Comprehensiveness rating: 3 read less
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.
Accuracy rating: 5
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.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
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.
Clarity rating: 4
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.
Consistency rating: 3
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.
Modularity rating: 5
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.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
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.
Interface rating: 5
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.
Grammatical Errors rating: 4
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.
Cultural Relevance rating: 3
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.