Today we’re going to go over the Fifty-Fifty series from Pearson Longman. The Fifty-Fifty series is a three-level course that focuses on speaking and listening skills. There are three textbooks in the series, Fifty-Fifty Intro, Fifty-Fifty Book One and Fifty-Fifty Book Two. These textbooks are targeted towards beginner level students and lower intermediate level students. There is also a teacher’s version of the textbook that acts as a student book and teachers guide. There is an accompanying website that offers various resources for students and teachers. You can download class audio, flashcards, and worksheets there.
So what do you get when you buy the Fifty-Fifty textbook? Well, there are 15 units in each textbook, each unit contains some warm-up exercises, a sample conversation and an exercise associated with that conversation, after that there are a series of listening and speaking activities and exercises that are designed to be done individually and some are designed to be done in teams of two or in larger groups. Most of the activities and exercises will also introduce new vocabulary words and some basic questions and sentence structures. After every four units there is a review unit that goes over the previous four units. In the back of the book there is a homework page for each unit that can be assigned to the students. There is also a transcript of all of the listening recordings in the back of the book. Lastly, there are some short grammar explanations for each unit as well.
Student Age Range: from 15 and up
Author: Warren Wilson, Roger Barnard
First off, let me say that I am a fan of the series and I use these textbooks quite a lot in my classes. They are very popular with my students. This series has a lot to offer. First off, the warm-up exercises are surprisingly useful. Often I find that a lot of the major ESL textbooks’ warm-up activities and exercises aren’t very good and are very difficult to use in class. The Fifty-Fifty series’ warm-ups are very simple and easy to understand. Next, the sample conversations are very well made. They are short and to the point. The sample conversations also include a variety of ways to express similar ideas. For example, if the unit is about giving recommendations then the sample conversation will have multiple ways to do this. They might have “You should…” as well as “Why don’t you?” or “How about…..?”. It’s nice to have these in the sample conversations. There is also simple but effective exercise associated with each conversation where the students have to basically follow the same conversation as the sample conversation but in various places they have to change the words or a sentence. This way the students will quickly understand how to change the key points to make other sentences. Often simply by having your students do these exercises you can save so much time in your grammar explanations because the students already have a very good idea of how to use the key points or when to use them. Next are the various listening and speaking exercises. The vast majority of these are very good. The recordings for the listening exercises are very professionally made and sound very good. They’ve definitely considered the level of the students so that speed of the recordings is just right. The speaking activities are very interesting. They generally will have one speaking activity that is meant for group of two and then they will have another speaking activity that is meant to be done with the entire class together or a large group of people. You can tell that the authors of this book have had a lot of experience teaching in real classes with real students. All of the speaking exercises have easy to understand examples to help the students understand the directions. The group exercises are great for the end of the class. Most of them involve students walking around the room and using the English they have learned with other students to complete a task. The simple act of having your students stand up and move around can make your classes much livelier and more enjoyable. The review units in the book are also well made and should not be ignored. As anyone who has any teaching experience can tell you students need to encounter words and phrases many times before they remember. Last, the homework pages in the back of the book are another great way to help reinforce what your students learned.
There really isn’t anything that I could point to in the series that I could really call “bad”. I really enjoy this textbook. But as it is my job I will point out a couple of areas. The units generally will take you around 70- 90 minutes to complete if you want to do all of the exercises and activities. If your classes are shorter, say 50 minutes or 60 minutes you can absolutely still use this textbook but you will definitely have to skip a few of the exercises. The listening exercises especially seem to take up a lot of time. I did not get a chance to use teacher’s book in my own classes but I did take a look at it from Fifty-Fifty ‘s website. It’s very basic and any experienced teachers would not need it but if you are a beginning teacher I could see how it could help you get started and give you a little more structure to your lessons. The problem is that I have been to many bookstores and I have never seen the teacher’s book offered. I’m sure that you would have no problems getting it online. Probably the biggest weakness I could find in the series is the website. Considering that the publishers are Pearson Longman I was surprised at the simplicity of the website. To be honest I doubt most teachers will ever need to use the website but it almost seems like the publishing company has decided to ignore a very good textbook that I believe could easily rival Cambridge’s “interchange” series.
Overall this is a very good series to use with beginners or lower intermediate level students. This textbook can be used in large classes or one on one classes. It’s also very good for any students that have little experience speaking but who do have some experience studying grammar, vocabulary in high school or junior high school, a very common situation in many Asian countries. All of the activities are very well made and very useful in the classroom. I hesitate to call it a weakness but the website could have been made a little better even though I doubt most teachers will ever find the need to use it. I love using this textbook in my larger classes with more than 10 students. It is very popular with my high school student classes and my beginner level company classes. I highly recommend this textbook to any other teachers.