New Headway Academic Skills: Reading, Writing and Study Skills
Richard Harrison, Sarah Philpot and Lesley Curnick
Oxford University Press
Level 1 (2006):
Student's Book 978-0-19-471558-4
Teacher's Guide 978-0-19-471661-1
Level 2 (2006):
Student's Book 978-0-19-471567-6
Teacher's Guide 978-0-19-471662-8
Level 3 (2007):
Student's Book 978-0-19-471576-8
Teacher's Guide 978-0-19-471663-5
This new series is designed to teach academic skills on a secondary level, in particular reading, writing, researching and vocabulary-building skills. These three books complement three Headway course books: red for elementary, yellow for pre-intermediate and blue for intermediate, but they can also be used independently. Divided into 10 units, each is meant to be covered in 80 hours of coursework. However, if parts are done as homework, they can be handled in less time. Each unit has an introductory text, exercises, a writing task, a vocabulary page and a review page. At the end of each book there is a wordlist.
The topics include a variety of subjects related to higher education. On level one they deal with student life and routines, people and their environment, education, technology, architecture, cities, food, drink and culture, brain power and health. On level two they focus on international students, innovations and how things work, authors, conferences and visits, travel and tourism, and pollution. Finally, on level three they discuss health, education, work, history, urban planning, water, engineering, globalization, the Olympic Games and communication technology. Personalizing these topics generates speaking practice. Topical texts are utilized for comprehension questions, gap fill and matching exercises and to introduce language for writing, such as linking words, to improve coherence and cohesion.
Then students apply specific strategies and language to writing tasks calibrated to their respective level:
1. Letters, emails, descriptions, summaries and interpretations of data;
2. Emails, biographies, articles, descriptions, summaries and discursive essays; and
3. Discursive and evaluative essays, articles, summaries and reports interpreting statistics.
Not only does the series emphasize language for writing, it also includes a page at the end of each unit devoted to building vocabulary. Each one focuses on a strategy, such as recording vocabulary, dictionary work, register, collocations, prefixes, suffixes, synonyms or antonyms.
On all levels learners practice study skills, for example, predicting, skimming and scanning; brainstorming, selecting and organizing; writing thesis statements, paragraphs, introductions and conclusions. In addition, they exercise researching skills, including searching for information in books and on the internet, note-taking, paraphrasing, summarizing, referencing, punctuating quotations and proofreading. In other words, students practice relevant skills which help them read efficiently, write effectively and avoid plagiarism.
What I like about the series is that it is very systematic. In addition, the topics are interesting, informative and international. Cross-referencing within each book forces students to consolidate material they have dealt with previously. The reading and writing tasks are well prepared and the skills boxes with rules and tips are clear, easy to understand and remember. On the vocabulary pages learners practice strategies essential to work academically or pass an exam, such as TOEFL or IELTS. Correlating the Teacher's Guides page by page to the student's books and including a wide column for procedures, aims, background information and additional suggestions and a narrow one for the key makes them teacher friendly.
However, the series falls short of the tertiary level, where international students must master these transferable skills to be able to succeed. Nonetheless, working through it would help them develop them and advance towards the FCE level. Were the series to be expanded onto the B2-C2 levels, more emphasis should be placed on distinguishing types of writing tasks, avoiding plagiarism and interpreting statistics.