Bored in the classroom? Let’s visit England!

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I love visiting England and frankly speaking, it always feels like home, be it greyish Yorkshire or sunny Somerset. I’m not overly sentimental, but I try to convince my students that England isn’t always rain and fog (unfortunately, huh), English food can be delicious (oh, Sunday roast or sticky toffee pudding, how I miss you!) and English people aren’t even half as snobbish as in Downton Abbey.

Not all of them, at least.

What I lacked was a nice book focused not only on culture itself, but using cultural topics as an element of a proper, language-oriented lesson. I used to prepare such classes by myself (with a little help of the Internet), but when at IATEFL conference I saw a book, titled Let’s Visit England by Polonsky, I knew I had to buy it.

So I did – and it’s become one of my favourite books for B1/B2 students.

First impressions

I really like the layout as the book’s subtitle is Photocopiable Resource Book for Teachers and it’s clearly designed to be as copier-friendly as possible (including coil binding).

When I opened the book I saw the table of content and – boom, immediately Unit 1, “The Geography of the British Isles”. Wait, where’s the foreword? Actually, nowhere, as the authors – Roman Ociepa and Mateusz Kołodziejczyk – apparently didn’t feel like wasting space; and indeed: at the very end of the book we have… a map! A great table of units and all you can find there: general topics, collocations, highlights and fun corners – that’s really helpful when picking a topic, especially when you want to match it with a coursebook lesson. You can also find a short and simple note on how to use the book.

Having satisfied myself with technicalities (reading “how to use the book” section is quite important and saves you troubles, seriously) I got back to Unit 1… and almost immediately decided to use for my first classes with a group of B1+ teens.

What is it about?

There are 15 units in the book and each lesson is planned for 90-minute classes and contains exercises on reading, listening, speaking, writing and vocabulary. So we’re travelling through geography of the Isles, the history of the UK and specifically England, education, games, science, literature, films, popculture, cars and famous landmarks.

What I like about the book is the variety of exercises – starting with warm-ups, we have vocabulary exercises, a bit of word-building, some collocations, fill-in-the-blanks etc. You don’t have to use them all, mind, but they’re varied enough not to get bored easily. And even though word-formation exercise is something you may skip, I’d suggest you spend some time on the Fun Corner – really engaging tasks, being educational and funny – frankly, my favourite part of the unit.

Best things in the book

There are so many delicious morsels in this book! Music – not only about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but Black Sabbath, David Bowie and Kate Bush also got recognised. “How to read numbers” – an adorable section in each lesson, great thing. There’s Agatha Christie mentioned as a best-selling novelist which is just lovely. But the thing that touched my heart was a simple mention in the fill-in-the-blank exercise about Invictus by Henley that it was used in Mass Effect 3 (along with Casablanca and Star Trek, but still – it’s pure gold when someone in an EFL book refers to a game).

Any problems?

Well, it’s a bit too short (15 units only) and the structure is quite repetitive (text-vocab-questions-word-building-collocations-project-retelling the story-highlight-fun corner) and while I perceive such a plan as nothing more than a suggestion, I know many teachers would go exactly, well, by the book – which may simply kill the potential of the exercises. So if you’re an inexperienced teacher, remember to add something from yourself – change some instructions and the whole lesson will be more enjoyable.

Recommendation

I can recommend this book to every teacher for all B1/B2 students – teenagers and adults alike. I’m sure it’ll bring a lot of fun, provoke a lot of discussions and will be a nice way of introducing Cross Cultural Communication.

The thing is, Polonsky encourages to visit not only England, but also Scotland, Ireland, the United States… and even Poland! So I’m sure even if you’re not into this publication, you’ll find something to your liking.

Enjoy!

Let’s Visit England, Photocopiable Resource Book for Teachers by Roman Ociepa, Mateusz Kołodziejczyk; Polonsky 2016; EAN/ISBN: 9788363630010

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