June 1997 — Volume 2, Number 4
Going Places: Picture-Based English,
Eric Burton and Lois Maharg (1995)
Longman Publishing Co.
Pp. ix + 195 (Book 1); ix + 211 (Book 2)
ISBN 0-201-82525-2 (Book 1); 0-201-82526-0 (Book 2)(paper)
US $9.00 each
Going Places is a set of two books that teach all skill areas of English using pictures, which is a useful way to enhance students’ learning efficiency by maximizing the visual effect. The books aim at allowing students to gradually master target language (TL) structures according to a well-organized format, progressing in emphasis from reception to production.
Going Places is designed for students beginning their study of English. The set consists of two student books, audio cassettes, and a teacher resource book. Book 1 is divided into 27 units and book 2 into 28. The series starts with very easy, simple vocabulary and then takes on more complexity in grammar. Most of the grammar and vocabulary are presented cyclically to strengthen students’ retention of the language elements previously taught. Each unit begins with several pictures with no captions, allowing students to focus on the teacher’s oral questions about the content. The pictures reappear in the next section, this time with captions so students can reconfirm the language elements previously discussed. These pictures are followed by expansion activities that allow students to practice all four language skills, plus information gap activities and culture questions.
One of the distinctive features of Going Places is that it sets the stage for students to internalize TL structures with the help of pictures. The pictures were chosen according to functional vocabulary and language structures within life skill contexts such as shopping or housing. This feature also makes it possible for the teacher to allow students great flexibility in developing appropriate responses, which can be varied or expanded from the suggested answers.
Another positive feature of the books is the inclusion of teachers’ notes at the end of the book. Going Places includes valuable tips for teachers: how to start, how to incorporate the given pictures into the TL element, and how to deal communicatively with unexpected language forms besides the intended language structures.
Model structures for each conversation are properly designed for students to be able to begin a similar dialogue with their partners after they practice the model dialogue with the teacher.[-1-] This is useful in that the model structures give the students a chance to experiment with similar or different structures based on the model dialogue. The model sentences have been carefully selected, which is necessary, especially for a beginning class (McKay, 1985).
I have a few minor criticisms. One has to do with the effectiveness of pictures for the presentation of vocabulary. Using pictures to present vocabulary might maintain the interest of beginning-level students at the primary school level more than those at the college level. At the college level, pictures might be useful in a content-based class dealing with, for example, a medical area, since medical terms such as intestine or kidney would be difficult for beginning students to understand without a visual aid.
Another concern is that the same pictures used for the presentation of vocabulary are again used in the practice of dialogue. This might be considered a positive feature in terms of using the same pictures for reinforcement and review of TL elements. However, it is important to provide practice and review of the same structures in varied contexts, in order to continue to maintain students’ interest. Most of the pictures depict simple objects or basic actions. Therefore, it is not very challenging for students to produce new conversations with their partners using the same pictures they used to learn the vocabulary. They are likely to repeat the same structures, only adding new vocabulary relevant to their lives; that is a vocabulary drill, not a communicative one. The communicative approach is currently the most popular teaching methodology, even at the beginning level. In order to use these books with a communicative approach, students’ responses to the pictures should not be restricted to the vocabulary level; students should have the option of exchanging information that is new from their partner’s viewpoint. There should be more pictures that require speculation and imaginative exchanges, giving students a choice of what they will say and how they will say it. If the exercises are tightly controlled so that students can only say things in one way, the speaker has no choice in the exchange. This is not communicative (Larsen-Freeman, 1986).
With regard to the cultural question activities, there is a gap between the activities requiring receptive skills and those requiring productive skills. It is questionable whether the language elements practiced in the receptive skills in these books really prepare students for activities such as the cultural questions. For these questions to be effective, additional model activities, such as reading passages about a specific culture, need to be added to help students talk about similarities and differences between cultures. Teaching tips or more questions about cultural issues would also be helpful. [-2-]
In spite of these concerns, the Going Places books are an effective way to help maintain students’ interest while they progress through the beginning stages of English acquisition.
Larsen-Freeman, D. (1986) Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press. McKay, S. L. (1985) Teaching Grammar: Form, Function and Technique. New York: Pergamon Press
Michigan State University
Larsen-Freeman, D. (1986) Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press.
McKay, S. L. (1985) Teaching Grammar: Form, Function and Technique. New York: Pergamon Press
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