CARRY ON READING
After having worked with our second-year English university students for four years with our textbook Reading Right: Developing Linguistic Competence Through Reading (Advanced Level), we acknowledge that it is time to bring the text up to date. It is not only a question of incorporating more recent readings, but of recognising the growing importance of the European Framework, and therefore, of introducing into our classes all the additional benefits, but sometimes also constraints, that have arisen from the work of the scholars who have contributed to the European project. Rather than call our work Reading Right II, we have opted to give the new book a new title: Carry On Reading. This is because almost all the readings and vocabulary exercises are new; it is a different book. On the other hand, the grammar remains basically the same, as, fortunately for human beings, grammar does not get renovated as frequently as do vocabulary, customs, events, famous people, etc. Only the presentation of the grammar has changed, with a view to improving on the order of the study or review of the grammatical areas. The wording of the title Carry on Reading aims to fulfil three goals: it is an acknowledgement of the previous book; it is an exhortation to the students to read as much as they can, and for those of us old enough to remember them, it is an intertextual reference to the Carry On films, which were so funny in their day. Like Reading Right, Carry On Reading hopes to encourage in the students an appreciation of English humour along with the culture.
As we endeavour to place this course of study within the European Framework?s rationale about language learning, we afford great importance to the ideas of the students taking more responsibility for their own learning within accepted parameters. They can only do that when they understand their needs and their own achievements and confidence along the road to reaching these needs. The European Framework sets out the six levels of attainment and indicates the different skills, abilities and accomplishments deemed appropriate for each level.
As Spanish universities adapt their courses to bring them into line with similar courses in other European universities and more in harmony with them, we are finding that one of the major changes involves offering the students fewer class hours, and organizing them to work independently. In a course of general English at upper-intermediate to advanced level ?around Level B2 in the European Framework?, the student still requires to spend a maximum amount of time with the teacher, and where communication skills are paramount, it seems a retrograde step to reduce the contact hours. In the new scheme, however, the students will still meet the teacher for guidance and to have the tasks set, explained and monitored.
It is our objective in this textbook to help the students to advance from the B2 Level (Vantage Level) and progress from being merely an ?Independent User? to becoming a ?Proficient User?, in the lower ranges of the C1 Level, known as ?Effective Operational Proficiency?. We acknowledge, however, that some of our more challenged students are really only at the B1 Level (Threshold Level), and for the purpose of helping them emerge more quickly out of this level, we include in Carry On Reading a word list based on the more difficult words from the Threshold Level, a list which the students should familiarise themselves with even before embarking on the tasks in the book.
We ask the students to also familiarise themselves with the different skills contained in the parameters of the B2 and C1 Levels in the areas set out: ?Overall Reading Comprehension?, ?Reading Correspondence?, ?Reading for Orientation?, ?Reading for Information and Argument? and ?Reading Instructions?. Examples of these skills are present in the different units we have prepared; quite obviously, reading correspondence in the unit on ?Communications?, and instructions in the recipes in the unit on ?Food?. We encourage the students to draw up their own ?passport?, as described in the European Framework, and to keep a portfolio or dossier of the pieces of work which best demonstrate their progress and achievements. It is important for the teacher to help them with their self-assessment checklists, as ticking off achievements is essential for keeping up morale and encouraging the students to keep working and set new objectives.
What we had to say to our students in the Introduction to Reading Right is still valid, so we reproduce it here, with slight changes, and of course, putting in ?Carry On Reading? where we had referred to the former book.
When Spanish university students of English have been asked about their needs in the learning of the four skills, reading, although regarded as essential for their academic purposes, has almost always been the one with which they needed and wanted least help in class. This is not surprising, since the students are surrounded by books, in their language courses, and especially in their literature courses.
Reading, as a passive skill, is one which they can practise alone or in groups, both in class and at home. The study material is constantly available and usually accessible. The same cannot be said of the productive skills of listening and speaking, although practice of the former is now more freely available through the cassettes and CDs that accompany most course books. As a result of the ready availability of reading material, some students tend to think that they can ?just do it? ?to quote a popular advertising slogan? and that they can read and understand, and use the fruits of their reading, without much help from their teacher. However, in our experience as teachers of reading in English of many years? standing, it has come to our attention repeatedly that, whilst many students read and understand and go on to assimilate and then apply what they have read, many others think that they have understood, whereas, in fact, the understanding process has been incomplete and partial, and they don?t know that they don?t know, or, they don?t know what it is that they don?t know. It is here that the teacher and his or her specially prepared tools and material can be of invaluable help.
