Chakravarty, Falguni. (2014). The book of English: Listening and speaking, (Book 9 & Book 10). Delhi: Macmillan Publishers India Pvt. Ltd.
This set of two books—The Book of English: Listening and Speaking,9 & 10—complete with audio CDs is purported to support the prescribed curriculum for Listening and Speaking in CBSE schools. Each book comprises 12 units—“Self”, “School”, “Neighbours”, “Entertainment”, “Sports”, “Health and Fitness”, “Environment”, “Tourism”, “Disasters”, “Socio-economic Issues”, “Science and Technology”, and “Culture”. These units are either related to the themes in the prescribed main course book or the topic areas recommended by CBSE for listening and speaking tasks for secondary school students. Each unit has three sections—“Listen and Figure out”, “Speak and Express” and “Pronunciation”. At the end of each unit, rubrics for self-assessment and peer assessment have been included.
Two tasks in the listening section aim at developing the sub-skills of listening—listening to identify or infer specific information, understand the main points and understand the gist of conversations, news reports, talks and interviews. The content in these sections caters to the needs of the students as it includes topics such as body image, stress related to examinations, exercising, behaviour of teenagers, etc. An exercise on the learners’ awareness of their listening behaviour is included in Book 10. More of such exercises would have served the dual purpose of practicing listening and indirectly providing learner training. Varied types of exercises such as fill in the blanks, answer the questions, respond to personal questions and react to the views of the speaker, etc., expose the students to the different purposes for which one listens, even though more variety in line with the recommendations of the CBSE board could have been accommodated in the space available. Taking notes or summarizing points without any guidelines could be challenging for the students at this level.
These books provide tasks to practice speaking fluently as well as for pronunciation practice. Each unit includes two speaking tasks—one completely controlled or guided and the second, a free fluency-based task. Visual input in the form of graphs and charts or pictures followed by questions or expressions have been included to help students develop their oral skills.
Reacting to the views of others, sharing experiences, speeches, debates and conducting interviews form the second task. Within this, there is scope for adding exam-type tasks that aim to develop the different sub-skills of speaking. The tasks of sharing views or experiences in most of the units stand alone, even though they are related to the themes. Students would have benefitted from the tasks had they been linked to the contents of the listening tasks or the previous speaking tasks. It would have made the units more cohesive too. Some of the tasks, particularly in Book 10, are beyond the level of the students and/or cater to students in urban areas.
Phonetics has been dealt with extensively with sections that introduce stress, intonation, rising and falling tones and syllabication, following the model through two tasks. These tasks aim at speaking accurately and reciting with appropriate intonation, stress and rhythm. The use of an Indian accent and clarity in speech in audio clips would be a great help not only to the students but to teachers as well.
Self-assessment and peer-assessment after each unit using given rubrics is the much needed feature of these books. However, applying descriptors as used by the examiners is not possible for the students. Modifications in the rubrics to suit the tasks in the units and making them more student-friendly (e.g. listing of specific descriptors) will help students use these books properly and monitor their progress.
Overall, the books add to the available practice material to hone students’ listening and speaking skills.
Veena Bhambhani is ELT materials writer, teacher educator and translator. She retired as the Head of English Department of a Senior Secondary School, Delhi