Cambridge English Empower: An innovative new coursebook?

Cj0e8aCxQfiOA54deH7UfgOn our CELTA courses in Munich, the trainee teachers teach two dfferent levels of students, namely A2 & B2 (CEFR levels). As we have recently changed the course books I thought it was time to sit down and really get to grips with the new books, after all that’s what we CELTA tutors expect our trainees to do! Following the criteria we use in our input session “Evaluating coursebooks” on our CELTA course, here’s what I discovered when I looked at Cambridge English’s Empower B2 Upper Intermediate book.

Overview

The ten units are made up of four parts and are all followed by a review and extension section where students can get more practice. As well as the ten units there is a grammar focus with explanation and practice activities, a vocabulary focus, the audio scripts and a phonemic chart at the back of the book. The topics look more interesting than some coursebooks and would mostly appeal to my students. The book covers topics such as life lessons, dilemmas and discoveries. I was slightly worried when I saw the topic of unit 1 was “outstanding people” as my students tend to groan when they have to discuss “celebrities” but on closer inspection the focus is more on people who have achieved something notable in their lives such as the creator of Sesame Street or Nikola Tesla, who worked with Edison.

Layout

Although some pages, to my mind, look a little busy, I think this is more to do with the level than the coursebook. I have used Empower A1 with a one to one student and the pages in that are not as crowded. Each section is clearly labelled and visuals are a mixture of cartoons and real pictures. Cambridge claims that the book “provides intriguing images … designed to arouse curiosity and get students talking.” and I would agree that it does indeed achieve this.

Content

Empower B2 covers all four skills as well as grammar and vocabulary. The reading texts are authentic texts which have been adapted to the level, meaning the learners are dealing with relevant texts without having to process language much above their own level. In addition to this there is pronunciation work in each unit and part C of the four parts is labelled “Everyday English” and based on video clips. These sections cover functional lanuage such as giving and responding to compliments or expressing uncertainty; clarifying a misunderstanding which really is language students need to deal with in their English interaction. The characters in the Everyday English sections are the same throughout the book giving the book a nice feeling of continuity. 

By using the Cambridge English Corpus, the authors have ensured the language introduced really is language that is spoken and written in everyday life.

Suitability

Empower is designed for for adult and young adult learners and both the topics and the layout would appeal to the target audience.

Supplementary activities

As well as the Student’s book Cambridge offers:

There are also several digital resources:

  • Online Workbook
  • Automatically marked tests
  • Personalised Practice (based on progress tests)
  • A Gradebook
  • Forum, Blog, Message Tools, Calendar

As a teacher, I always find it a bit of a shame that audio CDs have to be bought as an extra as they are generally quite expensive!

When I started looking at the Teacher’s Book, ringbound to make photocopying of resources easier 👍🏻, the first thing that struck me as a CELTA tutor is that the teacher’s aims are already written for the teachers at the top of each section! Oh our CELTA trainees are going to love this book!

The second thing I noticed is the number of extra activities that are suggested as well as the huge photocopiable resource bank of communicative activities at the back. These are divided into four sections; grammar, vocabulary pronunciation and wordpower and they follow the same logical flow as the student’s book. Activities in the resouce bank include guessing games, board games, find someone who activities, crosswords and quizzes and are, as mentioned above, all photocopiable. In the instructions for the resouce bank, activities for fast finishers, variations and extra activities are also suggested.

Conclusion

This new series gets a definite thumbs-up from me and I would happily use it with any of my students. I’m looking forward to seeing what our next bunch of CELTA trainees have to say about it! Have you used Empower with your students yet?

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Author: Amanda Momeni

A CELTA tutor, English language tutor and co-author of The Ultimate Guide to CELTA

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