Speakout Elementary: A Review of the Second Edition
Speakout Elementary is a general English course for adult learners that aims to help them communicate confidently in real-life situations. The course was developed in association with BBC Worldwide and BBC Learning English, and features authentic video and audio materials from the BBC. The second edition of Speakout Elementary was published in 2015 and has been revised and updated to align with the Global Scale of English, a standardised framework for measuring language proficiency.
The course consists of six units, each covering a different topic and skill area. The units are organised around four main sections: Explore, Learn, Practise and Remember. The Explore section introduces the topic and vocabulary through engaging texts and activities. The Learn section presents and practises the grammar, pronunciation and functional language of the unit. The Practise section provides opportunities for speaking, listening, reading and writing using the language of the unit. The Remember section consolidates and reviews the language of the unit through self-study exercises.
The course also includes a Student’s Book with DVD-ROM, a Workbook with or without key, a Teacher’s Book with Resource and Assessment Disc, a Class Audio CD and an ActiveTeach interactive whiteboard software. The Student’s Book with DVD-ROM contains 12 pages per unit, plus six review pages and six communication pages. The DVD-ROM contains video podcasts with accompanying worksheets, interactive exercises, audio material and a comprehensive grammar reference. The Workbook provides additional practice of the language of the Student’s Book, as well as developing reading and writing skills. The Teacher’s Book contains detailed teaching notes, answer keys, photocopiable activities, tests and progress checks. The Resource and Assessment Disc contains editable tests, audio material, wordlists and videos. The Class Audio CD contains all the listening material for the Student’s Book. The ActiveTeach software allows teachers to use the Student’s Book on an interactive whiteboard, with access to all the audio, video and additional resources.
Speakout Elementary is a well-designed and engaging course that offers a balanced approach to developing the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also helps learners develop their vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and functional language in realistic contexts. The course is suitable for learners who have some basic knowledge of English and want to improve their communication skills for personal or professional purposes.
In this review, we will focus on the Student’s Book with DVD-ROM, which is the main component of the course. The Student’s Book is divided into six units, each with a different theme and a clear learning outcome. The themes are relevant and interesting for adult learners, such as personal identity, travel, health, work and leisure. The learning outcome is stated at the beginning of each unit and reviewed at the end, to help learners monitor their progress and achievement.
The Student’s Book follows a consistent and easy-to-follow structure, with four main sections per unit: Explore, Learn, Practise and Remember. The Explore section introduces the topic and vocabulary of the unit through engaging texts and activities. The texts are authentic or semi-authentic, taken from various sources such as blogs, magazines, websites and podcasts. The activities are designed to activate learners’ prior knowledge, stimulate their interest and prepare them for the language input. The Explore section also features a BBC video clip related to the topic of the unit, with accompanying tasks to develop learners’ listening and speaking skills. The video clips are taken from popular BBC programmes such as Top Gear, The Apprentice and Doctor Who, and showcase a variety of accents and registers.
The Learn section presents and practises the grammar, pronunciation and functional language of the unit. The grammar points are explained in clear and simple language, with examples and tables to illustrate them. The grammar exercises are varied and contextualised, ranging from gap-fills and matching tasks to dialogues and role-plays. The pronunciation focus helps learners improve their sound-spelling awareness, word stress and intonation patterns. The functional language covers useful expressions for everyday situations, such as making requests, giving opinions and agreeing or disagreeing. The functional language is presented in a realistic context, often using a BBC video clip as a model.
The Practise section provides opportunities for speaking, listening, reading and writing using the language of the unit. The speaking tasks encourage learners to use the vocabulary, grammar and functional language of the unit in communicative situations, such as interviews, discussions and presentations. The listening tasks expose learners to a variety of audio texts, such as radio programmes, phone calls and conversations. The reading tasks develop learners’ comprehension and critical thinking skills through authentic or semi-authentic texts, such as articles, reviews and stories. The writing tasks guide learners through the process of producing different types of texts, such as emails, reports and narratives.
The Remember section consolidates and reviews the language of the unit through self-study exercises. The exercises cover vocabulary, grammar and functional language in a mixed format, such as multiple choice, word formation and sentence completion. The Remember section also includes a self-evaluation checklist for learners to reflect on their learning outcomes and identify areas for improvement.
The Student’s Book also contains six review pages and six communication pages at regular intervals throughout the course. The review pages revise the main language points of the previous two units through a series of exercises. The communication pages provide extra speaking practice through fun and interactive activities, such as games, quizzes and surveys.
The DVD-ROM that comes with the Student’s Book contains a wealth of additional resources for learners to extend their learning beyond the classroom. The DVD-ROM includes video podcasts with accompanying worksheets that explore various aspects of British culture and life. The podcasts are hosted by BBC Learning English presenters who introduce topics such as food, music, sport and humour in an engaging way. The DVD-ROM also includes interactive exercises that practise vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and functional language from each unit. Furthermore, the DVD-ROM contains all the audio material from the Student’s Book in MP3 format, as well as a comprehensive grammar reference with explanations and examples.