I’ve given each book a good read-through and done a bit of analysis. Here are some of my reactions. I don’t want to start off this post complaining, so I thought I’d cover the stuff I like so far. Here’s:
-There are updated pictures and cultural references to *more* recent films, music, events and so on. This might pique the interest of students more.
-They include more reaction words like “Oh!”, “Wow!” “Oh Really?” These words add emotion to texts and make them appear more natural.
-The reference materials in the back off each book are well organized and appear to make it easier for students to study English.
-The content incorporates stuff from more parts of the world, although it is still pretty American-centeric.
I haven’t seen this book in action yet and don’t know how my teachers will embrace it/use it so instead of saying “stuff I don’t like”, I’m going to put up some question marks.
-?-There is a lot more material and a lot more reading. Just a quick glance through the book will give you the impression this is a more weighty book than the last. And in fact, it is true, according to my initial analysis of books 2 and 3:
More Reading Comprehension in new New Horizon (word doc.)
-?-This focus on reading comprehension means that a lot of grammar and sentence models are centered around “reading” English to the detriment of “spoken/communication” English.
-?-There seems to be a bit of information overload in general. These new textbooks are packed to the brim with grammar explanations and reading. Consequently, they don’t seem to give much weight to anything in particular. Everything is presented pretty much as “study this because it is English.” An interesting method, indeed, which one might compare to giving someone a dictionary to learn English. Yes, all the words are English, but you have to admit that words like “baseball” should be given more emphasis and priority than a word like “ascetic.”
-?-They moved the 2nd year “giving directions” activity to the 1st year textbook. This activity was hard enough for my 2nd year students. I have a feeling it is going to flop in 1st grade.
New Horizon appears to have doubled down on the “prepare students for the test” approach to teaching English with the amount of emphasis they put on reading comprehension and grammar in the new textbook. It’s a little disappointing and frustrating because it is going to suck up class time and probably overwhelm students.
I’d say one of the best things ALTs can do right now is to do a little filtering for students and teachers. As native English speakers, we have a good eye for what is relevant and useful in spoken English, so we can perhaps sort out some of the mess and help students/teachers prioritize some of the material here. For example, I have gone through each book and created lists of all the best conversation questions that appear and what page they’re on.
Where does this put the communication revolution? Perhaps it’s a bit of a setback, but the need for more communication is still here more than ever. It doesn’t make our job any easier, but maybe this book will highlight again the absurdity of the “dead language approach” to teaching English.
What are your reactions so far?