Kansas TESOL

Home KATESOL News Links Book Reviews KATESOL Executive Board Constitution and By-Laws Member Application ESOL Library


Book Review
September 2001

Expanding Reading Skills:  Intermediate 2, 2nd Ed.
Mary Markstein and Louise Hirasawa
Boston, Heinle & Heinle, 1993

This text is intended for high school and college students or other adults who want to develop their reading skills for academic, personal, and/or career goals.  It was designed for ESL students, but can be successfully used with native English speaking adults in developmental reading classes as well.

Expanding Reading Skills:  Intermediate is the third in a five-book reading program intended to meet the needs of students from the beginning through the advanced levels.  There are five thematic units as well as a research and writing skills unit.  Each unit has three or four reading passages and a variety of reading, writing, discussion, and structured exercises.  The readings are relevant to today’s concerns, and have been chosen from both published and unpublished sources.  The five unit topics are:  “Fashion and Style”, “Disaster Strikes”, “Across Many Cultures”, “Technology:  Some Interesting Effects On Our Lives”, “How to Improve Your Memory”, and a very valuable additional topic entitled , “Expansion:  Developing Research and Writing Skills.”

Each unit begins with an extensive headnote designed to help orient the learners to a good understanding of the context of the topic before they begin reading.  It also provides social and historical information about the topic, so that the readers can relate the text material to previous knowledge and experience.

It is recommended that the instructor work directly with students in the first unit.  Many students are unaware of the process approach to reading which is in the format of this book.  There are three planned readings.  The first reading is to be read quickly while the student is looking for the main ideas.  In the second reading, the students can browse through the passage taking more time and feel free to look up unfamiliar words in the glossary in the back of the book, or in the dictionary.  During the third reading, the students are to read quickly again, and concentrate on understanding the main idea and the meanings of new vocabulary words used in context.

In the Readers’ Response section of each unit, the students are encouraged to take pen and paper and begin to write about anything of interest in the selection for 15 minutes.  Examples of student responses are given so the learners have an idea of what they are to do.  After the learners have written down their responses, they have the opportunity to read and listen to each other’s responses.  Then the learners discuss and list what they thought the main ideas were in their own words.  More group interaction is achieved as the students discuss their answers, and students are able to analyze the reading passages in various ways:  multiple choice and true or false questions, match up of numbers, or cross out words that don’t belong. 

Another section studies vocabulary.  First the learner is to guess the meaning of the italicized word, and then they are to look up the word.  Following this activity, the learners have a close exercise which they are to complete individually, and then discuss why they chose their answers.  Finally, students answer questions which allow them to apply the subject matter to their own lives. 

In addition to the above which all the units have, Unit 2 adds the reading of charts, and use of idioms, and the use of “it” and to what it refers.  Unit 3 adds dictionary study and special expressions.  Unit 4 teaches the learner how to rate something on a scale.  Following Unit 5 about developing memory skills, an extension chapter is included about research and writing skills teaching the table of contents, how to choose a topic to write on, library research, taking notes, quoting and paraphrasing, footnotes and bibliography, interviewing skills, making an outline, the parts of a composition, and the first, revised and final drafts. 

Overall, this textbook would be an excellent text to use, if the budget would allow each student to have a book.  It is also necessary for this text to be used in a class setting.  An individual learner could not very well study this book, because of all the interaction that is required with other students.  An ESL student mixed in class with native English speaking students who are all studying for the GED exam would not be able to use this text, unless the whole class needed this instruction.  Examples of real learners writings on the topics would be very beneficial to the learners. 

If the Intermediate 2 level is for high school and college students, then who are the Advance 1& 2 levels for?  It seems that this book would be considered an advanced book, if it was compared to other intermediate texts.  This text does provide for a lot of opportunity-vocabulary, study skills, thinking skills, interacting with others, making choices, and application of what is learned to everyday life.

Reviewed by:
Jan Branson, ABE/GED/ESL instructor.
Wichita Area Technical College, Dunbar Campus

America Writes:  Learning English Through American Short Stories
J. Kay and R. Gelshenen
New York, Cambridge University Press, 1998
Intended skill area/level: Advanced ESL Reading
(Level 6)

Format:  Each unit contains pre-reading activities, literary terms, idioms explained, reading, comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, discussion questions, writing suggestions.  There are four units in a chapter, and each chapter ends with analysis, comparison and free-writing activities, frequently confused words, spelling and a review test.  There are five chapters, each revolving around a theme:  “A life lesson,” “The Unexpected twist,” “Irony,” “Family Relationships,” and “Meeting Challenges.” 

Indices and Charts:  a detailed six-page table of contents, and appendix with a list of common errors, literary terms and irregular verbs, and a thorough index. 

Critique:  The format is pedagogically sound, with pre-reading activities to activate schema, idioms explained to allow students to read otherwise frustrating material at home, surface-level comprehension questions, and activities for developing critical thinking skills.  I especially like the end-of-chapter activities which encourage synthesis of the four readings in light of their common theme.  The fact that the vocabulary and grammar exercises refer back to the text helps students make the connection between focused exercises (form) and real-world communication (function).  Short stories are an excellent medium for language instruction.  A well-written short story holds the reader’s attention, with no element superfluous to the plot.  They often present culture through a sort of artistic lens, magnifying those aspects often invisible to the naked eye.  The wide variety of stories by American authors is also testimony to the diversity of the cultural tapestry we call America, and helps our students understand that there is not one monolithic national culture, as may be the case in their home country.  I intend to try some of these stories in conjunction with the NorthStar High Intermediate Reading text, with the possibility of adopting this text in the near future. 

Reviewed by:
Peggy A. Hull
Assistant Professor of ESL
Dodge City Community College

Making Connections 1, An Integrated Approach to learning English
Carolyn Kessler, Linda Lee, Mary Lou McCloskey, Mary Ellen Quinn, and Lydia Stack.
Boston, Heinle & Heinle Publishers, 1996

 Intended Skill areas/levels:  Middle and High School ESL students.  Unit 5 through Unit 8 are suited for the Adult intermediate learner.  This text is primarily age appropriate for Middle and High School Students.

 This text is set up in Eight units which are broken down in smaller subject areas.  The firs t four units are subject and age appropriate for in Middle and High School students.  Units 5 through 8 can be used for adult students without any modification to fit age and maturity level.

 The table of contents is very easy to read and the break down of topics is concise.

 This text is best suited for Junior High or 5th through 8th grades users who have learned survival and street English and are now progressing into more advanced reading and writing.  These students should be upper intermediate level in reading and writing skills.

 The Units 5 through 8 are well suited for the second half of the semester of these Middle School  grades.  It is also ideal for adult learners progressing into level 2 or 3 of reading and writing skills.  These adults students will progress very quickly through this text, primarily because they will only be studying English as a second language.  The Middle school students will progress slower because of the need to learn other subject areas material.  The adult learner already has some or most of this other subject material to which to attach the new English.  This text can be used for them for reading literature and writing.

 Reviewed by:
Donald E. Blackman, USA Retired, DAV
Garden City Community College
Finney County Community Learning Center
Garden City, KS