PDX Journeys: Studying and Living in the US, Low-Intermediate Novel and Textbook for University ESL Students
Amber Bliss Calderón, Portland State University
Copyright Year: 2016
Publisher: Portland State University Library
Conditions of Use
The book covers the the range of reading and vocabulary skills one would expect from a low intermediate textbook. However, with only 6 readings, this textbook does not have enough material for a 3-credit full semester course. Instructors who... read more
The book covers the the range of reading and vocabulary skills one would expect from a low intermediate textbook. However, with only 6 readings, this textbook does not have enough material for a 3-credit full semester course. Instructors who choose this book would need to make sure to have plenty of supplemental materials,
I did not come across any issues with accuracy as I read through the textbook. I found some of the multiple choice options to be a little problematic. I foresee students making valid arguments that more than one answer could be correct. This is a common issue with a lot of textbooks, so I opted to stick with the 5 rating.
The textbook focuses on the international student experience at Portland State University. Some students may find it offputting to read about life at a different university than the one where they are studying. I would also like to see some content that explores the experience of permanent residents and citizens learning English at a university.
In the fictional readings, there was too much colloquial language for a low intermediate class. Students at this level would likely struggle to get through these readings without having a teacher available to ask the meaning of some expressions. I understand the value of including some colloquial expressions, but I thought there were just too many for this level.
I liked that each chapter in the book had very similar exercises allowing students to practice the same skills multiple times. the author chose good activities and stuck with them throughout the book.
No problems here. The textbook is divided into 2 units and each unit has 3 chapters. Each chapter includes 1 reading. All of the readings and corresponding activities could be used independently in a course.
With a mix of fiction and non fiction readings focusing on the international student experience, there is a nice flow between chapters. Inside the chapters there is a good mix of individual and group work exercises. Students also had plenty of opportunities to produce targeted vocabulary after completing various multiple choice, matching and fill in the blank activities related to the targeted vocabulary.
All of the links I clicked in the textbook worked and took me to the correct websites. The header for each page tells the Unit but not the chapter. it would be more helpful to have the unit and chapter in the header.
The author does not use a lot of higher level grammatical structures that would confuse low intermediate students. I did not see any grammar or spelling errors.
The textbook deals with a lot of cultural issues, but not in ways that students that students would find insensitive or offensive.
Overall, this is a book I would gladly use with my low intermediate to intermediate reading classes. It has more exercises per reading than most traditional textbooks and offers a unique presentation of Academic Word List vocabulary.
The book comprehensively covers all areas of the subject appropriately and is particularly useful for low-intermediate post-secondary Intensive English language program. The specificity renders the textbook for a somewhat narrow population of... read more
The book comprehensively covers all areas of the subject appropriately and is particularly useful for low-intermediate post-secondary Intensive English language program. The specificity renders the textbook for a somewhat narrow population of students; however, with a more clearly organized Glossary and Table of Contents, the scope of this textbook could be broadened to include students in other types of programs and services for English acquisition, or an international student considering applying to the IELP. Understanding, right from the first point, what makes this textbook unique will broaden the adaptability for colleagues.
Recommend revising the “About this Book” section by providing a little more information about who the textbook is for and its purpose/objectives for use. Providing an explanation for how instructors and students might find the textbook useful, such as whether the textbook would be appropriate for a reading/writing/speaking/academic listening course. It also may be useful to provide a more specific TOC with units and chapters with learning objectives identified.
The content is highly accurate, largely free of error and is unbiased; however, it might be useful to not use words like “etc” for any explanation as it is not a good model for academic writing. The author ensured that names, exercises, and examples in the textbook would reflect the potential population of students and their pending experience in the IELP in a way that is inclusive and reinforces academic writing from a non-dominant perspective.
Content is up-to-date and could be easily adapted for remote or blended learning classrooms. Instructors can dynamically provide synchronous learning opportunities using the textbook and a video conferencing platform or use it for asynchronous assignments that can be given in a timeframe and accessed at any time. Relevance is especially critical at this juncture (COVID pandemic 2020), so both students and instructors can use this clear and straightforward textbook.
