Volume 3:1 Reviews (January 2010)

by User Not Found | 10/25/2011
In This Issue...
  • Reviews
    • From the Book Reviews Editors
    • Guidance for Life Skills, No GPS Needed
    • From Disconnected to Connected Speech
    • An Overview of the Important Aspects of Good Writing
    • Reimagining Teacher Education
    • From Inquiry to Instruction: How Reading Research Can Inform Classroom Practices

Reviews From the Book Reviews Editors

Welcome to the special reviews issue of the HEIS News for fall 2009! In addition to informative reviews in each regularly published HEIS News, we offer a newsletter filled exclusively with reviews of classroom texts as well as professional development materials relating to higher education. This summer’s call for reviewers has provided a bounty of book reviews for this edition. We hope you’ll find the critiques helpful as you prepare your courses for upcoming semesters.


We visit the classroom with two texts designed for student use, and for readers more interested in pedagogy and research, there are two titles addressing those areas as well.

Linda Henriksen describes how Downtown 2 English for Work and Life gives us a look at language for work and daily life. Henriksen examines a variety of aspects in the book, from the great visuals to the diverse characters to the different themes used in the text.

Jeanne Dunnett describes Well Said as a book on pronunciation that works to help intermediate and advanced students become more independent and fluent speakers of English. Among other aspects, Dunnett discusses how the text guides students in setting goals, understanding pronunciation symbols, and learning about sound-spelling patterns.

T. Leo Schmitt brings us into the classroom with his review of The Least You Should Know About English, a text designed for student use.

For those still new to the teaching profession or veterans wanting to keep abreast of curricular trends, Kira Litvin offers insights into The Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher Education.

In her review of Reading in a Second Language, Christina Quartararo walks us through this book, examining, among other things, research into reading and understanding the skills, the texts used, and cognitive processes involved with L1 and L2 readers.

With so many great publications available for ESL/EFL professionals and students, we hope the reviews editions of the newsletter will help make your jobs as program directors, instructors, and members of our profession easier. We appreciate the efforts of our reviewers in making this issue possible. Thanks also to the publishers for continuing to send us copies of texts to examine, scrutinize, and discuss.

In the February-March HEIS News: Valerie Mettler reviews Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur.

If you’re interested in writing a review for HEIS News, we’d love to hear from you. Just send us an e-mail (mammar@frederick.edu orbarrol@eastcentral.edu).

Best wishes,
Maria Ammar & Linda Barro

Guidance for Life Skills, No GPS Needed

Linda Henriksen

McBride, E. J. (2008). Downtown 2 English for Work and Life. Boston: Heinle, Cengage Learning.

Learning English is fun! This is the premise behind E. J. McBride’s five-level series for adult ESL learners. Downtown 2 English for Work and Life is the second book in the series and, as such, incorporates the elements of the previous level with relevant and fresh new material. In Downtown 2, the primary focus is on educating beginning adult ESL learners in essential daily life skills with a secondary focus on developing English skills in the workplace. According to a former administrator of McBride’s who hired him to teach ESL in 1996, teachers should teach what students “really need to know” in a “comfortable” and “fun” environment (p. xii). McBride’s purpose, therefore, is, “to provide an easy-to-use text, brimming with essential and enjoyable language learning material” (p. xiii). Brimming, however, is an understatement, as Downtown 2 overflows from first page to last with useful and effective information, content, and visual stimuli.

Federal and state standards-based language skills instruction, grammar, and vocabulary are at the core of Downtown 2’s central theme and are presented in a sequential manner from chapter to chapter in a holistic communicative context. With the ESL teacher available for assistance, the adult student plays a major role in the book and takes a large responsibility for his or her individual learning through the application of real-life activities. Each chapter integrates reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Although the volume of information for each theme and lesson topic might be a bit intimidating at first, a skilled teacher will be able to navigate his or her way through the material while appropriately guiding students. For the creative teacher who wants to take lessons one step further, there are suggestions and ideas for how to do so.

