Vol. 6. No. 4 R-6 March 2003
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Maurice Jamall (1998)
Tokyo & Vancouver: ABAX Ltd.
Pp. v + 88
ISBN 1-896942-02-4 (paper)

It is sometimes difficult for a novice ESL/EFL teacher, or even for an experienced ESL/EFL teacher, to think of effective communicative activities every day. As a teacher, I have always asked myself, "How should I design a speaking and listening class? How should I begin my class? How could I make my class well sequenced? And how should I make my students motivated?" Freestanding, which is written for people who teach English to young adults and adults who are speakers of other languages, answers those questions.

Freestanding serves as a good resource for those teachers who want to push students' output. The author believes that learners are pulling the language that they want or need from the teacher through the activities of this book and that teachers should serve as a language source and lesson director. A number of student-centered speaking and listening activities for classroom use are found throughout this book.

This book consists of thirty-six lessons, which cover a variety of topics and themes. Each chapter is designed as one lesson. Chapters are organized according to the student level. Chapters 1 through 15 are targeted at elementary and low-intermediate level students, Chapters 16 through 31 target low-intermediate and intermediate level students, and Chapters 32 through 36 target intermediate level and above. Readers will find a variety of contents interspersed in this book. For example, topical contents, such as "Job and work, " structural contents, such as "Comparatives," and functional contents, such as "Describing objects" are included.

Every Chapter opens with a title which describes the lesson. Aims, which presents the aims of the lesson, and Getting Ready, which discusses what a teacher should bring to class, are sections presented in the same frame as the title. Aims part provides a teacher with what skills ought to be practiced, and vocabulary and/or structures addressed and so on. For example, in Chapter 2 Aims, "From Cradle To Grave," three aims are found: To give practice in the past simple tense; To teach verbs describing life's events: (born, marry, retire); and To give students practice in speaking in the context of asking and answering questions about their lives. In the Getting Ready part, for example, one lesson requires no special preparation, although if you can arrange for students to bring some family photos beforehand, you could use these as realia. The procedure part of each chapter begins with the Warmer, which is an icebreaking activity. Then, according to a topic or theme, either all (or simply some) of the possible activities such as Vocabulary, Language Focus, Speaking, Listening, Writing, and Reading, are provided. The order of the activities following the Warmer also varies in each chapter. The Warmer involves building schema activities, real communication on a theme between a teacher and students or among students, and games such as "Twenty Questions." The Vocabulary activity is designed to elicit students' vocabulary through discussion in pairs or by having them fill in a chart. The Listening activity is very teacher-centered. In this activity, most of the time students listen to a teacher and write down the information given, draw a family tree, check their answers to the questions given in the previous activities and so forth. The Speaking activity contains various information gap activities. For example, the teacher has students play a game such as "Password," has them do a role play, or has one student describe a scene of his/her story and another student draw the picture of the scene on paper. Reading and Writing activities are integrated into Speaking and Listening activities. [-1-]

As an example of topical chapter organization, Chapter 9, "Countries And Nationalities," opens with the Warmer. A teacher will have students play an "A-Z game," where students are put into groups and go around the group naming, in order, countries which begin with the letters of the alphabet. The Listening and Questioning activity follows. A teacher will give four countries and have students guess which countries the teacher may have visited after the teacher answers students' questions. Then, as a Listening and Speaking activity, students will do the same thing as the previous activity in groups or pairs. The Vocabulary activity follows. A teacher will have students choose four countries and fill out a table, which has five columns: countries, nationalities, places, currency and weather. Students work in pairs to complete the table. After that, a game used as a speaking activity follows. A teacher will put students into groups of four, and a student will cover up his/her countries while revealing clue columns one by one until the other students guess the country. Next, another speaking activity is given, in which students in pairs fill in blanks preceding such words as "house," "education," "watch" and so forth with any country of their choice. For example, a student might say, "Japanese house."

A structural chapter, Chapter 15, "Superlatives," begins with Warmer questions such as "What's the smallest thing in your bag?" Students will ask others those questions. Next, as a Listening activity, a teacher will read a passage including many superlatives in terms of the questions used in the Warmer activity and have students write down the information. The Language Focus activity follows. Here students are to review comparatives by comparing three people's information given on a board. Another Language Focus activity follows, where students are asked to put three adjectives and a teacher will elicit the rules of making the superlative form. Then, a teacher will introduce a Speaking activity, where a teacher will hand out a copy of the work sheet and have students work in pairs to answer the world records questions. Then, students will listen to the teacher and check their answers.

Chapter 16, "Describing A Room," is a good example of functional chapter organization. In the Warmer, students in pairs are asked to explain to each other three things they like and three things they dislike about their house. The Vocabulary activity follows, where students in groups are asked to think of different furniture in one of the rooms, arranged by the teacher. Next, the Listening activity is introduced. The teacher draws an outline of a house, and tells students to draw the furniture which the teacher describes. The following Language Focus activity puts its focus on the preposition of location, asking students to identify the sentences with correct preposition presented on the board. Then, for the Speaking activity, a teacher will put students in pairs and have one student draw the room another student is to describe.

Freestanding provides thirty-six lesson plans, which are comprised of more than 200 activities. In addition, most of the activities do not require a teacher to prepare teaching materials such as handouts, and the consistency in theme is found in all the activities of a lesson plan. Freestanding is also user-friendly in that in more than two thirds of the lessons, one lesson covers two facing pages, which a teacher should find convenient. The Getting Ready part of each chapter might also be very helpful, for a teacher can get to know what he or she should prepare at a glance. It might also be said that it is helpful that two work sheets for classroom use are provided with this book.

While there are the strengths in Freestanding, it could be more useful if some changes were made. First, chapter organization could be revised. As mentioned above, the chapters are arranged in the order of the target student levels; Elementary-Low Intermediate, Low Intermediate-Intermediate, Intermediate and Above. Therefore, although the lessons, as the author says, are organized around high frequency topics, it might be more user-friendly if the same type of chapters, for example, topical, structural, or functional, form one unit. It follows that the titles of chapters might also be revised in terms of consistency, for the content page does not presumably tell readers what the chapter is about. Next, it might be more useful if an Index of activities was added as an Appendix. Teachers would be delighted if they could pull some activities to fill unexpected time gaps from the Index.

Although there remains a little room for possible suggestions, Freestanding provides a lot of ideas for classroom activities and serves as a practical guide for both novice teachers and experienced teachers.

Yoko Hangui
Michigan State University
<hanguiyo@msu.edu >

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