: More information of the content/organization of the book I.A The Ventures package I. B. Description of the cover of the book As mentioned in the abstract, these Ventures Series include a package . The package includes Students book with a self-study Audio CD (included at the back of the book) which is comprised of every listening activity in Lessons A through D in a Unit. There is also a Teachers Edition (with an Audio CD and CD-Rom). A Class Audio program is also included where all the audio listening activities are accessible (the entire listening activities are in the CD, not only the ones on the Student CD but also the ones on the Teachers CD). A Workbook (it is not online but a physical book) is also included and specifically has two pages of activities for each lesson in the Students Book. A material called Add Ventures in also included, is three-fold and it is available for students to have additional practice: the first part of the material is for those who are at a level slightly lower than the Students Book or who require additional practice. The second part is for students who are at the Basics level, and the third part of the worksheet are for students who wish to go beyond the materials that the Series provide. A Literacy Workbook is included in the package which provides specific help and assistance for students who are pre-literate or semi-literate (p. ix) in their own languages. The second part of the Literacy Workbook is for students who are literate in their native languages, but who are unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet. One interesting note is that the Workbook is divided between left-hand pages (for the pre or semi-literate) and the right-handed pages for the students literate in a non-Roman alphabet language. Therefore if for example, a student from the Middle East whose writing goes from right to left will be visually more familiar with the right-handed page.

B. Description of the cover of the book: a few comments The colorful picture on the cover seems to have an immediate appeal. However, it is deemed important to address some of the underlying themes that can be seen through a careful analysis of this picture, in order to address the major theoretical frameworks in the textbook. Three main planes are shown. The first plane portrays various men and women, from different ethnicities and performing various jobs: a florist, a mailman, a baker, among others. There is also a gender differentiation: the men are mailmen and work in agriculture (specifically the man to on the right with the basket of vegetables); and the women are florists, food shoppers and bakers. They all look very happy. One positive aspect is that in this gender differentiation, the women are not specifically portrayed as the providers, and the men are not either. The second plane is a picture of white residential houses with palm trees in front of them. This immediately centers the readers attention to a possible country with these kinds of houses, perhaps in a hot climate where palm trees grow. The third plane is the depiction of a city with a skyscraper view. These two planes seen together can offer some disconnects, perhaps dichotomies between the urban city view and the residential , exotic houses. Perhaps this offers an discrepancy in association between the culturally Western city landscape, and the non-Western houses. (For example, I have seen these kinds of houses in the French Carribean islands and in the Middle East). As a conclusion, the cover picture seems to offer a kind of culturally awareness and sensitivity to where people live, what people do. I think it is a good idea to have this awareness in a specific class context where students may just have arrived from their home countries. However, I would be a bit wary of the cultural connotations, especially Western connotations that could potentially be associated with this picture. We can remember that due to their low proficiency in English, especially in an ESL context, students may not have been able to find a job yet, and looking at a textbook with the subliminal message of See how happy people are in their jobs, may not be wellreceived by some students. That being said, we can notice that all of the authors of the Ventures team live in California, and made their professional teaching or pedagogical experience in San Francisco or San Diego. This cover could be a picture of San Francisco perhaps, (incorporating the city landscape and the residential areas with palm trees). However, this analysis can only be seen when reading the authors profiles in the beginning of the book (p. xiv). Perhaps the actual learners will not be worried to read about the authors team in their textbook. Perhaps also the actual vocabulary and syntax in these teaching profiles are too complex for beginning ESL readers? In this case, why include them in the textbook? Is this an ESL requirement for UK publishers to have teacher profiles?

Appendix II. Comprehensive checklist evaluation I. Indended audience Age-range II. General: Book as a whole 1.Materials is there a CD, CDRom, DVD, Teachers Book, Workbook included with this package? 2. Does the book seem attractive? (use of pictures, photographs) YES PARTLY NO School Location

YES

PARTLY

NO

III. Your students: Does the book suit your students? 1. Does this textbook seem appropriate for the level of your learners? 2. Given the specific needs of your students, does the syllabus in the book attend to your objectives for the class? 3. Given the age and the cultural background of your students, would they enjoy using it? 4. Does the vocabulary in the book seem difficult for your students? IV. Your pedagogy: Does the book suit the teacher? 1. Do you plan to supplement this book with another book (grammar, etc..) or other materials? YES PARTLY PARTLY PARTLY PARTLY NO NO NO NO YES YES PARTLY PARTLY NO NO

YES YES

PARTLY PARTLY

NO NO

2. Are the recommended methods and approaches YES suitable for you, your students and your classroom? 3. Are the approaches easily adaptable if necessary? YES 4. Does the book achieve an acceptable balance between the relevant language skills and integrate them so that work in one skill area helps the others? YES

5. Are there clear appendices YES PARTLY (references, answer keys,word lists, projects, self-assessment, grammar points, audio scripts) as well as a clear content list in the beginning of the book? 6. Is there a good balance YES between what the assessment/examination/administration requires and the review assessments in the book? PARTLY

NO

NO