Vol. 6. No. 1 R-1 June 2002
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Grammar in Context 1 (Third Edition)
Sandra N. Elbaum (2001)
Heinle & Heinle--Thomson Learning
Pp. xvi + 400
ISBN 0-8384-1268-8 (paper)
US $29.95

Grammar in Context 2 (Third Edition)
Sandra N. Elbaum (2001)
Heinle & Heinle--Thomson Learning
Pp. xviii + 478
ISBN 0-8384-1270-X (paper)
US $29.95

Grammar in Context 3 (Third Edition)
Sandra N. Elbaum (2001)
Heinle & Heinle--Thomson Learning
Pp. xviii + 478
ISBN 083841272-6 (paper)
US $29.95

Description and First Impressions

Grammar in Context is a three-book grammar series aimed at students at high beginning, intermediate and high-intermediate levels. Each book is divided into a number of lessons (Volume 1:14; Volume 2:15; Volume 3:10) which focus on one or more related grammar points, starting with the present simple tense of Be in Volume 1 and progressing through to unreal conditions and present and past wishes in Volume 3. Appendices at the end of each volume present additional grammatical tables (e.g. the verb Get, meanings of modals and related words, verbs and adjectives followed by a preposition), along with spelling, pronunciation and grammar rules. An extensive metric conversion chart is included in all books. Volumes 2 & 3 also include maps. Each volume ends with an extensive index, which includes both grammatical terms and discrete words.

Each book is color-coded for easy identification. In addition, a generally uncluttered design ensures a degree of visual relief, and allows for the clear differentiation of information. Black and white photographs illustrate and provide clarification, while simple line drawings are effectively used to illustrate and explain grammatical points.

Individual lessons range from 15 to 42 pages in length and follow a similar pattern throughout. Each lesson begins with the Lesson Focus, which lists the grammar to be studied and its context, together with a brief presentation of each grammatical point arising in the lesson. This is followed by the first of between one and four readings, each of which targets a discrete grammatical structure, highlighted in bold throughout the text. These readings are introduced by a pre-reading activity aimed at setting the scene and focussing the learner's attention. The readings themselves follow a variety of forms, (e.g. short texts, letters, postcards, conversations, advertisments, application forms) which are likely to confront the learner in everyday life. Moreover, the reading texts reflect the appropriate use of the grammatical structure within the target language itself. Topics reflect life in the United States and are both informative and issue-based. As the grammatical structures become more complex, so too do the texts. Footnotes explain any new, or difficult, lexical items. Each reading is followed by a series of exercises. [-1-]

Language use is clearly presented in chart form before each exercise. These exercises comprise traditional gap-filling, multiple choice, ask and answer, short answer format, and serve to build on and reinforce the grammatical structure presented. As the learner proceeds through the exercises, these structures are recycled in an attempt to aid learner retention of the language. Additional language notes appear in the form of a series of linked points followed by guided practice. Once all the readings and exercises for an individual lesson have been completed, there is a comprehensive summary table which brings together all the grammatical points presented and practiced in the lesson.

The lesson moves on to a section entitled Editing Advice, which gives advice and examples of incorrect, and corrected, use of the structures presented. The next stage is Text/Review, in which the learner's grasp of the structure is assessed through error correction, gap filling and short answer exercises. The unit concludes with a series of extension activities such as writing, project work, discussions, interviews, classroom activities, cultural comparisons and so forth. The final activity is always some kind of Internet research.


The author's claim that "Grammar in Context, Third Edition, connects grammar with rich, American cultural context, providing learners of English with a useful and meaningful skill and knowledge base," (Volume 1, p. xiv, Volume 2/3, p. xvi) is, to a certain extent, fulfilled.

Overall, the cultural presentations, via the readings, do serve to put the grammatical structure into a meaningful context. They engage the learner in a series of issues likely to confront those living, and/or learning English in the United States. However, this same focus also serves to limit its application in other language learning contexts, and does, at times, become irritating to the non-American.

Overall, the breakdown of the structures into easy-to-understand, incremental steps, together with illustrations that complement and explain, serve to make the grammar more accessible to the learner. The use of prompts ensures that all exercises and tests remain non-threatening throughout. Furthermore, there is continuous recycling of reinforcement within, and between, individual volumes. Review sections in later volumes are clearly labelled.

Having said that, this reviewer found the lessons overlong. The use of 'lesson' instead of 'unit' is, in itself, a misnomer. Split editions would be a more useful compromise. Another drawback is in the guided nature of the exercises throughout. Apart from the extension activities there are insufficient opportunites for individualisation or the creative use of the structures by the learner. The author has chosen to ignore the current body of creative grammar activities and chosen instead to limit the learner to a passive role in their language development. The layout and design as a whole, together with the absence of a teacher's guide make the series more suitable for self-study, than classroom use. However, the lack of a key makes this impractical.

In spite of these shortcomings, Grammar In Context, Volumes 1-3 provides both the language teacher and learner with a plethora of useful grammar exercises that will surely complement and supplement their main classroom text.

Kaye M. Dunn
Toyama University of International Studies

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