Carry On Reading: Developing Linguistic Competence Through Reading (Advanced Level) has been designed with a specific readership in mind: students who are learning English as a Foreign Language at the undergraduate level, or who are in an advanced pre-academic English course (at First Certificate level or above 450 on TOEFL), and who require a sturdy foundation in the analysis of texts. The students? prime objective may be the acquisition of vocabulary, a clearer understanding and grasp of grammatical structures, or simply practice in handling texts and working out how they function in their different parts and as a whole. All of these aims are catered for here. A detailed focus on language, on the perceived aims of the writer, and the requirements asked of the reader leads the students from a simple, superficial ?reading? to deeper understanding of a text in all its implications. It is hoped that Carry On Reading: Developing Linguistic Competence Through Reading (Advanced Level) will serve as a tool in the transition from reading short, adapted texts, where the focus is on graded vocabulary and specific grammar points, to the understanding of authentic texts with more complex language. Since most classes of English at university level tend to involve classrooms with large numbers of students, where the teacher?s attention to the individual is severely limited, use of this textbook, under the teacher?s guidance, can help to overcome the handicap. Most tasks are designed to be done together, but, at the discretion of the teacher, some others may be done by the student alone.
The approach to learning is basically inductive. The features of language referred to are, wherever possible, shown in operation in the texts. This means that the book is not intended to be a set of passive reading exercises with a list of vocabulary and grammar, but, rather, it contains active learning materials: instead of simply being told about features, students are asked to consider how they work within texts and in particular contexts. In adapted, often simplified, texts used up to the upper-intermediate level, the aim of the writer of the text may often be straightforward communication, and the reader merely requires a knowledge of the main vocabulary items and a grasp of the basic grammar to receive the message. In a more ?advanced? text, however, it may not be just a question of telling the students to get their dictionaries out. The writer may be making almost impossible demands on the reader, may even be playing with him or her. Quite often, an obscure area in the text may be caused, not by a new and difficult word, but by familiar words used in a tricky way. The unwary student falls into the trap: he thinks that he knows what is meant, but there may be an underlying, even covert, meaning, or there may be a richness of nuance or knowledge that is like a closed book to him. Carry On Reading contains texts of different types and degrees of difficulty.
Generally speaking, we deal with either simple texts with simple tasks or simple texts accompanied by more difficult tasks. For example, a straightforward text with lots of cohesion markers of time and relation, may be cut up for the students to find their way around and put back together again. Then there are difficult texts with simple tasks, such as fairly obvious content questions or coordinating and summarizing exercises. Finally, there are difficult texts with difficult tasks. These tasks usually involve asking highly specific questions on language items. Normally, it will not involve finding the meaning of a difficult word, so much as understanding why the writer has written such an expression and what the function and effect is in that particular context. Some of these may be what we might call ?nasty? questions, because they identify and isolate the ?trouble-spots? in the text and force the students to confront them. Reading alone, they may be tempted to elude them.
Organization and use of the book
The book is divided into twelve units, which, taken together, cover the main aspects of important thematic vocabulary areas and vital grammatical structures. Each unit has more or less the same structure: a warm-up activity; a text with questions or a task; a focus on vocabulary; an explanation of a grammatical point with exercises; a second or even a third text with a variety of tasks; and finally, a related writing task.
With regard to the texts chosen, most of them are informative, of a cultural nature, and, we hope, of interest to the student. The choice has been whittled down from a wider group which included topics such as British politics or American views on political correctness. The results of a survey carried out amongst our own student guinea-pigs underlined their antipathy towards anything to do with politics. General culture of the English-speaking world, dramatic events and famous personalities were the most popular topics, and they are well represented here. With reference to the types of text used, we can say that most of them are of the informative-argumentative type, like, for example, essays from Time magazine or short reports from the leading British newspapers. The reason for this choice is that these texts are complete and self-contained; they are packed with information which is not usually known (so the students cannot answer the questions merely from common sense or their knowledge of the world), and therefore, give rise to a significant number of pertinent questions; the writer?s argumentative skills often depend upon linguistic intricacy, offering us material for advanced vocabulary and grammar work.
Because the grammar emerges naturally from the text, the grammar points have not been graded or simplified. Indeed, since most of the texts are copyright material, a condition essential to our reproduction of them was not to manipulate them in any way such as excising parts. In a text where there appears to be a preponderance of, say, phrasal verbs, these examples are taken from the text for illustration, and exercises are added for students to practise in other contexts. A further reason why we have deemed it unnecessary to grade the grammar points is that most of the grammar has been met by the students already, and the aspects of grammar covered here offer revision and a deepening of their understanding and use.
In addition, Units 6 and 12 introduce no new grammar points, but serve as a ?breathing space? in the trajectory of the course, and, through exercises, review the grammar of Units 1-5 and 7-11 respectively. The rationale underlying the procedure adopted over grammar here is that we need to stress the importance of getting the learners themselves to look critically at and identify any mistakes in a piece of written work in terms of accuracy (correct grammar, spelling, word order, etc.). Then they can correct the exercises by consulting the book-notes or the teacher, if necessary.