The textbook maintains standards of clarity expected for a low-intermediate post-secondary Intensive English language program. In and of itself, it provides a roadmap for teaching reading and writing. The author has embedded Direct Instruction methods such as: providing an introduction/review/engagement in background knowledge, modeling through guided practice, and scaffolded to independent practice. The instructor will find this textbook provides a clear means of collecting data and assessing student progress, given the spiraled design.
Internally, the terminology used, academic word lists, aligned activities and general framework of this textbook provides a framework that is consistent throughout. Instructors and students can expect a wide variety of opportunities that broaden and deepen the learning objectives for each section. Consistency could be enhanced by enriching the Introductory section, TOC, and glossary
This textbook does not have large blocks of text which would be highly inappropriate for the student population and learning objectives. The author has created modules that are standardized throughout the text and allows for rearrangement by other users and needs. Modules can be expanded for additional teaching and learning opportunities. The degree to which the textbook can be separated may depend on the effectiveness of the instructor’s ability to provide support activities and writing assignments. Modularity could also be enhanced by enriching the Introductory section, TOC, and glossary.
The topics in the textbook build upon each other and are reflective of English language acquisition pedagogy while incorporating Direct Instruction methodology. Instructors familiar with this approach will find the organization effective, particularly due to the presentation of appropriate foundational and academic reading comprehension, vocabulary building, and writing activities. The author has scaffolded and sheltered reading material and follow-up activities that embed a range of overlapping learning opportunities.
The text is free of interface issues and is accessible to all learners who are at a specified English language level. Beginning level English language learners would not benefit from the complexity of tasks and reading expectations and would find the material challenging. When considering interface writing the author presents material that is natural, engaging, and would make sense to the students and instructors who would use this textbook.
The textbook is free of grammatical errors and consistently models academic language and vocabulary expected of the low-intermediate student.
The textbook displays culturally sensitive, relevant material that is inclusive and does not express a dominant society positioning, which is imperative in instructional material for English language learners. The author has provided stories that will allow students to see themselves in the IELP as productive, enthusiastic learners, who will be embraced as English language learners in the US. This textbook could be adapted for potential international students by providing a platform for understanding post-secondary university expectations while learning and applying English skills.
As a post-secondary instructor of English language learners, I see the usefulness of this textbook and appreciate the author’s intentional instructional methods. I can easily adapt, shelter, and modify the material for a range of students, including students with disabilities. Given the current state of post-secondary education and the shift to remote and/or blended learning, English language instructors can easily adapt this material for synchronous or asynchronous learning experiences.
It would be nice to have a table of contents and a brief description of who the book is intended for. A glossary of all of the Academic Words covered in each unit would be a nice plus. read more
It would be nice to have a table of contents and a brief description of who the book is intended for. A glossary of all of the Academic Words covered in each unit would be a nice plus.
It's a great introduction to college life. Each unit begins with a new case-study like experience. The chapters then progress through comprehension questions, vocabulary development, grammar review, problem solving exercises for discussion and/or writing practice.
This is a wonderful comprehensive ESL textbook suitable for students beginning their college career.
The book is written at a level that is accessible to high intermediate learners of English.
Each unit follows the same organizational pattern.
Overall yes. In the header, there appear to be two major headings, 1. Academic Expectations and 2. IELP Expectations for Students. The second seems as if it were written specifically for the Intensive English Program where the author works. That's fine, but if this is for a broader audience, part 2 might be named differently.
It's very consistent throughout the text.
The interface is appropriate for an ESL audience.
It appears to be flawless.
It is most appropriate culturally. In fact, it appears that the text is written as an introduction to American academic culture for international students.
Overall this is a wonderful textbook that has the potential to be very helpful to new international students learning how to navigate the cultural terrain of academia in the US.
This reading and vocabulary book has no index or glossary, but there is a brief, helpful description in the preface. The book is organized into two units with three chapters each. For each unit, the author has written three chapters of fiction... read more
This reading and vocabulary book has no index or glossary, but there is a brief, helpful description in the preface. The book is organized into two units with three chapters each. For each unit, the author has written three chapters of fiction about relevant topics that occur among ESL students and their teachers. In addition to the story, each chapter includes reading preview exercises using the Academic Word List through Sub List 2, pre-reading questions, reading comprehension exercises, and vocabulary exercises. There is an emphasis on increasing students' understanding of prefixes and suffixes as well as their receptive and productive knowledge of the Academic Word List. The reading themes are relevant and of high interest. Topics include academic preparation as well as common experiences among international and resident students.