Downtown 2 is a lively and visually exciting textbook. The initial attraction is in the book’s layout, with particular emphasis on visual aids such as illustrations, pictures, and photographs, including sample forms for student registration, safety rules and signs, employee accident reports, advertisements, and potential real-life scenarios ranging from leisure activities to emergency situations. Each chapter opens with a page on lesson goals and a picture story with vocabulary words in context and concludes with collaborative learning tasks, review of skills, and assessment of goals. The chapters are composed of three lessons, all of which revolve around a central theme. The first two lessons in each chapter contain specific individual and group activities related to the general theme, and the third lesson is work-related. For instance, Chapter 3’s theme is “Food.” Lesson 1, entitled “Thanksgiving Dinner,” contains a grammar activity on count and noncount nouns related to pictures of Thanksgiving foods. Chapter 3, Lesson 2 is entitled “What Do We Need From the Market?” and contains a conversation practice related to pictures of grocery story advertisements. Chapter 3, Lesson 3, “What Would You Like?” contains corresponding work-related activities such as an e-mail with a personal job description, a role-play activity for a hypothetical waitress/waiter job, and an exercise on how to order from a restaurant menu.

In each chapter, Downtown 2 does a fine job of teaching important information every adult ESL learner should know. Chapter 1 introduces the student to the classroom by focusing on his or her level of personal comfort. Each student is allowed to role-play by introducing his or her family and is able to bring his or her background to the learning classroom. In Chapter 4 on housing, Lesson 3, the student learns how to read and interpret an apartment lease and how to solve housing problems such as calling an apartment manager for assistance. Locating products and learning to navigate customer service departments are detailed in Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 deals with health situations such as going to the doctor, safety, and what to do in emergency situations. The book concludes in Chapter 10 with how to find a better job and includes job skills, the job application, and preparing for the job interview.

Downtown 2 usesrecurring characters from different countries so that the adult ESL learner is able to identify with and get to know characters who might mirror his or her own life situations and roles, including parents and employees who coincide with the real-world environment of any generic city in the United States. The use of recurring characters with which the learner can relate creates an effective sense of kinship. In addition, the author presents real-life scenes and events that allow the learner to imagine him- or herself in that specific scenario and takes the scene one step further by providing activities such as role-play and mock interviews to reinforce personal meaning. Learners can easily place themselves within the learning situation in the classroom and then apply the activity outside the classroom to the real world.

Students learn through individual and collaborative tasks how to ask questions and find information when faced with unfamiliar territory, as well as learn the correct grammatical structure for asking these types of questions. By teaching how to find information and discover answers in the classroom, students will undoubtedly raise their level of English confidence and self-esteem when faced with unfamiliar situations outside the classroom.

Experienced ESL teachers will find the table of contents useful; however, the learners themselves might find it a bit confusing, especially those who might not have the benefit of teacher guidance or who choose to work alone. An extremely beneficial aspect to this book is the transcriptions of all chapter audio material at the end of the book. In addition, separate indexes are included for academic skills, life skills, topics, and workforce skills, in an easy-to-find and simple-to-read format.

Say it, write it, grammar lessons, vocabulary in context, pictures, photographs, comics, pair work, team work: This book is chock-full of vital information every adult ESL class, teacher, and learner needs. For the beginning student, the book might be a bit overwhelming at times. However, Downtown 2 is extremely thorough and accomplishes its initial goal to provide the adult ESL learner with useful and relevant daily and workforce skills.

Linda Henriksen is an MA TESOL student and graduate assistant at Southeast Missouri State University, where she teaches in the Intensive English Program and the English department. Her research interests include pedagogy and assessment for second language writing in higher education and sociocultural factors affecting ESL acquisition for adult women.

From Disconnected to Connected Speech

Jeanne M. Dunnett

Grant, Linda. (2010). Well Said: Pronunciation for Clear Communication (3rd ed.). Boston: Heinle, Cengage Learning.

Well Said is a thoughtful and well-organized pronunciation text that takes the intermediate or advanced student step by step from individual sounds and spelling patterns through syllables and word stress and then on to larger chunks of language with rhythm in phrases and thought groups. Finally, the students move on to intonation and the difficult task of putting it all together by linking and connecting their speech. The beauty of this text is in its overall progression and also in how it moves from rules to practice within each individual chapter.

