What initially attracted me to this book was the brightly coloured promotional video that one can watch on the website, which promises something REALLY (and I don’t hesitate to use capital letters here) revolutionary, capable of waking up the most discouraged students.
However, to be completely honest, what I am actually holding in my hands looks just like any other coursebook among the many attractive looking covers. There is nothing majorly wrong with it, there is no doubt about that: it ticks a lot of boxes but I can’t help feeling let down as neither the contents nor the graphics looks as appealing as I had expected them to be. Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe it is because I only had access to the Student’s Book and not the whole pack or, to finish with yet another hypothesis, maybe I shouldn’t have made the mistake of judging the book by its cover and look more closely.
So let’s have a look at what it offers in terms of themes and activities. What about listening? As is often the case with English-made coursebooks, the audio files are registered using actors’ voices. Personally, I find it really hard to justify the use of unauthentic audio files with young people who are technology savvy and virtually exposed to authentic language every day. The use of these voices – which I can confirm from my own experience – does not capture students’ attention. Just the opposite in fact, as it automatically creates associations with a formal, school environment and makes them switch off. To do “Think” justice, however, some effort has been made to use accents other than Received Pronunciation (see Unit 7), and at the end of certain units, a photo story built around dialogues of young people, does introduce some elements of authenticity, although these are all dialogues recorded in a controlled environment, which makes them sound just as artificial as the others.
Concerning the themes dealt with throughout the coursebook there are 12 units grouped around themes, those of which worth noting are: Survival, Screen Time, Space and Beyond, Making Lists or being one’s own Life Coach. (I capitalised the themes – hope that’s ok! HM)
Apart from the exercises that allow students to practice all the necessary language skills, the book also contains “Think” sections – a strategy which creates an obvious connection with its title. These sections are intended to make students aware of certain language but also cultural phenomena, and are grouped around three ideas: “Train to Think” – exercises that focus on e.g. “jumping to a hasty conclusion” or teaching how to “explore hidden messages”; “Self-Esteem” – questions or short exercises that help you learn how to be more diplomatic or give you an idea of how adventurous you are, and finally “Values”, which encourages students to ponder about human activity versus the natural world, or think about the ethical side of (the) media.
Another difference is also the fact that four fragments of literary texts are included in certain units, and every second unit a “Think Exam” section allows to revise and test your knowledge for Cambridge English exams.
Pronunciation is dealt with at the end of the book, and so is left a little bit isolated, which I view as a positive point because it is practical to find relevant fragments we want to practice.
I noticed that the following grammar points are not covered very often in the B2 level: Mixed Conditionals or the structures “it’s time”, “I’d rather”, “I’d sooner”, as well as reduced relative clauses, while other grammar elements make an appearance, such as gerunds and infinitives which have different meanings, “do” and “did” for emphasis, or useful expressions to speculate about the past, present, and future (“bound to”, “very likely”, “might be” etc.)
All in all, “Think” has not created the “wow” effect like its promotional video suggests it should and it appears that writing a coursebook which is both unique and effective, while at the same time attractive to students, teachers and language specialists, remains a challenge.Maybe it is time we had a complete overhaul of coursebooks, starting with re-thinking how to include more authentic material and leaving more to students’ imagination rather than cluttering the book with a lot of texts and questions.
Lycée du Granier,