The words we think the students should commit to memory are to be found in a glossary at the and of the book. But not all the unfamiliar words are there, for if a word is deemed very difficult and of low frequency, we do not ask the students to learn it at this point. But they should understand how it is used in the context and to what effect. This involves understanding the register of the word or expression and any special cultural relevance it may have. The important factor is the students? acquisition of skills such as critical ability, necessary to appreciate the writer?s attitude and intention and to discriminate between facts and personal opinion.
A final word about the glossary: we have opted to leave it as a glossary and not to offer a mini-dictionary. Whereas we are aware that the Spanish translation of the word or expression in each case would have facilitated the task of the student, especially the more challenged student, we feel that by leaving it as a list of words in English, the students can use it as a learning tool in two specific ways. Firstly, they can fill in the meanings themselves as they appear in the texts on which they are working. The students can add the teacher?s comments about pronunciation, about polysemic words, about different meanings when a noun or a verb, etc. The dictionary thus compiled will have become their personal working tool, created with their own contributions. Secondly, the glossary can serve as a check-list of the items of vocabulary the students are expected to know, and if they have done their work well the first time round, noting the page where the word or phrase occurs, for example, then they can remind themselves of its use in context when revision time comes around.
Most units contain a limited writing task. One may ask why, in a reading, vocabulary and grammar textbook we have included writing. The main reason is that we believe in a multi-skill approach. This is mostly because only in a contrived environment do we find the skills isolated, and the more advanced the materials, the more natural and authentic they can permit themselves to be. Also, the writing task is the ultimate test. Students may have answered all the comprehension questions correctly, but may not retain a clear, coherent view of the text and the writer?s purpose. Asking the students to summarize the main points of a particular aspect of a text requires them to demonstrate that they have understood the priorities in the writer?s enterprise. Furthermore, by asking them to recast these ideas in their own words, we ask them not only to recognize key words and concepts which should be retained as such, but also to find synonyms and neutral expressions. Most of all, this way, they have to demonstrate that they understand such aspects of language as formal and informal register, general and particular terms, all of which indicate the level of their competence in understanding the text and proceeding to apply what they have learned.
We hope the students will see that the writing is a corollary to the reading of the text; it puts their personal seal on what they have done in working through the material, and, most of all, we hope that they will have enjoyed the text so much that they want to tell us about it by writing their own.
An advantage of this textbook is that it does not have to be worked through from beginning to end. Teachers and students can pick a unit that appeals to them and do that first, and the units can be worked through in any order. For two particular reasons, however, we would recommend that a course based on the textbook should start at the beginning and progress through the materials: they are that, as we already indicated, the student receives less help by way of simple texts and tasks towards the end; and secondly, the student will benefit from the recycling of vocabulary. Whereas the vocabulary is mostly introduced in thematic groups, myriad words ?even theme-specific ones? crop up again in quite different contexts. This, of course, reflects the character of natural speech and discourse outside the realm of education. The pragmatic nature of the book is one of its advantages as it seeks to lead the students from the ?protected? world of simplified texts towards the ?real? world of authentic, complex texts.
UNIT 1. Health & Fitness
Review of Present and Past Tenses
The price of pain
Complex Passive Tenses
UNIT 2. Food
Food, glorious food
How other countries are faring
Where curry rules the roast
Expressions of time and duration
Food for thought
Couscous is easy to make and delightful to eat
UNIT 3. Communications
The conventions of letter-writing
Review of Possessives
Jail for net pirates who saw themselves as Robin Hoods
Whose internet is it anyway?
UNIT 4. Language and Education
Wanna speak English?
Desperate lengths to learn English
Elephants who never forget
Prepositional and phrasal verbs (1)
Language and class
Do and make
UNIT 5. Science and Technology
A shot across earth?s bow
Human modem points to the demise of the car key
Infinitive or Gerund
The case of the Inca maid
Games species play
UNIT 6. Grammar Revision (Units 1-5)
UNIT 7. Travel and Tourism
Comedy of hotel errors provokes axe by top guide
Da Vinci mystery tour piques Paris
Whale of a time
The sun also sets
UNIT 8. Crime and the Law
Murder in six easy steps
The case of the vicarage vampire
Not so innocent donkeys
Phrasal verbs (2)
UNIT 9. Work
American lifestyle survey finds ?new men? thin on the ground
The software industry?s new man
UNIT 10. Lifestyles
Brand it like Beckham
Mayor starts party purge of night-time madness in Madrid
Up to nothing
UNIT 11. British Society
How to get on in society
How to pass for British
What England means to the English
On being ?English?
UNIT 12. Grammar Revision (Units 7-11)
CHECKLIST OF WORDS FROM THE THRESHOLD LEVEL