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Just Right / Just Skills

Just Right – Intermediate (set)
Jeremy Harmer and Carol Lethaby
Marshall Cavendish ELT, 2004
Student’s Book 0-462-00719-7 (159 pages)
Workbook (with key) 0-462-00717-0 (123 pages plus answer booklet)
Workbook (without key) 0-46200718-9 (123 pages)
Teacher’s Book 0-462-00716-2 (128 pages)
Class Audio CD 0-462-00721-9
Class Cassette 0-462-00720-0
Student Workbook Audio CD 0-462-00722-7
Student Workbook Cassette 0-462-00723-5

At first sight, this new set of intermediate level books by Jeremy Harmer looks much like any recently produced A4-format course material, complete with audio CDs to keep pace with technology. The cover design is not particularly eye-catching, the title not exactly novel, and the size, layout and basic composition fairly standard.

However, that is where the similarities with many other books end. Produced to be used as core material alongside the skills book series, ‘Just’, by the same author, Just Right achieves a balance of recognisable, fairly traditional tasks and materials with elements of newer approaches and methods. Indeed one suspects that the nature of the design and presentation of the books is intended to reassure the teacher that there is nothing too radical lurking between the covers.

Just Right adopts an integrated approach, with grammar, skills and lexical syllabuses very sensibly combined into a twofold division of ‘skills’ and ‘language’ in each of the fourteen units of the Student’s Book. There is no attempt at a parallel phonology syllabus, but pronunciation points and exercises are built into each unit, as is an element of learner training, particularly dictionary work.

The four skills are equally represented, but interestingly do not occur in the same order in each unit, providing variety for the teacher and learner and a number of different ways in which language is presented. There is an element of the task-based approach in those units which begin with a speaking activity.

Topics are well chosen, reading and listening passages managable at the level, and speaking and writing activities not too daunting. Grammar and vocabulary are appropriate, and learners are encouaged to study language in ‘chunks’. The Student’s Book includes a useful booklet containing audioscript and a ‘mini-grammar’.

The Workbook is more of an extension of the Student’s Book than a series of practice exercises and therefore very useful self-study material. The answer key to the Workbook is an optional extra.

The Teacher’s Book is comprehensive and easy to follow, if rather dense to the eye, and includes frequent alternatives and options for both the experienced and inexperienced teacher.

Overall, an excellent set of materials, suitable for a wide range of teaching and learning styles.

Just – Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading and Writing, Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (set)
Jeremy Harmer and Hester Lott
Marshall Cavendish ELT, 2004, 80-90 pages per book
ISBN : 0 462 00712 X, 0 462 00713 8, 0 462 00711 1, 0 462 00714 6

There is much to be said in favour of the argument that we should be teaching English as a whole rather than dividing up the subject matter into grammar, vocabulary and the four skills, each of which are taught individually. This new set of books by Jeremy Harmer is a bold attempt at integration, offering materials which not only complement each other but also may be used in class or for self-study purposes. There is also a clear emphasis towards modern approaches to teaching and learning, an effort to incorporate some learner-training, and a clear focus on natural, authentic language.

The Vocabulary book follows a clear lexical syllabus, incorporates aspects of the lexical approach, and rightly draws attention to phonology. Each of thirteen units contains two topic areas and a ‘check out’ (consolidation) section. The vocabulary in each unit is carefully selected, recycled, and the learner is not overloaded with new items. Particularly impressive are the exercises which ask the learner to choose and manipulate vocabulary, based on the knowledge that new items take time to learn. The book comes with an audio CD containing useful dialogues and pronunciation examples and exercises. Audioscripts are provided, and, as with all four books, an answer key for self-study learners.

The Grammar book comprises fourteen units containing grammar areas which are carefully limited and appropriate to the level. Learners are not overloaded with mechanical practice activities, but are encouraged both to discover rules and guidelines and to practice in a realistic ‘mixed’ exercise context. Grammar is explained clearly, though not necessarily initially seen in context. The language of explanation is carefully graded, though the instructions for some exercises are sometimes above the level of the learner.

The Reading and Writing book concentrates on contemporary language, including texts and tasks based on email, internet and text messages. Reading texts are generally interesting and manageable at the level, and the writing tasks not too daunting, offering a combination of standard writing styles and creativity. There are excellent links to the vocabulary book, particularly where learners are encouraged to read and use language in chunks.
The Listening and Speaking book offers twenty listening texts and ten speaking tasks. The listening texts are authentic or semi-authentic, not too long and include some new language.
The speaking tasks are varied, and carefully designed so that learners receive appropriate input before producing language and to avoid demotivating performances. Learners may also listen to others performing the tasks. An audio CD is included, and audioscripts for reference.

An excellent set in all respects. These books are neither weighty in terms of length or content, but offer the teacher and the adult learner a lot of useful material to work with. Highly recommended.

180 August/September 2004