Book Review: “A-Z of Business Activities” by Julie Pratten

Most coursebooks have some good things in them, but when you think about it, a coursebook, by its very name, takes over the course. Curriculum becomes king, and students’ actual learning may be subservient to their perceived learning. (“They’ve worked through the Intermediate book, so they’re now all Upper Intermediate.” Believe me, they’re not).

And so to the activity book. Julie Pratten’s A-Z of Business Activities has lots of little niche topics aimed at “intermediate to advanced learners of English.”  It was the joint winner of the 2015 BESIG David Riley Award for Innovation in Business English and ESP, and the “focus is not on correctness of language, but its appropriateness in business contexts” (both p. 8), i.e. it is more task-based than grammar-based. (Yay!)

There are 26 different activities, each taking up 1-3 fairly uncluttered pages, listed in alphabetical order. The topics range from “Agenda” to “Zoo Management” (because business is not just stock images of smart suits sitting in immaculate conference rooms, but managing zoos and hospitals too). The “contents map” (a double-spread table) uses icons to show you the skills practised in each activity (asking for information in pairs/meeting skills etc.) at a glance. There are simple instructions for learners and more comprehensive teachers’ notes too. There is also an “error analysis sheet” for learners to reflect on their inaccuracies and chart their own improvement.

Here are my experiences with two very different activities.

“In Hospital” is a discussion and planning activity, based around the premise that 10 rich bankers are sharing a 10 bed ward, but need to have their beds rearranged to keep them “happy, comfortable and entertained” during their stay. My pre-intermediate A2+ class thoroughly enjoyed it as a fluency exercise/bit of light relief after an intense bout of grammar work.

Because of the subject matter, my B2 class found the more ambitious “Leadership Styles,” difficult at first, while my one-to-one manager sailed through easily. The B2 class did gradually warm to the topic and if we’re lucky, the challenge of the exercise may just have taken their English up a notch.

The activities are easy to use and teacher friendly. Upcoming titles in the series are  A-Z of Critical Thinking, A-Z of Coaching and A-Z of Global Issues. STOP PRESS: The latest title in the series, A-Z of Intercultural Communication is available and was shortlisted for the David Riley Award 2016.

A-Z of Business Activities by Julie Pratten (http://www.intrinsicbooks.co.uk/title_by_title/azbuseng.html) digital

A-Z of Intercultural Communication (http://www.keltic.co.uk/component/view/id/22793/title/A-Z+of+Intercultural+Communication+Photocopiables

A longer version of this book review first appeared here: https://speakeasyandwritewell.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/book-review-a-z-of-business-activities-by-julie-pratten/azbusinessenglish_award-copy

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