Before plunging into the great exercises in this book, students create a speech profile in which they complete a variety of tasks (a reading, a brief oral and unrehearsed autobiography, and a short presentation introducing a classmate) that can be recorded and kept as both a profile and a standard to check on progress. ESL students are concerned about pronunciation but they often have neither realistic goals nor concrete ideas on what is wrong with their pronunciation or how to fix it. This first chapter includes a self-assessment tool and an exercise to guide the student into setting achievable pronunciation goals, setting the tone for the useful, hands-on approach used throughout the book. After completing these exercises, students often become more focused on correcting their pronunciation errors.

The following chapter on sound/symbol correspondence shows the symbols used in standard English dictionaries and compares them to those used in a learner dictionary. It encourages students to become familiar with the system in their own dictionaries and learn to use it to improve pronunciation. The chapter also describes a few basic phonics concepts to guide them in the pronunciation of common vowel patterns. Students may tend to gloss over the pronunciation keys in their dictionaries without learning how to pronounce a word when they learn its definition. If you have the time to cover this chapter, it can help students continue learning pronunciation long after the class is finished.

Many international students are firm in their belief that English pronunciation makes no sense whatsoever and follows no rules. The third chapter of Well Said can cure them of this belief by illustrating the correspondence between spelling and pronunciation (e.g., t followed by i, as in nation, section). This useful chapter includes eight different sound-spelling patterns to help students decipher English pronunciation. In this chapter, the book introduces communicative practices, so that students begin to actually use the pronunciation patterns covered to that point.

At first glance, the focus of Chapter 4, which covers syllables and word endings, might seem too easy for intermediate or advanced learners. Often, third person singular endings for the simple present and the simple past tense are taught at an early level and then not dealt with again as students progress through levels of an intensive English language program. However, these endings are often the most difficult for international students to use consistently in their speech. The first listening activity requires students to listen to a passage in which the speaker omits all ‑s endings. For native speakers, it is truly painful to listen to, and yet I have never had a class that was able to identify what was wrong with the passage. This points out clearly the importance of word endings in English in contrast to many other languages, and the students ultimately see the importance of the lessons to be learned here.

The rest of the chapters follow a pattern that builds on each preceding chapter. Following the chapter on syllable and word endings, students learns about stress in words and from there progress through stress in longer words, rhythm in phrases and sentences, thought groups and focus words, intonation patterns, and finally linking and making one’s speech more connected. This step-by-step progression helps students to build confidence at each point while moving on to a higher level of pronunciation competence. Following these units are supplements for practicing specific consonants or vowels, material for information gap activities that accompany some of the chapters, and appendices with valuable information for students who are more seriously motivated to improve their pronunciation.

Each unit includes many activities, so that students can move from studying the rules to using them in their speech. Many of the activities can be extended in the classroom for maximum advantage. For example, while exploring the chapter on rhythm, it is easy for the teacher to create activities on the rhythm found in children’s poetry and then to compare it to the rhythm found in poetry in the students’ native languages. In another chapter there is an activity on “knock knock” jokes, which the teacher can easily amplify so that the students find more “knock knock” jokes or create their own. The chapter on intonation could lead to other teacher-created activities such as having students perform a short play with dramatic intonation or study famous speeches such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Also included in this new edition of Well Said are several exercises to help students prepare for the speaking portion of the iBT TOEFL.

With such a thorough text, it is hard to designate any particular chapter as more useful than others. Students are usually surprised to learn that there are rules regarding word stress in English. They also find extremely useful the chapters on rhythm, thought groups, intonation, and linking. If the teacher takes full advantage of all of the resources of the book, students can truly get a sense of English pronunciation.

To use this book to its fullest, it is useful to have access to recording equipment. In that way, students can record themselves, beginning with the speech profile and then continue throughout the course, so that they have a living record of their pronunciation progress.

Well Said is a perfect text or supplement for a course in pronunciation and fluency. It could also be the starting point for a more intensive accent reduction course. Although it is a little too general for serious accent reduction, this is an excellent book for typical students who are trying to improve comprehensibility and intelligibility. It will provide them with many skills that they can implement immediately in their everyday speech.

Jeanne Dunnett earned her MA TESOL at the University of Illinois. She taught EFL in Lisbon, Portugal, for 3 years, following which she relocated to Connecticut, where she has taught in various ESL programs for refugees and young immigrants. She has been teaching ESL at Central Connecticut State University since 1992 and currently also teaches at Naugatuck Valley Community College.