The text included some minor punctuation errors, which are most likely typos. However, the text is highly accurate and completely unbiased.
The information in the text consists of classic, high-interest, relevant content and will remain so over time. The content is very clear and well organized, so users should be able to quickly and easily make any needed updates and/or changes.
The writing style is clear and concise, and the stories are told in a conversational style even though many words from the Academic Word List are used. There is no inaccessible jargon or terminology.
The book is very consistent in its framework as well as terminology.
It would be beneficial to review the preface of the book. Since there is no index, it would also be useful to note the page number of the beginning of each of the three chapters in Units 1 and 2. The chapters build upon each other in their use of the Academic Word List and exercises as well as in their use of the themes, so it would be best to use the text in order.
The selection and progression of book topics are very logical and clear, and the steps from unit to unit remain consistent.
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 text has no grammatical errors.
No cultural insensitivity or bias was found. The author uses names from a variety of cultures in the student exercises and themes from authentic international and resident ESL student experiences.
This book was written to give non-native speakers of English a strong foundation in both their receptive and productive knowledge of the Academic Word List while using non-fiction stories about academic preparation, international experiences, and cultural adjustment. The interesting topics will not only help students improve their reading and vocabulary comprehension, but they will also ease their adjustment in the US and help them better succeed in an academic environment.
I do not see a glossary or index for this book. However, the units and chapter descriptions are listed at the start of each unit (but no page #s). Students are assigned to look up vocabulary words in the dictionary. The book is comprehensive in... read more
I do not see a glossary or index for this book. However, the units and chapter descriptions are listed at the start of each unit (but no page #s). Students are assigned to look up vocabulary words in the dictionary.
The book is comprehensive in that it provides in-depth vocabulary and comprehension practice of the topics introduced.
I only found one typo, on p. 25, exercise 22, the first word in the list is capitalized (Affect).
The situations and topics are relevant to many University ESL students. The specific questions on p.43 about the IIE programs might change and need to be updated.
The vocabulary in the stories is high-intermediate, and the visual classifying of the vocabulary into receptive and productive knowledge gets distracting in the readings.
I found it to be consistent throughout, though as I mentioned above, the terminology and word differentiation methods used in the text can be distracting. (underlined, bold, italicized, footnote definitions, etc.) There is ample opportunity in each section to practice the new words.
The book is divided into two units, with three chapters per unit. The exercises that follow the readings are clearly labeled, but what is not clear is how many exercises there are for each section. The chapters are divided into parts, and then exercises. For example, Unit 2, Chapter 2 has 6 parts and 25 exercises. Especially reading online, it was very frustrating to try and figure out what chapter/part I was in because there is no table of contents list of how the chapters are broken down. I kept getting lost. If more clearly outlined, i.e., with page numbers, it would be much easier to navigate.
There could be better description of the book layout as mentioned above, but the basic structure of each chapter is consistent: a reading, followed by a variety of exercises. While Stephanie's story (Chapter 1) provides mostly vocabulary study, the theme of later chapters, especially the last one on problem solving, is more ideas/discussion focused. The vocabulary from Chapter 1 is used throughout, which is nice.
I would like to see this text have clearer labels of Unit, Chapter, Part and Exercise to make navigation easier. Other than that, the layout is clear and easy to read.
Very few errors observed.
The book includes characters from a variety of diverse backgrounds. It is very appropriate for the audience, which is University ESL students.
This book would be a great resource for the University IELP students, as it is definitely geared to that audience. I have taught multi-level ESL, and could see using it as a resource for my more advanced students who want extra vocabulary building practice and who plan on transitioning into college. I especially like the activities for prefixes/suffixes. The stories/situations introduced in the fictional readings are open-ended, which provides opportunities for further discussion/activity extension.
