Where teachers meet and learn

English Empower B1

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 35 Number 1 Winter 2017

English EMPOWER B1 Student’s Book

Adrian Doff, Craig Thaine, Herbert Puchta, Jeff Stranks, and Peter Lewis-Jones

Cambridge University Press (2015)

ISBN 978-1-107-46651-7

176 pages, paperback

English EMPOWER B1 Workbook with Answers

Peter Anderson

Cambridge University Press (2015)

ISBN 978-1-107-46680-7

96 pages; paperback

English Empower B1 Pre-intermediate Teacher’s Book

Lynda Edwards, Ruth Gairns, Stuart Redman, and Wayne Rimmer

Cambridge University Press (2015)

ISBN 978-1-107-46671-5

288 pages, paperback

The Empower B1 course can be described as one that can be comfortably placed in the middle ground between a General English course and a Business English Certificate course. In this way, Cambridge is able to provide adults with learning material that will arm them with English they can use in, and outside, the workplace. This is of particular importance to those who need every day English and may, at a later stage, join a workforce that uses English as a corporate language. The material used caters to a wide range of ages: for example, young adults, can relate to it in terms of the topics used to teach various points, such as Instagram and Facebook. In addition, older adults will find it interesting as they are exposed to the modern world and have a chance to learn more about today’s technology.

The course uses various topics that are essential and relevant to today’s world. Examples include how to write a travel blog and reading material using the movie The Fast and The Furious. The wide range of interesting topics used to present Grammar and Lexis also exposes students to an enormous range of vocabulary, both formal and informal. Every teacher knows that it is important for students to be presented with real-world authentic material. The authors of the book have accessed a wide range of sources including newspapers, such as The Guardian and The New Zealand Herald; books from publishing houses such as Oxford University Press; interviews from organisations such as The Nelson Mandela Foundation; websites, such as www.biography.com; as well as movies, such as Harry Potter. I particularly enjoyed the depth of colour and photography stills used in the student book. This really helps to keep the students interested.

The material in the Empower books is very engaging and allows the students to personalise speaking sessions. Furthermore, the Student Book and Workbook both have free online CDs which means students don’t have to worry about scratching or losing a CD! An additional advantage of the online CD is that students can easily access it outside the classroom and thereby maximise their learning time. One negative point, however, is that the length and depth of the student book is such that it works well for teachers and students of classes running over a long period of time. For those working with students over a shorter period, the teacher will have to spend time choosing topics and exercises very carefully from the large range available.  

I was very impressed with the way the workbook has been set up. Unlike other workbooks I have used, the Empower Workbook focuses on providing students with practice for every sub unit as opposed to the whole unit. The extension section is set up to provide overall unit practice and this gives the teacher the flexibility to come back at a later stage to set up more revision. Quite often, the teacher has to look for additional material in order for students to revise material again at different stages of the course.

For new teachers, the Teacher’s Book provides great detail and helps lighten the load in lesson planning. Lessons are described in such a way that you don’t have to spend hours and days planning a course and corresponding lessons. Online progress tests are included to help you track how well your students are doing and assess whether or not they need extra help with any section. These tests are designed and incorporated into the course to facilitate the theory of Learning Orientated Assessment (LOA). For new teachers, the book provides a wide range of tips on how to incorporate LOA into teaching practice. The only negative side I found to the Teacher’s Book is that so much material has been included that one sometimes must plough through sections until one finds the required content. However, this is a small inconvenience compared to the positives that have been incorporated to help the teacher deliver an exceptional learning experience.

For those looking for an engaging course for today’s B1 student, this is definitely the one to pick. It will keep them keen using topics that cover countries other than Britain and encompass many different cultures.

Grace Hutter

The Language Factory St. Gallen