Steve Darn - ELT
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Advanced Skills

Simon Haines
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 144 pages
ISBN: 0-521-60848-1

An addition to the Cambridge Copy Collection, and sub-titled ‘A resource book of advanced-level skills activities’, this is a collection of photocopiable material for individual and integrated skills activities with higher-level learners.

The collection is organised around nine topics, with reading, listening, speaking and writing activities based on each. However, the book differs from the format of a general coursebook in that all the reading activities occupy the first quarter of the book, and so on. The impression, then, is very much one of a skills orientated book rather than a topic-based general language course.

This is not just a collection of photocopiable texts, handouts and worksheets. ‘Advanced Skills’ has clearly been put together with considerable thought and care. The materials are authentic and lend themselves to the integration of skills as well as a main skill focus. Each set of activities develops a specific sub-skill, and all sections include a language focus. The texts and tasks are difficult but manageable at the target level.

The topics are sensibly chosen, interesting and accessible to most learners. Technology, relationships, emotions and the future are among the themes explored. Inevitably the content includes information about and from a number of countries, but in no way is the book culturally loaded. The topic of technology, for example, includes a reading text on Internet shopping, a listening on the effect of technology on people’s lives, speaking activities about techno-fraud, and a writing task about mobile ‘phones. This typifies the choice of topics to which the majority of learners can relate, and the up-to-date nature of the material.

Teacher’s notes are included in the book, giving useful guidance on the use of the material, answer keys (and sample answers for the writing tasks), and suggestions for further activities. However, there is no set way of working through the book, which is designed to be dipped into rather than taught systematically.

This is a very teacher-friendly resource, including materials and tasks which should interest most students, bearing in mind that the book is intended for advanced learners, and even good intermediate students would struggle with much of the material. Either used alongside a good coursebook, or as preparation material for post Cambridge First Certificate level examinations, ‘Advanced Skills’ is a very worthwhile investment.

194 Jan/Feb 2007