This text is an English learner’s level and topic specific workbook. It focuses primarily on vocabulary and reading skills and strategies. It is very good for introducing these ideas and components to high intermediate learners. It introduces and... read more
This text is an English learner’s level and topic specific workbook. It focuses primarily on vocabulary and reading skills and strategies. It is very good for introducing these ideas and components to high intermediate learners. It introduces and builds skills and understanding of a broad range of core strategies for listening comprehension and vocabulary development including pre-reading and post reading activities for deeper understanding, and common word forms and the academic word list of most commonly used words. It does this in a relevant context for academic international language learners and is specific to their experiences.
This text is lacking in a contents page to show the order and structure of parts and where to find them, as well as no index or glossary. It would be very helpful to see these added for reference and easy access to specific parts. A master vocabulary learning list for the text would also be great.
There are only a couple minor editing errors observed, which is some part numbering missing: text pg 44 missing Part 3 numeration, and text pg 96 Part 4 numeration.
The biggest issue here is with the internet reading in part. Some links no longer connect to the information as in text pg 43 global knowledge quiz, so the corresponding work sheets could not be completed. Another link is to time specific data that has already been updated from 2015 info to 2016 info- text pg 44- Ex 5: Reading Graphics. This makes some of this section of the text unusable and highlights a problem in using online links in a text because they can change at any time and become inaccessible or have different content. I like the idea if using online information as a practice for reading skimming and scanning skills, but building a section of the text around this makes it potentially unreliable or in need of constant updating.
As a learning text, the texts and learning activities are well explained and supported.
I think this text works well with a consistent learning framework that builds fundamental reading and vocabulary learning skills and understanding of terms.
Modularity is possible as there are chapters and corresponding assignments that can be done on their own. I could see using Ch 2 on student expectations and skills as a helpful segment on its own at the beginning of an academic term. There are references to previous chapter material which would have to be adapted. The text does build skills throughout in terms of learning vocabulary and then using this vocabulary in ongoing assignments. Because it is a language building text, it does make more sense to follow it through to establish and develop core concepts and competencies that are reviewed and built on as you go through it.
This text is well organized and follows a consistent logical pattern of learning vocabulary, pre- reading strategies, followed by reading comprehension and more vocabulary building.
The interface seems fine with the exception of the problems with online links mentioned in part 3 longevity.
I did not observe any major grammar problems.
As a text for international learners of English it seems appropriately related to their experiences and needs. The content is very specifically related to international students in an academic English learning program as opposed to international residents who want more social and work place language development. So I would say it is appropriate to a somewhat limited context and group of learners.
As a teacher of English to international language learners in an academic context, this text is relevant and helpful. I really appreciate the way learning strategies and skills for reading comprehension and vocabulary development are integrated with relevant texts for this specific group of students and their experiences. There is a great variety of helpful, active work pages to involve students in understanding and developing these language skills.
All of the exercises are drill-based and the questions, except for those at the start of the chapter that call on students' backgrounds, are close ended. There is no room for creativity, there are no suggestions for going outside of the story. Of... read more
All of the exercises are drill-based and the questions, except for those at the start of the chapter that call on students' backgrounds, are close ended. There is no room for creativity, there are no suggestions for going outside of the story. Of course teachers can supplement, but in some ways that defeats the purpose of this text.
On the other hand, if teachers like to use many, many exercises to help with vocabulary and text surface comprehension, this book certainly has them. They focus on a wide variety of vocabulary and comprehension strategies, which some teachers will appreciate.
Because the author chooses a web site in Ch 3 for students to examine, rather than letting them find one at their reading level and sharing what they found generally, she runs the risk of the questions she asks not being relevant if the web site changes. This is a minor issue, and, because the text is OER, is simple to resolve. Otherwise, because the text is not presenting disciplinary content, accuracy is not really a problem.
I'm not sure why students at this level should understand the words "redistributed" and "rude." What is the gauge of level here? Why would students be interested in reading this text? I'm sure SOME will, but there is so much else free on offer on the Web, I'm wondering what the compelling issue is here. I see that it may be relevant to some students in the intensive program at PSU, and it could be remixed / revised to apply to students in other pre-university settings, so that's something.
