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In the Community: An Intermediate Integrated Skills Textbook

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In the Community cover by NorQuest College is under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/).

Description: This is an English language skills textbook to help ELL students acquire communication skills in the community (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). The book is aimed at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) levels 5/6, focusing on intercultural skills and essential skills: reading text, document use, writing, oral communication, thinking skills, working with others, and computer use. The digital PDF file can be printed or used from a computer. All of the multimedia files can be accessed from the PDF if there is internet access. For offline use, the video and audio files can be downloaded below.

Author: NorQuest College

Original source: centre.bowvalleycollege.ca

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Creative Commons License
In the Community: An Intermediate Integrated Skills Textbook by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


1. Reviewed by: Mary Anne Peters
  • Institution: Mohawk College
  • Title/Position: Coordinator, Program for Newcomers
  • Overall Rating: 3.9 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The focus of the text is on social interactions in the community: opening, maintaining and closing conversations, making and responding to requests, asking for permission and talking about obligation and prohibition, expressing regret and making and responding to apologies, and expressing, clarifying and filtering opinions. There is a lot of emphasis on how communication varies based on relationship, level of formality and situation, helping newcomers to Canada understand the sociocultural aspects of communicating in Canadian culture. The book addresses listening, speaking, reading and writing with authentic-sounding examples, activities that teach strategies, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, discourse and sociocultural awareness, and practice activities with built-in feedback for listening and reading activities and rubrics for speaking and writing tasks.
There is a table of contents for the book, giving the focus of each chapter (e.g. Requests and Responses). Each chapter also has a table of contents; however, it gives only a generic description of the items in the chapter, such as Before You Read and Reading 1. It would be more useful to have more specifics on what each activity in the chapter is about and the language skills it addresses. For example, Before You Read: recognizing direct and indirect ways of getting people to act, vocabulary strategies: synonyms, reading strategies: predicting. There is no overall index. As a result, to find a specific skill requires scrolling through the text.
Words that the writers expected to be new to learners have been glossed: the word is underlined and a click brings up the definition. This feature of an online textbook is really helpful for learners. In addition, each chapter ends with a glossary of the highlighted vocabulary and there is a complete list of all vocabulary in the book at the end of the book.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The book's focus on sociocultural skills means that there is a lot of subjectivity around what is considered appropriate communication in different situations. The book handles it well by avoiding black and white rules and instead using scales to suggest that some ways of communicating are more or less appropriate in different situations. The book also prompts students to reflect on their own culturally-grounded perceptions of appropriateness.
There are a few typos but in general the text is presented clearly and accurately.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The language is presented in the context of a story that continues throughout the text. Because of an emphasis on informal language and language used in current technology such as texting and social media, there is a risk that it will become dated. For example, with voice-to-text and word prediction on most smart phones, how many texting abbreviations do people still use? Some of the slang may also become dated (or is already not generally used in Canada, such as "smashing" for wonderful).

The story context is durable: it involves the organization of a music festival at a campground.

Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The language taught and the language for instructions and explanations is generally appropriate for English learners at the Canadian Language Benchmarks the book aims at.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The focus on adjusting communication for different situations is developed clearly and consistently throughout the book.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

This is the biggest problem with this book. Because it develops one story line throughout the book to contextualize the language skills and it refers back to previous events in the story in activities using the language, it would be very difficult for a teacher to pull out and use just one section or one chapter. It really would be best if used from start to finish. The story is a great way to contextualize the concepts and skills in the text, because the student can understand the nuances of the people, their relationships and the situations they find themselves in, which all inform the language choices they make. However, it's a big commitment for a teacher to move through the whole text. It would be difficult to fit the instruction and activities in this book into a learner-centred, needs-based teaching environment (such as the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program in which most newcomers get the language training they need) because the needs of the class may not line up with all of the skills in the book and the context of the music festival story may be too different from the context the learners need the language for.

Modularity Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

Skills and concepts build clearly.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The interface works well. The glossing is a nice feature. The online activities and their feedback all worked well. Audio and video also worked well, although I had one problem with a video hosted on youtube and embedded into the text where the audio and video weren't synced, but after a few tries, it worked. That may have been a glitch with my computer. The layout is clear and not too busy. The internal links work well.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

I found a couple of typos, such as a missing period. Otherwise, it looked good.

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The characters in the story are diverse in terms of culture, race, ethnic origin, gender, age and sexual orientation. Because the book focuses on sociocultural aspects of communication, it does touch on some of these aspects of diversity explicitly. For example, a young man of South Asian background and an older Aboriginal man discuss how respect for elders in their cultural background influences their communication choices.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I would recommend this book for a course that focuses on communicating appropriately in Canadian culture but I have trouble recommending it for most LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) courses because it isn't flexible enough.

I recommend the book because I like its very explicit focus on the sociocultural skills and knowledge for communicating appropriately across cultures and in different situations. This is something newcomers to Canada need and know they need. It is also something that is not covered as comprehensively and in such a focused way in any other text I have seen. I also really like the use of the story and characters, because I think the learners would be engaged by the story and because really understanding the characters and the situations they're in helps to make the language use more meaningful.

However, the story is also the reason why I have trouble recommending the book. It would be very difficult to jump in to the book in the middle of the story. As a result, teachers in a learner needs-based teaching environment couldn't pull something out and adapt it for the priority needs of the students. In addition, many LINC classes are continuous intake, and students joining the class in the middle of the book would be lost.