Connect, Grow, Thrive

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 33 No. 2 Spring 2016

Open Mind Advanced Student's Book Premium Pack (with audio CD pack)

Mickey Rogers, Steve Taylore-Knowles, and Dorothy E. Zemach

Macmillan English (2015)

ISBN 978-0-230-45820-8

Despite the abundance of online resources – and the voices arguing that we are moving towards teaching without textbooks – the fact is that textbooks are still with us. They provide a reliable source of information (backed by the reputation of the editors and publishers), and make teachers’ lives a lot easier.

Open Mind Advanced is a General English course for adults. The Advanced level pack is comprised of a Student’s Book, a Workbook, and a Teacher’s Book with class audio and video. The Student’s Book contains also a code to online resources that include additional exercises, videos and word lists.

The Student’s Book is divided into 12 chapters. Each unit is built in the same way traditional course books are designed, i.e. each one deals with the eight basic language skills, so you will find speaking, writing, reading, pronunciation, and so on.

Grammar is taught using the inductive method. And so it is up to students to come up with the rules based on the context given. Each unit contains two grammar points. My only concern is that some of the grammar covered, such as negative questions, negative structures with think, suppose, and so on, or future passive will be a bit too familiar to advanced students. What I find missing, however, are the more subtle aspects related to grammar, such as  adjective/noun/verb + preposition structures (prepositions being quite tricky for many people even at the advanced level), complex phrasal verbs, or adverbs vs adjectives, which tend to be confusing as well. However, Open Mind also deals with other interesting grammar points such as inverted conditionals, inversion in negative expressions, subjunctive, or ellipsis.

At the end of each unit, Life Skills allows speaking practice and gives food for debates in accordance with Open Mind’s aim, which is to encourage and help develop communication and interaction with others in everyday situations, be it at work, school, or on holidays.

The target of the course is adults, and there are indeed topics that will appeal to them, such as money, consumerism, or technology. I have some doubts, however, about the almost-cliché theme related to animals (Unit 5: “On the Wild Side”). I work with young adults on a regular basis and I can confirm that they no longer react enthusiastically to yet another topic concerning the environment. This is not to say that the environment is something to be left aside. On the contrary, it just has to be done in a way which reverses students’ expectations. So why not mention geo-engineering, for example? That said, I want to underline the fact that I will definitely be using the different ideas from the course, for example, the text on interpreting labels or fracking. The unit about facts, fiction, popular beliefs, and conspiracy theories is worth having a look at, and so is Unit 9 (“Just playing”), which is quite an inspiring idea especially for the advanced level, except, perhaps, the too-often discussed topic of the dangers of gaming.

Each unit is also accompanied by a video which is approximately 3 - 5 minutes long. You can watch it with or without subtitles. The videos are not staged, which gives them an element of freshness and authenticity.

The Teacher’s Book is very detailed with practically every step of the lesson clearly explained. What I like about it most are the additional exercises suggested at regular intervals, which can be quite inspirational as they open up doors to other ideas.

On the whole, the units are quite generous with various materials and let you pick and choose whatever may suit your lesson. MacMillan has once again done some solid job.

Anna Paczka