An Overview of the Important Aspects of Good Writing

T. Leo Schmitt

Wilson, P., & Ferster Glazier, T. (2009). The LEAST You Should Know About English: Writing Skills (10th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Writing has long been a skill that draws the particular interest of teachers. Traditionally more permanent than oral skills and more concrete and problematic than reading, writing has continued to vex many a student. It shares the infinite potential of language, but because of its comparative permanence, it tends to take on more formality and prescription. This formality is familiar to many writing instructors. To be sure, writing has changed dramatically with chatting, texting, and other electronic formats, but few curricula have moved from the traditional image of the written word as formal, even sacred. The resilience of the formal written word, even in today’s world, is indicated by the fact that The LEAST You Should Know About English has been around for over 30 years and is now in its 10th edition.

As Harmer (2007) reminds us, “In foreign-language teaching . . . we need to decide what kind of writing we expect from students, and, therefore, what kind of literacies we are asking from them” (p. 323). Those of us who follow the HEIS list and are working in IEPs, freshman composition courses, and other academic settings (or with business and professional writing) are most often looking for a significant level of formality and conformity to prescriptive practice. The LEAST You Should Know About English certainly aims to help students address some of the most common problems that seep into formal writing. Some of the lessons aim simply at maintaining the purity of form, such as the rules for doubling consonants after –ing, –ed, and –er, ensuringstopping rather than stoping (p. 50), whereas others deal with what can be important interferences in specific meaning such as woman/women (p. 16) or misplaced modifiers (e.g., “Swinging from tree to tree, we watched the monkeys at the zoo”; p. 135). If both the form and the substance of academic writing are important to you and your students, The LEAST You Should Know About English would be a useful addition to your bookshelf.

The LEAST You Should Know About English (10th ed.)is divided into four parts. The first three—Word Choice and Spelling, Sentence Structure, and Punctuation and Capital Letters—are local in their focus. Each starts off with an overview and then goes on to look at subsections. Each subsection contains a general explanation of the issue at hand followed by proofreading exercises and ending with a sentence-writing exercise.

Part One deals with word choice and spelling. Much of this section could benefit many native speakers as well as ESL/EFL students. Indeed, one of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the book is that much of the focus is on how written English has its own unique tricks that can confuse native speakers as much as nonnative speakers. This section includes issues such as words often confused, contractions, and possessives. The proofreading exercises ask students to practice the lessons and pick out the appropriate written forms. At the end of this first section is a test on all material covered so far, followed by a brief introduction to the effective use of a dictionary.

Part Two deals with sentence structure, including much of what is found in a standard discrete grammar class. Again we see the format of introduced subsections such as Understanding Dependent Clauses and Maintaining Subject-Verb Agreement, each followed by proofreading and sentence-writing exercises. This section is likely to please those teachers and students who feel comfortable with grammatical concepts such as dangling modifiers. This section also tackles topics such as “Avoiding Clichés, Awkward Phrasing and Wordiness” and avoiding shifts in time or person. In Part Three, the text covers the basic mechanics of punctuation and capitalization. This section finishes with a comprehensive test on all the material covered in the first three sections. The final section of the book departs somewhat from the format of the first three. As it tackles more global issues, the proofreading and sentence-writing exercises are no longer applicable. Here The LEAST You Should Know About English deals with the stereotypical essay organization, including the five-paragraph essay “and beyond.” It also addresses the writing process, going from brainstorming (clustering, free-writing, etc) through thesis statements to revising drafts. All of this should be familiar to most writing instructors and Wilson and Glazier’s approach follows the development with helpful assignments to give students chances to practice each of the stages discussed. There is also a short but useful subsection in Part Four on writing summaries.

The book concludes with an answer key, so this book could also be used as a self-study guide. There is also an accompanying test booklet with additional photocopiable tests, but this was not available for review. The LEAST You Should Know About English covers many of the pitfalls novice writers fallinto and offers practical explanations and helpful exercises to move toward a better written style.


Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching (4th ed.). Harlow, England: Longman.

T. Leo Schmitt is assistant director at the Intensive English Communication Program at Pennsylvania State University and is working on his doctorate. He has taught writing for almost 20 years.

