BEBC REVIEW PANEL
Date of Review:17th November 2014
Title: New Inside Out Series
Authors: Sue Kay, Vaughan Jones, Ceri Jones, Tania Bastow, Amanda Jeffries, Philip Kerr
Reviewed by: Alex Warren, Academic Director from British Study Centres, Bournemouth
© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement
|Criterion||Grade: 5/4/3/2/1||Comments (5 being the highest grade and 1 the lowest)|
|3.5||New Inside Out looks to build on the success of the first edition and it does so with limited success. Yes the overall design has been tweaked and yes there’s new content, but there is also plenty of content that remains from the first edition. This means that while it can proudly boast its additional New moniker don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a 100% new edition. Unfortunately this means that whileNew Inside Out is still a solid coursebook, it also feels a little bit dated, more so when we consider that this edition is already 5 years old.
Of course what this means is that the strengths (and weaknesses) of the original remain. There is still a strong focus on production of language, especially spoken production, with plenty of opportunities for students to get fully involved in the topics. In this respect there is as much emphasis on fluency as on accuracy, as best represented by the anecdote tasks that appear in every unit. These aim to personalise the target language in as authentic a way as possible and are well-scaffolded to ensure students are able to produce as detailed an anecdote as possible. The anecdotes range from describing a treasured position (Unit 2), favourite restaurants (Unit 6), childhood family holidays (Unit 7) to talking about blockbuster films (Unit 10) and favourite teachers (Unit 11) – all familiar subjects, only it aims to do it in a more extended, natural, authentic and personalised manner. There is plenty of further spoken practice scattered throughout while theUseful Language section at the end of each unit provides further functional language opportunities and also represents another facet of the real strength of the course – vocabulary development.
It’s here that New Inside Out does well, with a real focus on vocabulary throughout, exploring word-building, phrasal verbs, idioms, expressions, collocations and word families in real depth along the way. Importantly it makes learning vocabulary enjoyable and does so in an active fashion, allowing students to use the lexis in a creative and personalised way. This is best represented by the lesson on exaggerated expressions in Unit 11 (p.115), which has students turning mundane stories into something so much more interesting; including describing bashing ants the size of lobsters, having their skulls dented by a ceiling fan and being rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. As well as integrating vocabulary into the main lessons, every even unit is rounded off with a Vocabulary Extra section. These explore in greater detail areas such as phrasal verbs (Unit 4), synonyms (Unit 6), metaphor (Unit 8) and collocations (Unit 10). What’s also pleasing is that pronunciation plays a prominent role in the course and is dealt with well with the introduction of new lexis.
What does let the course down is some of the content could be construed as being quite dated in some cases, especially considering that certain input remains from the first edition which was published in 2001. For example, opening up the Upper Intermediate book and being greeted with pictures of millennium celebrations, very young princes William and Harry and the Beijing Olympics (p.4) and an article on Madonna (p.9) might not be entirely relevant or interesting for students in 2014. That said, the majority of the materials and texts are not so ‘time-sensitive’ and so students are treated to articles on polar explorers (p.37), charity moonwalks (p.41), rituals of famous sportspeople (p.47), vegetarianism (p.60), beauty (p.79), the Guggenheim (p.89), the curse of brands (p.101) and the franchise of James Bond – albeit with a photo of Sean Connery – (p.107). However, these are tempered by some which might be potentially less suitable or relevant articles to students – the 1848 gold rush in America (p.24), giving up smoking (p.43) and a Levi’s advert from 1985 (p.103). What can’t be doubted though is the way these texts are exploited lexically, as they contextualise both grammar and vocabulary well. The same can be said for the listening tasks too. While the vast majority of them are not new, they provide comprehensible input and listening practice for the students, as well as acting as a vehicle for new language items.
Where the course also differs slightly from others is that the DVD content (an absolute must nowadays) is not integrated into the main coursebook, rather it comes as a standalone resource book. This is a good thing as it allows for more materials to accompany the DVD. So, whereas in other books the DVD input might make up part of a lesson, these are very much full-blooded lessons. Each video clocks in at around the 5 minute mark and comes with double-paged worksheets and detailed teacher notes for making the most of them. The lessons link well with the main coursebook (e.g. Good Health, Unit 4, Wedding Bells, Unit 5, Like Clockwork, Unit 9) and take on the form of interviews and documentaries. Naturally the quality of some is better than others, but nonetheless it’s a useful addition to the content of the course.
|3.5||From a practical point of view the course offers all the components that are needed to run a successful course – Student’s book with CD-ROM, Teacher’s
Book with Test CD, digital edition, a comprehensive Workbook, DVD and DVD Teacher’s Book and a website providing additional downloadable lessons.
The student’s book is split into 12 Units, each unit covers 10 pages, but these are not sub-divided into defined lessons. So whereas in most coursebooks a double-page spread constitutes a complete lesson (complete with sub-heading), with New Inside Out there is just a flow of interconnected activities covering the range of skills and systems. In one respect this is good, as it allows greater links and development throughout the unit and gives greater flexibility to the teacher in what they do or do not cover in class. However, on the other hand it means that there is no defined ‘lesson’, no set beginning and end which, from a practical point of view, might not appeal to all students or teachers. Certainly from a teacher’s point of view (especially less experienced ones), it’s not always easy to know where to start a new ‘lesson’ within the unit and make it feel like a new lesson. In this respect it is down to teacher’s preference and their skill in making it work for them and their students.
