PDX Journeys: Studying and Living in the US, Low-Intermediate Novel and Textbook for University ESL Students
Amber Calderón, Portland State University
Pub Date: 2016
Publisher: Portland State University Library
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I do not see a glossary or index for this book. However, the units and chapter descriptions are listed at the start of each unit (but no page #s). read more
I do not see a glossary or index for this book. However, the units and chapter descriptions are listed at the start of each unit (but no page #s). Students are assigned to look up vocabulary words in the dictionary. The book is comprehensive in that it provides in-depth vocabulary and comprehension practice of the topics introduced.
I only found one typo, on p. 25, exercise 22, the first word in the list is capitalized (Affect).
The situations and topics are relevant to many University ESL students. The specific questions on p.43 about the IIE programs might change and need to be updated.
The vocabulary in the stories is high-intermediate, and the visual classifying of the vocabulary into receptive and productive knowledge gets distracting in the readings.
I found it to be consistent throughout, though as I mentioned above, the terminology and word differentiation methods used in the text can be distracting. (underlined, bold, italicized, footnote definitions, etc.) There is ample opportunity in each section to practice the new words.
The book is divided into two units, with three chapters per unit. The exercises that follow the readings are clearly labeled, but what is not clear is how many exercises there are for each section. The chapters are divided into parts, and then exercises. For example, Unit 2, Chapter 2 has 6 parts and 25 exercises. Especially reading online, it was very frustrating to try and figure out what chapter/part I was in because there is no table of contents list of how the chapters are broken down. I kept getting lost. If more clearly outlined, i.e., with page numbers, it would be much easier to navigate.
There could be better description of the book layout as mentioned above, but the basic structure of each chapter is consistent: a reading, followed by a variety of exercises. While Stephanie's story (Chapter 1) provides mostly vocabulary study, the theme of later chapters, especially the last one on problem solving, is more ideas/discussion focused. The vocabulary from Chapter 1 is used throughout, which is nice.
I would like to see this text have clearer labels of Unit, Chapter, Part and Exercise to make navigation easier. Other than that, the layout is clear and easy to read.
Very few errors observed.
The book includes characters from a variety of diverse backgrounds. It is very appropriate for the audience, which is University ESL students.
This book would be a great resource for the University IELP students, as it is definitely geared to that audience. I have taught multi-level ESL, and could see using it as a resource for my more advanced students who want extra vocabulary building practice and who plan on transitioning into college. I especially like the activities for prefixes/suffixes. The stories/situations introduced in the fictional readings are open-ended, which provides opportunities for further discussion/activity extension.
This text is an English learner’s level and topic specific workbook. It focuses primarily on vocabulary and reading skills and strategies. It is very read more
This text is an English learner’s level and topic specific workbook. It focuses primarily on vocabulary and reading skills and strategies. It is very good for introducing these ideas and components to high intermediate learners. It introduces and builds skills and understanding of a broad range of core strategies for listening comprehension and vocabulary development including pre-reading and post reading activities for deeper understanding, and common word forms and the academic word list of most commonly used words. It does this in a relevant context for academic international language learners and is specific to their experiences. This text is lacking in a contents page to show the order and structure of parts and where to find them, as well as no index or glossary. It would be very helpful to see these added for reference and easy access to specific parts. A master vocabulary learning list for the text would also be great.
There are only a couple minor editing errors observed, which is some part numbering missing: text pg 44 missing Part 3 numeration, and text pg 96 Part 4 numeration.
The biggest issue here is with the internet reading in part. Some links no longer connect to the information as in text pg 43 global knowledge quiz, so the corresponding work sheets could not be completed. Another link is to time specific data that has already been updated from 2015 info to 2016 info- text pg 44- Ex 5: Reading Graphics. This makes some of this section of the text unusable and highlights a problem in using online links in a text because they can change at any time and become inaccessible or have different content. I like the idea if using online information as a practice for reading skimming and scanning skills, but building a section of the text around this makes it potentially unreliable or in need of constant updating.
As a learning text, the texts and learning activities are well explained and supported.
I think this text works well with a consistent learning framework that builds fundamental reading and vocabulary learning skills and understanding of terms.
Modularity is possible as there are chapters and corresponding assignments that can be done on their own. I could see using Ch 2 on student expectations and skills as a helpful segment on its own at the beginning of an academic term. There are references to previous chapter material which would have to be adapted. The text does build skills throughout in terms of learning vocabulary and then using this vocabulary in ongoing assignments. Because it is a language building text, it does make more sense to follow it through to establish and develop core concepts and competencies that are reviewed and built on as you go through it.
This text is well organized and follows a consistent logical pattern of learning vocabulary, pre- reading strategies, followed by reading comprehension and more vocabulary building.
The interface seems fine with the exception of the problems with online links mentioned in part 3 longevity.
I did not observe any major grammar problems.
As a text for international learners of English it seems appropriately related to their experiences and needs. The content is very specifically related to international students in an academic English learning program as opposed to international residents who want more social and work place language development. So I would say it is appropriate to a somewhat limited context and group of learners.
As a teacher of English to international language learners in an academic context, this text is relevant and helpful. I really appreciate the way learning strategies and skills for reading comprehension and vocabulary development are integrated with relevant texts for this specific group of students and their experiences. There is a great variety of helpful, active work pages to involve students in understanding and developing these language skills.