Reimagining Teacher Education

Kira Litvin

Burns, A., & Richards, J. C. (Eds.). (2009). The Cambridge Guide to Second Language Teacher Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.

This guide is the much awaited update to Richards and Nunan’s Second Language Teacher Education (1990). The book would appeal to several audiences: preservice/in-service teachers in MA or certification programs, in-service teachers for professional development, and second language teacher educators. Each section and chapter takes into consideration the past, present, and future of second language teacher education (SLTE).

Whereas Richards and Nunan’s original SLTE was divided into six basic categories, The Cambridge Guide to SLTE expands the topic into seven sections with section titles that more specifically address the issues and concerns of the present: The Landscape of SLTE, Professionalism and the Language Teaching Profession, Pedagogical Knowledge in SLTE, Identity Cognition and Experience in Teacher Learning, Contexts for SLTE, SLTE Through Collaboration, and Second Language Teacher Development Through Research and Practice. An eight-page introduction thoroughly sets the landscape of SLTE and briefly outlines the seven sections. Also included are three more areas of consideration: A Rethinking of Teaching Methods and Strategies, The Need for Accountability, and Critical Language Teacher Education. The editors tell us that

through the efforts of scholars and researchers on the one hand, the field has redefined its goals, its scope, its conceptual frameworks, and its teaching methods. And on the other hand, growing demand for effective SLTE programs in response to worldwide expansion in the use of English has highlighted the need for a coordinated organizational response. (p. 8)

This volume effectively addresses these directions.

All of the chapters feature a similar structure: introduction, overview/definitions, current approaches, and issues/directions and further reading. Section 1, The Landscapes of SLTE, comprises chapters that examine scope, trends, critical language, and social and cultural perspectives. Section 2, Professionalism and the Language Teaching Profession, includes chapters that examine certifications, qualifications, and standardization for SLTE in international contexts (see Katz & Snow, Chapter 7). In Chapter 10, Tony Wright examines the expanding field of teacher trainers and the professionalization of trainer development.

Section 3 deals with Pedagogical Knowledge in SLTE. Rod Ellis’ SLA & Teacher Education (Chapter 13) presents a cogent argument for SLA in teacher education while calling for improved approaches for incorporating SLA into training programs. In Chapter 12, “Knowledge About Language,” Nat Bartels raises important questions about how knowledge about language (KAL) factors in teachers’ cognition and calls for new ways to integrate KAL into SLTE.

Familiar and fresh issues of teacher identity and experience are explored in Section 4. Section 5 deals with various contexts for SLTE such as the “course room” (Singh & Richards, Chapter 20) and technology (Reinders, Chapter 23), while Section 6 offers a sound introduction to teacher education through collaboration via mentoring, practicum experience, and supervision.

Classroom research is the focus for Section 7. Sandra Lee McKay (Chapter 28) provides a broad introduction to various research approaches that can be undertaken through classroom practice. Similarly, Burns (Chapter 29) and Burton (Chapter 30) outline solid overviews to action research and teacher reflective practice.

Most of the chapters feature clear and direct rhetorical styles, making them most accessible to preservice teachers who are approaching the field for the first time. Several chapters read more like literature reviews and were disappointing because they missed an opportunity to clearly outline the issues in practical ways, such as Franson and Holliday’s Social and Cultural Perspectives (Chapter 4). I was also disappointed with Hall and Knox’s Language Teacher Education by Distance (Chapter 22) because it missed a key element of the role of these programs for in-service educators. In my experience, SLTE distance certification or MA programs are most successful for in-service and/or mid-career teachers who are seeking to upgrade their knowledge base and advance their careers. Furthermore, this text does not include a Question and Tasks section, unlike Richards and Nunan’s earlier volume, which could offer a more practical context for readers to examine and situate the issues into their knowledge base. Overall this book would be a solid course text for an MATESOL program or a postgraduate diploma/certificate course.


Richards, J. C., & Nunan, D. (Eds.). (1990). Second language teacher education. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Kira Litvin has been an EFL/ESL educator and teacher trainer for more than 12 years in the United States, Indonesia, South Korea, and Qatar.