As befits this level, the grammatical input is done using a guided discovery methodology using the texts and listening for context, thus putting the focus on the students. However, what lets this process down to an extent is that the ‘answers’ to the grammar are often right next to the inductive task, thus rendering the purpose of the task somewhat redundant which is frustrating. Generally speaking the lexical input follows an EEE (exploration, explanation, expression) approach with plenty of opportunity for practice given. Certainly the Grammar Extra section at the back of the book, while not as comprehensive as those in other courses, gives students the grammar reference and extra practice that they need to cement their understanding of the grammar, while there are good, freer practice activities in the Teacher’s Book. Should students want further practice, the coursebook comes with a CD-ROM which provides a wealth of additional interactive activities, integrated listening materials and video to go with the useful phrases section. So, from this point of view, there is plenty for the students to get stuck into and in doing so encourages a degree of learner autonomy.
With regards to the development of writing skills, while there is some in the coursebook at the end of every odd unit (Writing Extra), the main writing component of the syllabus is to be found in the workbook. This is slightly awkward as not all courses will provide the workbook to the students, but it allows more space in the main coursebook for other features. Writing formats covered are the usual suspects, including the likes of articles (unit 4), letters of complaint (unit 5), stories (unit 9), film reviews (unit 10) and letters of application (unit 11). Indeed all FCE- style writing tasks. Otherwise the workbook provides the usual array of additional controlled grammar and vocabulary practice and extra readings and listening to compliment the main course.
The main coursebook also offers comprehensive Review units after every three units, which bucks the trend of having a review at the end of every unit. Depending on your teaching context this can be seen as a good or bad thing. Either way there is always the Test CD-ROM which accompanies the Teacher’s Book which adds further practicality and functionality to the course. There’s one for every unit and the fact that they’re editable is a positive, allowing teachers to add, change or just delete tasks that haven’t been covered.
The teacher’s book itself offers good support to teachers, and can be split into two halves: providing teaching advice and additional resources. As well as the standard teacher’s notes guiding teachers through each lesson with extra ideas and language notes, it also comes with a top 10 activities to use with the level which can be integrated into lessons throughout the course – really useful for newer teachers especially. It also comes with extracts from Thornbury’s An A-Z of ELT, highlighting the key methodological concepts behind the course, thus allowing teachers to buy into the theory and approach of the course. Certainly if teachers can understand the thinking behind a course, teaching it is made easier. As for additional resource materials, each unit comes with three additional tasks – Grammar, Vocabulary and Communication. These are more often than not communicatively based, with a good mix of board games, discussions, crosswords, mingles, word-searches and matching tasks.
The final component of the course is the digital version which adds further functionality and practicality to the course. It’s fairly intuitive and easy enough to navigate your way around. The Teacher’s Area allows for notes, extra activities, insertion of audio and images weblinks, all of which can help the teacher adapt materials and classes to the needs of the students. There’s also a Games area which utilises the word list from the course for different games including Picture Matching (Pelmanism), Connections (a bit like Blockbusters) and Word Scrambling (jumbled words), which help add an extra dimension.
|Presentation||3||With a slew of very visually striking and appealing coursebooks on the market (Life,Straightforward, Speakout to name but three), New Inside Out just doesn’t have that in its armoury. That’s not to say it doesn’t make good use of images, because there are plenty spread throughout the book, they’re just not as striking. Similarly the cartoons which appear throughout fail to compliment the otherwise generally adult feel of the course. That said the book is well designed with each spread clearly laid out with good signposting. The result is that the pages, while busy, are never over-loaded with information and therefore not too intimidating for the students.|
|Conclusions and Comparisons
|While New Inside Out appears to tick all the right boxes when it comes to what is required from a course, it doesn’t quite reach the peaks of its competitors. For the most part this can be put down to the fact that the majority of the content remains from the first edition and so just doesn’t have the spark that other courses do. It also suffers from being in an already very crowded market without any discernible USP which makes it stand out from the crowd. In this respect it lacks the freshness of Speakout, the cultural and global overtones of Life or Global, or even the box office appeal of Headway and English File. New Inside Out is a perfectly good course, one which we’ve enjoyed using several times; it’s just that now there are others which have usurped its position.|
|Components||Student’s Book + CD-ROM
Teacher’s Book + Test Master CD-ROM
DVD + DVD Teacher’s Book
Workbook + CD
|What outstanding strengths/ weaknesses do you feel this title possesses?
Excellent vocabulary development
The anecdotes make for good extended speaking tasks
|On which courses do you envisage being able to use this material?
New Inside Out is as General English as they come and so is a good fit for any young adult course. That said, there is a flavour of FCE-type activities in the latter half of the Upper Intermediate book, along with the different writing formats, so it could be used as an introduction to the demands of that exam.
© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement