Oxford Practice Grammar Series

Norman Coe, Mark Harrison, Ken Patterson, John Eastwood, and George Yule
Oxford University Press, 2006

Reviewed by Francis A. Andrew
Colleges of Applied Science
Nizwa, Oman

Norman Coe, Mark Harrison, and Ken Paterson s Basic, John Eastwood s Intermediate, and George Yule s Advanced, the three books that make up Oxford Practice Grammar series, are essential textbooks for foundation year students who need to attain a standard sufficient to enable them to sit the IELTS and other such examinations and for the academics who are charged with helping them.

The Basic book, divided into 11 sections, deals with aspects of grammar which range from the present simple tense to relative clauses and is, as its title suggests, essentially a grammar book; yet it has the added advantage of having several features which make it more than just a conventional reference book, one of which is the color pictures which accompany each grammar point to ensure that the pages possess an aesthetic quality necessary to give substance to the tabular explanations and make sure that the lessons do not take on the monotony grammar books can sometimes do. Another is how it deals with presentation and practice. Unlike a reference book, once a point has been explained, a great deal of reinforcement practice is given such as exercises requiring students to choose appropriate words from a list in order to complete a sentence and more complex tasks which involve the construction of both statement and interrogative sentences, each of which provide a brisk and lively pace for both teachers and students. Another area of contrast is whereas a reference book simply explains a point, the Basic book includes different types of assessment tests at each stage of the text–after each point is addressed, at the end of each section, and at the back of the text–to help students check what they have learned, the latter of which is useful in that it both consolidates for the students what they have accomplished throughout the entire course and helps teachers and administrators assess to what extent the book has benefited the students and therefore acts as a tool to gauge its suitability for further English language courses and programs in any given educational institution. Lastly, an interactive CD-Rom lends more liveliness to the lessons than a traditional grammar reference would and helps students to find and correct their own mistakes.

The Intermediate book and its 16 sections are the next step in the series. Illustrating more difficult grammar points from word classes (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives, conditionals, subjunctives and linking words), this text offers the same colorful layout, effective presentation of teaching points and practice, assessment tools, and CD-Rom as the Basic does, but the opening units of this text are mainly revisionary, something which can be beneficial to many students who need to review what they have learned in earlier courses. Furthermore, the Intermediate book presents the points in its core chapters in a more in-depth way than the Basic book does and details more instances about how the grammar can be used.

The last book in the series, the Advanced text and the 17 sections that compose it, like its predecessor, presents revisionary material (for both texts) and helps students continue on the cline to tackle still more advanced grammar points (e.g. from simple sentences and verbs to connectors and focus structures), but it does not have any color pictures, something that gives it the appearance of leaning towards a more conventional grammar book. Nevertheless, its teaching points, focus on assessment, and CD-Rom, like its two companions, ensure readers that it does not deviate from its intention of providing a course format which goes beyond being a mere reference book; instead it is a successful blend of the conventional forms of grammar instruction with more modern elements designed to maintain the students’ interest and attention.

While teachers and students will assuredly agree that the texts that make up the Oxford Practice Grammar series are solid resources for the teaching and learning of grammar, the books, due to the absence of other important items which are normally present in core course texts such as contextualized reading practice, still have to be treated as supplemental materials; yet I would greatly emphasize that they are extremely important supplementary materials and should be given high prominence in any English language program where students need additional help in grammar.