From Inquiry to Instruction: How Reading Research Can Inform Classroom Practices

Christina Quartararo

Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a Second Language: Moving From Theory to Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

As the author points out, “reading is something many of us take for granted” (p. 4). We read on a daily basis, in a multitude of situations. It can be easy, therefore, to be unaware of the complex cognitive processes that comprise reading comprehension. Understanding these processes is essential to being an effective reading teacher, yet it is often not a focus of ESL teacher-training programs. Reading in a Second Language provides clear and logical explanation of these processes and highlights how this information can influence classroom practices. It is at once complex and simple, and provides ample food for thought.

The bookis organized into four parts: Foundations of Reading (chapters 1-4), Patterns of Variation in Reading (chapters 6-9), Developing Reading Comprehension Abilities (chapters 10-13), and Expanding Reading Comprehension Skills (chapters 14-17). Each chapter ends with a section of implications for instruction, in which the author emphasizes how the theoretical information presented can influence curriculum and classroom activity development.

Part I begins by defining reading. In chapter 1, 10 processes that can be used to define reading are set forth. These processes are discussed further in subsequent chapters and provide a sound basis for the information that follows. The interaction of lower and higher level reading processes with cognitive processes is the subject of chapters 2 to 4. Chapter 5 ties all of this information together with a presentation of various L1 reading models and a discussion of their strengths and shortcomings, and how these models can be applied to L2 reading. Part I leaves the reader with five essential implications for classroom instruction that are emphasized throughout the remainder of the book: highlighting component skills, enhancing automaticity, developing vocabulary (in both breadth and depth), increasing fluency, instruction in reading strategies, and development of explicit reading goals.

In Part II, the focus moves from the cognitive processes within individuals that influence reading to those that occur as a function of linguistic, social, and motivational factors. These chapters discuss universals in reading ability, effects of L1 reading ability transfer, and contrasts between L1 and L2 reading processes. Most interestingly, chapter 8 goes on to compare social influences on reading ability in L1, an area in which much research has been done, with those on L2, an area in which research is lacking. The final chapter of Part II contains a discussion of differences in motivation for reading in L1 and L2. Unlike the previous chapters where only implications are offered, this chapter offers 24 specific practices that can be used to foster reading motivation in the L2 classroom.

Part III contains the most information that can be directly translated into classroom use. It addresses topics fundamental to discussions of reading instruction and includes a number of charts and explanations of various reading comprehension strategies and discourse awareness activities, including a set of graphic organizers. Chapter 12 provides a thought-provoking discussion of the role vocabulary knowledge plays in reading comprehension, and the role that direct vocabulary instruction plays in the development of vocabulary. It also addresses the difficult issues of how many words to teach and how those words should be chosen. This chapter includes an appendix of vocabulary activities for classroom use.

The final part of the book addresses how to build on the fundamental processes and skills outlined in the first three parts to expand reading comprehension skills. Areas of focus are fluency, extensive reading, curricular and instructional priorities, and assessment. Chapter 14 outlines the importance of reading fluency, providing a number of suggestions for classroom practices. Chapter 15 emphasizes the need to read longer texts for longer time periods. The author acknowledges the difficulty many teachers have in providing time for such activities because of their “vision of ‘teachers teaching something to students’” (p. 313), but argues for its necessity in developing reading comprehension, saying “most importantly, students only become fluent and efficient readers by reading, and reading a lot” (p. 389). If you have time to read only one chapter of this book, chapter 16 is the one to read. It synthesizes the implications set forth in the early chapters of the book and offers practical applications for L2 reading instruction. Chapter 17 discusses reading assessment and provides an extensive list of informal assessment measures.

A common thread throughout the entire book is that there is a dearth of L2 reading research. Much more needs to be done to explore the processes employed by L2 readers, and how we can support these processes. Chapter 18 makes specific recommendations for areas in need of further research.

At times, the information presented in Reading in a Second Language can seem overwhelming because of its sheer volume. However, the theories presented and the implications and applications offered are well worth the effort of reading the book. Teachers will walk away with a better understanding of what reading is, and with many ways to apply this knowledge in their classrooms.

Christina Quartararo has taught ESL in a number of different settings. She currently teaches at Nassau Community College, where she is also co-coordinator of the language immersion program.