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September 2014

English Practice Material – vhs

If you want to learn more about the new and innovative material, please read the interview with telc test expert and Project Manager telc English!, Sean McDonald.

telc, the vhs test experts, are proud to provide English practice material designed for vhs courses. This new learning material was conceived and developed in close cooperation with the vhs community. We are especially grateful for their valuable support and input.

"English Practice Material – vhs" is a four volume set, including Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. In October these four titles will be available together as one complete volume on the telc online shop. A teacher’s handout with suggestions for classroom use will be available for free download from the telc website.

Who is English Practice Material – vhs intended for?
Sean McDonald: It is intended for adult learners who would like to consolidate their B1 skills and to develop their language skills on a B2 level. The material is also suitable for refreshers who have already reached level B2 but still lack confidence or practice.

What topics are covered in the units?
Sean McDonald: Each unit is about an emotion. In each of the four books the order in which the emotions appear is the same, so that there is a thematic connection. However, each book deals with different aspects of the emotion in order to avoid repetition.

Why is it about emotions? Does this really matter for communication in everyday life?
Sean McDonald: Yes. Exchanging personal experiences plays a central role for learners at levels B1 and B2. Personal experiences are usually closely linked with emotional responses. For example, somebody gets a great job offer and expresses how happy they are about this (happiness) or someone talks about their disappointing experience with the tour operators during their last holiday (disappointment). For learners of a foreign language, it is often a challenge to express their emotions – especially “negative” emotions such as anger – in an appropriate manner. All four skills provide useful activities for this purpose, including easy-to-use phrases.

Do the units have an additional focus?
Sean McDonald: Yes. In each unit there is a CEFR descriptor (“Can-Do Statement“) to which the activities are tailored. The descriptor can be found in a box at the end of each unit. Thus learners do not only become familiar with the CEFR step by step, they are also encouraged to monitor and take charge of their own progression. The descriptors are usually still in the original CEFR wording, but in an abbreviated, learner-friendly form.

Is there a clear distinction between B1 and B2 activities?
Sean McDonald: There are texts and activities of varying difficulty in each unit. Activities that are not specifically identified are suitable for all participants. They are designed in a way that they can be implemented both at a lower and at a higher level. More "difficult" activities are marked by pictograms: one chilli pepper = challenging, two chilli peppers = very challenging.

Speaking activities appear in all four skills. Is speaking of particular importance?
Sean McDonald: Yes. The primary goal is to get the participants to talk and to encourage them to overcome their fear of making mistakes. Therefore, there are numerous activities that promote oral communication, not only in the section Speaking. However, the oral exercises are always linked to the particular skill, i.e. Listening, Reading or Writing. For example: In Reading, texts are often followed by a discussion question. Exchanging their ideas with other students allows a further personal analysis of the text and thus leads to a deeper understanding. In addition, alternating between silent work phases and conversation phases increases concentration in the classroom.

Can the material be used as additional material in the classroom?
Sean McDonald: Yes, at the appropriate levels it can accompany any textbook that is being used in an English course. The units can be flexibly combined. This has the advantage that teachers can put together activities according to their needs, i.e. activities for a particular skill, a particular CEFR descriptor or a particular emotion. Of course, the material can also be used as primary learning material, e.g. Speaking is ideal for a conversation course.

Can the material be used to prepare for a telc examination?
Sean McDonald: Yes – this material is excellent preparation for a telc English examination, helping learners deepen their language competence and thus prepare well for the communicative requirements of the test. We recommend using this material in conjunction with telc mock examinations, as these give students a complete overview of the examination format and of typical examination questions.