All of the exercises are drill-based and the questions, except for those at the start of the chapter that call on students' backgrounds, are close read more
All of the exercises are drill-based and the questions, except for those at the start of the chapter that call on students' backgrounds, are close ended. There is no room for creativity, there are no suggestions for going outside of the story. Of course teachers can supplement, but in some ways that defeats the purpose of this text. On the other hand, if teachers like to use many, many exercises to help with vocabulary and text surface comprehension, this book certainly has them. They focus on a wide variety of vocabulary and comprehension strategies, which some teachers will appreciate.
Because the author chooses a web site in Ch 3 for students to examine, rather than letting them find one at their reading level and sharing what they found generally, she runs the risk of the questions she asks not being relevant if the web site changes. This is a minor issue, and, because the text is OER, is simple to resolve. Otherwise, because the text is not presenting disciplinary content, accuracy is not really a problem.
I'm not sure why students at this level should understand the words "redistributed" and "rude." What is the gauge of level here? Why would students be interested in reading this text? I'm sure SOME will, but there is so much else free on offer on the Web, I'm wondering what the compelling issue is here. I see that it may be relevant to some students in the intensive program at PSU, and it could be remixed / revised to apply to students in other pre-university settings, so that's something.
As a native speaker, when I read the words italicized in the text as "vocabulary to know" it feels like the author is emphasizing those words, and it makes it harder to read because the emphasis doesn't make sense. Otherwise the writing is appropriate, there are explanations for some of the vocabulary words that might be barriers to comprehensibility, and there are clear instructions for each exercise.
For me the tone is inconsistent. The author uses academic language interspersed with slang and idioms, and that means that the text would be hard to comprehend on a number of levels (it might not meet students' expectations of text). There are narratives and then the next section is expository, without examining the change in genre. Also problematic without supplementary materials is the wide range of strategies that students are expected to learn/use in just the first unit alone. These include reading graphics, understanding how to scan for information, understanding dictionaries and synonyms, previewing, using flashcards, writing an opinion paragraph, and more. The second unit contains additional strategies and exercises that focus on pronouns, inferences, suffixes, main ideas and details, and more. To be sure, some teachers may really like this wide range! The length of the readings varies, too, which confuses me as to what student level /proficiency this is meant for. These issues can be resolved by remix and revision, of course.
The text is divided into units, each of which contains chapters. Each individual chapter, and many of the exercises, can also be understood as stand-alone.
There is an underlying focus on Portland State University, but not all of the readings/exercises focus on it. If I were to use this text, I would certainly reorder it, perhaps by genre of the reading. The units have a similar structure, but the chapters within are long so it's possible to get a bit lost within them. One very useful technique that the author uses is recycling the vocabulary. It's actually difficult to find texts that do this well.
The text is clear, spacing is use well. It really needs pictures to support the vocabulary and storylines, but these can be added by text users.
There are a very few comma errors (before dependent clauses, for example), conjunctions are use at the beginning of sentences incorrectly, and some of the language seems stilted. In a few places words seem to be missing (e.g., a verb in Ch 3 P1 intro). Overall the errors don't really take away from the text.
Some of the pre-reading questions are quite in keeping with engagement theory - asking readers to relate the themes of the readings to their own lives and make connections to the texts. However, the story occurs in Portland, which may make it more difficult for some learners (especially those in other countries) to understand the context.One great opportunity to add cultural information is in the description of the students in reading 2.2.
The problem is the underlying pedagogical stance. For example, specific vocabulary is presented before the story rather than understood contextually as part of it and THEN examined (this is a choice that teachers can make, of course). Not all students who use this text will need to study the same words, and having word lists, although some teachers do, is not really in keeping with current understandings of vocabulary acquisition. In addition, the text asks students to use dictionaries to understand the vocabulary out of context, but, as L. Andrews notes, that's not typically a very useful way for non-native speakers to learn words. The book could certainly be more culturally relevant ; because it's about ESL/EFL students, there is plenty of opportunity. Readers may get the idea that this is a primer about American education, but it's only one example of a teacher/ class/ expectations and so on. I think novice teachers would need a lot of help to use this text well. On the other hand, some teachers may appreciate the very specific structure and the great variety and number of exercises.
Table of Contents
Unit 1: Academic Expectations
- Chapter 1: Stephanie’s Story
- Chapter 2: IELP Expectations of Students
- Chapter 3: The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad
Unit 2: Problem Solving
- Chapter 4: Luna and Violeta’s Story
- Chapter 5: Solve That Problem
- Chapter 6: Easier Said than Done
About the Book
Each unit begins with a chapter of fiction about a teacher and students in one ESL class. Reading comprehension and reading skills exercises follow. Prefix and suffix vocabulary-focus exercises are included. Academic Word List vocabulary exercises help students build a strong foundation in both receptive and productive knowledge. The following chapters in each unit expand on unit themes through non-fiction articles focusing on academic preparation, international experiences, and cultural adjustment. Vocabulary is repeated and comprehension and reading skills are further practiced.
About the Contributors
Amber Bliss Calderón is a Senior Instructor I in the Intensive English Language Program at Portland State University. She earned her MA in TESOL from Portland State University in 2004. Her areas of interest include teaching reading, creative writing, and student experiences. She has developed curriculum for several communication and culture experience programs for the IELP. She enjoys teaching reading and makes it a goal to turn non-readers into readers by making reading a fun and exciting way to learn.