Using “Contemporary Topics”Masashi Takemura, Professor, Department of English, Hokusei Gakuen University Junior College
1. How did you find out about Contemporary Topics?
The series and its sub-title “Academic Listening and Note-Taking” caught my attention when I was searching some catalogues for courses for the listening class sophomores that I had been assigned. I decided on this series with an expectation that it would be instrumental in helping students improve their English proficiency.
2. How long have you been using this series?
I’ve been using the series for seven years now. I am open to testing other good textbooks but so far this has been the best and I haven’t seen any other series that serves the purposes of my class better.
3. What kind of classes do you use this book with?
My class is not mandatory but I have about 35 students signing up every year. I use Contemporary Topics 1 for the first semester and Contemporary Topics 2 for the second. I use our CALL classrooms for this class to make use of the excellent DVD component which comes with the book.
4. What do like about this book?
There are quite a few things I like about this book.
(a) The accompanying DVD is quite amazing. The seven-minute virtual-lecture in each unit is so realistic that it is as if students are actually taking the class shown in the video. What’s more, each lecturer is a specialist in the topic which makes the lesson even more authentic and effective. Honestly, I don’t think we English teachers can prepare all that is offered in the DVD.
(b) This series is based on an up-to-date, content-based approach. In every unit there is one topic featured, ranging from psychology, to philosophy, from astrology to art, which all seem to not only match my students’ interest areas, but also engage them with thought-provoking themes addressing current issues.
(c) I like the way one unit consists of eight steps and how each task gradually increases in difficulty as the students step through them. There is a comprehensive teacher’s guide with clear objectives.
5. How are the students responding to the book?
I think my students are learning pretty well. They seem quite enthusiastic even though they have a hard time keeping up with the audio when practicing speech shadowing using the “Build Your Vocabulary”, “Try It Out”, and “Listen for Main Ideas” sections. Over time, they learn to repeat what they hear without looking at the transcript. The note-taking activities with videos work for them as well. Both shadowing and note-taking leave them with a feeling of success which motivates them to try harder.
Contemporary Topics features college lectures from several academic disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology and economics. Contemporary Topics prepares students for the challenge of college lectures with practice in a wide range of listening, speaking and note-taking skills. The lectures (available on CD and DVD) were recorded in realistic academic settings before live student audiences.
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