By Bettina Begole (Tottori University of Environmental Studies)
Students at this university are required to take a three-semester set of intensive English classes. One part of that is their Speaking and Listening class, which meets once a week over the two semesters of their first year and the first semester of their second year. The more than 300 students who enter this program each year are divided into 12 class groups by a placement test, and Face to Face is used with all 12 groups.
Face to Face is a good textbook for this program because of its relevance to young students, its predictability (for lower-level groups) and the ease with which teachers can add other, relevant activities (for higher-level groups). We spend about three weeks on each unit, and the classes are conducted in English. The book includes several speaking and listening activities in each unit, plus one writing exercise.
In any speaking class the time students have for connected discourse, that is, speaking on a topic for longer than a sentence or two, is limited. We use the writing exercise that finishes each unit as an opportunity for students to communicate at length and in more depth than is possible during most exercises. In addition to the one writing exercise in each unit, most teachers do the same activity (extensive, or free writing) each week if possible. These free writing exercises are then read by a partner during class, and used in pairs as a springboard for further conversation tailored to the interests of those specific students, moving them beyond pattern practice into real communication. It also helps prepare them for their final speaking project, which is usually a presentation.
To allow for even more depth, the Speaking and Listening class students also keep a journal based on the topics in the Face to Face book. Each journal entry is between 100 words (lower-level groups) and 150 words (higher-level groups) in length. Because the Face to Face topics are relevant and interesting to students we are able to use the same basic topic for three weeks without losing the students’ interest.
For some students, the predictability of the textbook is a plus. The classes are taught in English, and for first year students this can sometimes be a challenge. However, since each unit follows a very similar pattern with similar activities, by the second unit students are able to understand what is expected of them and participate in class actively, which increases their self-confidence. Even the students in lower-level groups are usually able to “get” the humor in the recorded interview activity.
In short, Face to Face has been an effective textbook for a wide range of students over the last few years. Because it is easily expandable, we continued using it when the Intensive English program changed to a three-semester format two years ago. It might be called a basic textbook, although for this university, that is part of what makes it so easy to use over a wide range of levels.