As a native speaker, when I read the words italicized in the text as "vocabulary to know" it feels like the author is emphasizing those words, and it makes it harder to read because the emphasis doesn't make sense. Otherwise the writing is appropriate, there are explanations for some of the vocabulary words that might be barriers to comprehensibility, and there are clear instructions for each exercise.
For me the tone is inconsistent. The author uses academic language interspersed with slang and idioms, and that means that the text would be hard to comprehend on a number of levels (it might not meet students' expectations of text). There are narratives and then the next section is expository, without examining the change in genre. Also problematic without supplementary materials is the wide range of strategies that students are expected to learn/use in just the first unit alone. These include reading graphics, understanding how to scan for information, understanding dictionaries and synonyms, previewing, using flashcards, writing an opinion paragraph, and more. The second unit contains additional strategies and exercises that focus on pronouns, inferences, suffixes, main ideas and details, and more. To be sure, some teachers may really like this wide range! The length of the readings varies, too, which confuses me as to what student level /proficiency this is meant for. These issues can be resolved by remix and revision, of course.
The text is divided into units, each of which contains chapters. Each individual chapter, and many of the exercises, can also be understood as stand-alone.
There is an underlying focus on Portland State University, but not all of the readings/exercises focus on it. If I were to use this text, I would certainly reorder it, perhaps by genre of the reading. The units have a similar structure, but the chapters within are long so it's possible to get a bit lost within them. One very useful technique that the author uses is recycling the vocabulary. It's actually difficult to find texts that do this well.
The text is clear, spacing is use well. It really needs pictures to support the vocabulary and storylines, but these can be added by text users.
There are a very few comma errors (before dependent clauses, for example), conjunctions are use at the beginning of sentences incorrectly, and some of the language seems stilted. In a few places words seem to be missing (e.g., a verb in Ch 3 P1 intro). Overall the errors don't really take away from the text.
Some of the pre-reading questions are quite in keeping with engagement theory - asking readers to relate the themes of the readings to their own lives and make connections to the texts. However, the story occurs in Portland, which may make it more difficult for some learners (especially those in other countries) to understand the context.One great opportunity to add cultural information is in the description of the students in reading 2.2.
The problem is the underlying pedagogical stance. For example, specific vocabulary is presented before the story rather than understood contextually as part of it and THEN examined (this is a choice that teachers can make, of course). Not all students who use this text will need to study the same words, and having word lists, although some teachers do, is not really in keeping with current understandings of vocabulary acquisition. In addition, the text asks students to use dictionaries to understand the vocabulary out of context, but, as L. Andrews notes, that's not typically a very useful way for non-native speakers to learn words. The book could certainly be more culturally relevant ; because it's about ESL/EFL students, there is plenty of opportunity. Readers may get the idea that this is a primer about American education, but it's only one example of a teacher/ class/ expectations and so on. I think novice teachers would need a lot of help to use this text well. On the other hand, some teachers may appreciate the very specific structure and the great variety and number of exercises.
Table of Contents
Unit 1: Academic Expectations
- Chapter 1: Stephanie's Story
- Chapter 2: IELP Expectations of Students
- Chapter 3: The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad
Unit 2: Problem Solving
- Chapter 4: Luna and Violeta's Story
- Chapter 5: Solve That Problem
- Chapter 6: Easier Said than Done
About the Book
Each unit begins with a chapter of fiction about a teacher and students in one ESL class. Reading comprehension and reading skills exercises follow. Prefix and suffix vocabulary-focus exercises are included. Academic Word List vocabulary exercises help students build a strong foundation in both receptive and productive knowledge. The following chapters in each unit expand on unit themes through non-fiction articles focusing on academic preparation, international experiences, and cultural adjustment. Vocabulary is repeated and comprehension and reading skills are further practiced.
About the Contributors
Amber Bliss Calderón is a Senior Instructor I in the Intensive English Language Program at Portland State University. She earned her MA in TESOL from Portland State University in 2004. Her areas of interest include teaching reading, creative writing, and student experiences. She has developed curriculum for several communication and culture experience programs for the IELP. She enjoys teaching reading and makes it a goal to turn non-readers into readers by making reading a fun and exciting way to learn.