Connect, Grow, Thrive

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 29 No. 1 Winter 2011

Oxford Word Skills Basic

Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman

Oxford University Press (2009)
ISBN 978-0-19-462003-1
254 pages plus CD

Oxford Word Skills is a series of three books that take the learner from a starter level to more technical vocabulary at the higher level. The focus of the books is on helping students learn, practice, and revise new vocabulary. They even come with an accompanying CD and a ‘Test yourself’ cover card that covers up definitions when one is studying. There are approximately 2,000 words taught at each level, and each book is divided into 80 units of vocabulary presentation and practice, each two to three pages in length. Each unit is comprised of colorful pictures that introduce the vocabulary along with a series of exercises. At the back of the books, you can find vocabulary building tables, an answer key for all the exercises, and a list of the vocabulary taught with a phonemic pronunciation guide. The CD gives students easy access to review and study materials.  

The Basic level, which focuses on elementary and pre-intermediate levels, includes a wide range of common topics, such as clothes, weather, and daily routine. It also has words and phrases needed in social interaction, e.g. say how I feel and using the telephone. At this level there is a particular focus on high-frequency vocabulary in everyday spoken English.

The most interesting aspect of this book is that the material has been designed so that it can be used effectively both by teachers in the classroom or by learners working alone. The CD is helpful in providing the correct pronunciation for every item of vocabulary as well as further practice exercises. Learners can check their own answers with the cover card and select topics that are most interesting to them or where they feel the need to expand their knowledge. The book also lists seven ways the teacher can use the text in the classroom.

I used this book for my middle school students who have been preparing for the end of the year Cantonal State Tests. I appreciated the layout of the book and each “I can…” unit. At the end of a few units, there is a comprehensive review of the general theme of the previous units. Since the students are pressed for time and are preparing for State tests in several different subjects, I think the book allows them to save time studying. I would also recommend this book for students who wish to revise and review vocabulary in the summer before the new academic semester begins in autumn.

Nicole Jaks