Vol. 4. No. 3 R-11 May 2000
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New Ways in Teaching Adults
Marilyn Lewis, Editor (1997)
Alexandria, VA: TESOL
Pp. xi + 264
ISBN 0-939-791-68-4 (paper)
US $24.95 (members, $1.95)

New Ways in Content-Based Instruction
Donna Brinton and Peter Master, Editors (1997)
Alexandria, VA: TESOL
Pp. x + 302
ISBN 0-939-791-67-6 (paper)
US $25.95 (members, $22.95)

TESOL's New Ways series offers collections of lesson plans developed by ESL/EFL teachers from around the world. This review considers two books in the New Ways series, New Ways in Teaching Adults and New Ways in Content-Based Instruction.

The format of both books is "recipe-style" lesson plans, with each lesson plan including a side-bar indicating:

The body of the lessons is written as steps ("Procedures"), which are numbered, with individual short descriptions of procedures.

The lesson plans in New Ways in Teaching Adults are grouped into 10 categories: The News, Academic Material, Written Texts, Direct Teaching, Worksheets to Complete, Word Prompts, Nonverbal Stimuli, Task Instructions or Demonstrations, Other People, and Case Studies. This organizational format is useful to the reader in easily locating relevant ideas for specific tasks and types of students. [-1-]

In general, the lessons included in New Ways in Teaching Adults offer a diversity of age-appropriate and level-appropriate activities for adult learners. Often ESL lessons used with adults are not age-appropriate in that they do not acknowledge the students' previous life experience and knowledge, so these contributions are particularly welcome. Examples of age-appropriate lessons include the activities in the section entitled The News, which clearly recognize adults' interest in what is occurring in the communities in which they live. For example, Kim Wihelm's lesson "It's Your Story" has students choose a story in the news that interests them and follow it over time. Other useful and age-appropriate lessons include "Graph Reading" by Craig Wallace, designed for business people and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) preparation, and Peter Hassall's "Using L1 to Teach L2." Other business-oriented lessons include Austin Conway's "The Emerging Markets Company."

The lesson plans in New Ways in Content-Based Instruction are grouped into five categories: Information Management, Critical Thinking, Hands-on Activities, Data Gathering, and Text Analysis and Construction. While some of the contributions do provide useful innovative approaches to content-based instruction, many lesson plans appear to be "standard ESL" activities, with little or no content-based focus. This may be a result of the editors' explicitly broad definition of the term "content-based instruction." For example, Eve Connell's "Music Video is the Story" is simply a variation on the "play tape, students transcribe and discuss lyrics" activity, and Christine Wu's "Know Thyself" addresses general affective factors. These activities appear to offer little "content" orientation. However, some lessons, such as "Synthesizing from the Start" by Linda Jensen, or "Methoding the Research" by Angela Creese, do teach academically useful skills, such as using multiple sources of information. Other short-comings of some of the lesson plans in New Ways in Content-Based Instruction involve the vagueness of the instructions, and the lack of topic specificity.

While the editors have commented that they "sought to include ideas that were generalizable in nature" (p. v), lessons that are too general can prove frustrating, and therefore of little use to busy teachers. In addition, for a series focussed on content-based instruction, which is considered by many to be synonymous with K-12 instruction, there is very little material explicitly oriented to K-12 classrooms (with the exception of a few activities such as Linda Sasser's "Animal Classification"). Most of the material is implicitly intended for adults in either college preparation or general ESL classrooms. Therefore, potential readers working in K-12, attracted by the "Content-Based" title, may find themselves disappointed.

A possible factor in the underlying differences in the focus of the two books should be noted in passing. Perhaps as a result of proximity or expediency, many of the contributors to New Ways in Teaching Adults originate from "Down Under" (New Zealand and Australia) or the U.K., whereas the contributors to New Ways in Content-Based Teaching are predominately from the U.S. (especially California). Whether these differences in authorship have resulted in an American school/British school difference in focus is an open question. However, New Ways in Teaching Adults did appear to reflect the more pragmatic approach that typifies the style of many of the publications of Oxford and Cambridge University Presses. [-2-]

In conclusion, both of these New Ways books address the goals of the targeted readers. These books can provide new and experienced teachers with concrete suggestions for "what do I do in class tomorrow." However, New Ways in Teaching Adults offers a more even balance of presentation and practice, providing a well-organized, topic-specific collection of lesson plans.

Karen Woodman
The Second Language Learning Group

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