English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 27.1
EA Journal Volume 27 No 1 88 everything and English Grammar Today doesn’t pose this pretence. Also commendable is the simplicity of the symbols used in the main text. Often, in texts similar to this, the sheer visual spaghetti of informative and cross-referencing symbols can be ultimately dissuasive of use. This is not the case in English Grammar Today. Moreover, the additional resources on the CD-Rom nicely complement the book’s content. In a practical reference book on grammar, of equal importance to the logical organisation of contents are clarity of explanation and the visual presentation of the contents. I find this aspect of ESL instructional resources and other reference type materials frequently problematic, but English Grammar Today is clear, readable and understandable. The clarity of the visual presentation is supported by the clarity of the language explaining the points of grammar – no mean feat (but unsurprising given the experience and expertise of the authors). I am, however, ambivalent about the use of cartoon and other graphics to illustrate or highlight aspects of the accompanying Workbook. Often the style of the graphic is awkward and sometimes plain silly (see for example p. 102 or p. 107), but mostly, I feel the cartoons and graphics suggest that sense of ‘primary school-ness’ which can often be identified in many ESL resources and which infuses some questionable teaching practices in this area (for example, Tim Tam biscuits as ‘reward’ for obedient young adult students in an ESL classroom). I consider the graphics to largely detract from what is overall a good, solid product. In terms of content, the exercises in the Workbook that supports English Grammar Today are as effective or useful as one could make them. Generally, they allow a form of harmless rote meditation on one specific point of grammar or another. If undertaken in conjunction with more theoretical instruction, then the largely gap-fill and rewriting exercises in the Workbook may offer a little reinforcement of a teaching point. This is not necessarily a criticism – as indicated above, I consider there are inherent problems and challenges in the content, design and execution of any language support/instruction material. However, the pedagogical realist in me thinks that very little actual learning goes on when students complete these types of exercises, either in a classroom or self-directed. A more serious issue may be that there are no explicit links or cross-references from the main English Grammar Today text to the Workbook and vice versa, which seems a significant oversight. Overall, English Grammar Today is excellent – a very timely and expertly produced compilation. Both the Reference Book and the Workbook would make fine additions to the bookshelves of teachers and would most certainly be very useful as a practical resource and reference for students.
English Australia Journal 27.2