Books: Stimulating Conversation: Thinking Critically about Current Issues
Stimulating Conversation: Thinking Critically about Current Issues
Published by Intercom Press
Joanne G. Yoshida
The sign of a good textbook from a teacher's point of view is: when you open to the first page, you know that you can put it right in to your next lesson plan. From page one, Stimulating Conversation goes into the "meat' of thinking critically about current issues and gets the conversation rolling.
Vocabulary including carbon dioxide and green house gases, as well as the page title - "Global Warming, Whose Responsibility is this?" - have me nodding "YES!" from the start. This is a way to learn to converse while looking at our responsibility as global citizens.
The textbook is written by Greg Goodmacher, a writer and teacher who has taught in Japan for over fifteen years. Goodmacher believes that teachers need to take a more active role in creating the teaching resources they use in the classroom.
When asked why he wrote Stimulating Conversation, Goodmacher replies: "I found that many of my students were bored of studying and discussing the same topics (directions, houses and rooms, ordering food, etc) that are found in most mass-produced ESL textbooks.
College students and other mature students with enquiring minds seek stimulation. The ESL classroom can be a place where students increase their language skills and their knowledge of important social issues.
Which issues to include was a matter that I considered seriously. I wanted issues that my students and I would believe to be important, issues that are currently being discussed in the news, and issues that require critical thinking.
This textbook does contain controversial topics, topics that many international ESL and EFL textbook publishers avoid. I was lucky to find a publisher who shared my ideas about education. This textbook will not fit every teacher and every class. The teachers who use it should be prepared to facilitate discussions, role plays, and language games on controversial topics."
The textbook is divided into two sections of seven units each. From Globalization and Organ Donation, to Animal Rights and Morality, there is plenty to discuss.
In a culture where learning is often memory-based, Stimulating Conversation is an invaluable teaching tool for intermediate to advanced level Japanese students who want to express ideas and listen to the ideas of others.
It also takes into consideration that students learn in different ways. It gives teachers the flexibility to choose which lessons and which exercises to implement and when. Students might need some true or false or matching formats before they are ready to formulate full responses on how they feel directly. In a unit on Marriage and Divorce, students have a chance to get into some role-playing, and engage in discussion using scenarios presented in pictures such as why one spouse might be apologizing to another.
In a "rank the occupations" chart in the section "Employment issues - what is a job really worth?", students can discuss who should make more money - a sushi chef or their English teacher - and why.
There's a chance to up the ante on creative conversing in the review sections, which include a board game on topics covered, and a word Staircase Race. Other Units include "Foreigners Living in Japan: Advantages and Disadvantages", "The Famliy: Joy and Stress", "Sex Education and STD's: Are you Safe?" and a unit on Morality and Immorality - Are you a Good Person?
I highly recommend Stimulating Conversation whether you are a vegetarian or a carnivore, a teacher or a student, whether you believe in the supernatural or not, and whether or not you know the meaning of "a glass ceiling". As you get engaged in stimulating conversations with your classes, you may even forget it's part of a curriculum.
Text by Joanne G. Yoshida