Glenda Inverarity in Modern English Teacher (January, 2004)

 

This book has 18 interesting topics including: Flat Hunting; How Practical are You; Origins of English; Household Tips and Advice; Clothes and Footwear; and US and UK English.

The readings are presented in a variety of formats including description, advertisements, questionnaires, maps and directions, narrative, travel brochures, glossary and news aricles with headlines. Every unit is full of activities to stretch the student's skills such as skimming, scanning, reading for detail, contextualizing, inferencing and reading for meaning.

Each chapter has a section focusing on word use such a collocation, US and UK words, numbers, abbreviations and finding words from meanings. There is also a section called Beyond the Word with a focus on, for example, the use of preopositions, complex sentences, and time markers. Finally, students are challenged with speaking, writing or dictionary work as an extension to what was learned in each chapter.

The clever thing about Practical Readings 1 is that no answers come easily, as the maze design on the cover suggests. Students must do their own thinking to answer the rather puzzling questions. The fact that the Answer Key is at the back might encourage some students to peek rather than think, but overall, this reading book is one of the most stimulating I have seen. One type of problem solving activity uses picture puzzles, where students need to eliminate one picture that does not fit the short text, requiring careful and precise understanding.

Another way the authors stimulate thinking is their use of real world situations, such as grids and maps with a text explaining how the grid system works. This approach makes the activities more true to life than merely read the text and answer the follow-up questions.

So, if you are looking for some reading work that makes your students do some serious thinking, this book will not disappoint!

Glenda Inverarity, University of Adelaide