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Why use "Step Beyond"?
"Step Beyond" by Era Publications (Rodney Martin, published in 2009) set of books is useful in an ESL context because it is so well linked. There is a well-structured teacher resource book that details all the scope and sequence information for each learning task. There is also an accompanying student workbook, which gives students full color, interesting, and practical learning tasks, which help with learning English language skills in a variety of areas. The many illustrations provide plenty of appeal for a visual learner who obtains much of their information from their sight skills. There is also a picture dictionary (Martin's picture dictionary) which gives students practice at looking up words and finding their meaning in English. However, unlike a traditional dictionary, a picture provides the word definition rather than text.
For the purposes of this article, the materials reviewed were the "Step Beyond English: A Teacher Guide", "The Step Beyond English: A Student Workbook" and "Martin's Picture Dictionary".
Era Publications describes the "Step Beyond" series as containing enough work to fill an entire academic year. From a teaching point of view, this is useful as it gives back time that might be spent preparing specific ESL teacher resources and allows that time to be spent on other tasks. In an ESL classroom, time is extremely valuable. Teachers simply do not have the ability to individually prepare student books for tailored learning experiences or to custom make each lesson's materials.
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Value for Money
ESL teachers and their students need teacher resources and student books that provide value for money. Many ESL students work part-time or go without in other areas of their lives in order to learn English. So they need ESL student books that represent value for money. As a classroom resource, the Step Beyond series certainly offers that. It provides a full year's worth of work, so providing the ESL teacher uses this single resource for a year, other materials do not need to be bought by the student. The cost varies slightly depending on the level of resource used by students, with most being around $30. The Martin's Picture Dictionary can be bought individually, or as a classroom resource which students can refer to in the ESL classroom. It costs less than $25 and is suitable for younger readers.
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An ESL resource is useful to a teacher if it allows for easy assessment of student skills. The “Step Beyond" teacher book does this, with each unit and work task being listed in the teacher book with performance criteria. This provides information about what a teacher can assess through this task. For example, the task on writing a report in “Step Beyond English A" includes assessment criteria related to reading fluency and attention to tone and style of voice and presentation during an oral reading task.
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Coverage of a Range of English Skill Areas
The extent and coverage of this series is excellent. Each unit of work provides ESL students with:
- Grammar and usage information and learning
- A reference task (dictionary use)
- Punctuation skills (capital letters, abbreviations etc.)
- Spelling Skills (letter blends, suffixes, vowel sounds etc.)
- Vocabulary (question words, topic words, rhyming words etc.)
Although not written specifically as an ESL resource, there is certainly enough English language content contained in these books to make them applicable to an ESL student audience. Teachers will find them to be user friendly, visually appealing and practical books that cover a range of topics and learning needs. And from a student perspective, the cost outlay of buying the student workbook is well justified given the amount of content contained within its pages.