Descriptive Summary: Al-kitaab fii Ta’alum Al-Arabiyya (Part one), with its website and DVD teaching aids, are designed for beginner level students learning Arabic as a foreign language. The book’s materials are centered around a stories involving two characters and their extended families, while focusing on vocabulary activation and developing speaking, listing and reading comprehension, wringing and cultural skills. The book introduces both formal and spoken Arabic. The authors believe that teaching spoken forms in the early stages results in learners gaining an enhanced fluency that transfers to formal Arabic as well. The book introduces the learners to three varieties of Arabic: Classic, Egyptian dialect and Levantine. This textbook has thirteen chapters, with materials that can be reasonably activated in one year of college-level Arabic, at an average of five contact hours per week. The authors believe that it takes time to activate vocabulary and forms that help the students to produce them fluently, in the proper context, and without promoting. Hence, it is important to use all three components, including the website and the DVD, in order to ensure that both students and teachers focus their efforts and build their confidence. There is also a big emphasis on the preparation prior to in-class lessons. The website allows students to do their preparations for classes, as well as homework. It also provides students with auto corrections for online homework assignments and drills.
The book’s approach and organization enforces its objectives (listed below). Each chapter starts with a new set of vocabulary that students learn through a story. On the website, students can listen to the new vocabulary first then watch a video clip, within which the new vocabularies are used in the story plot. Under a drill called “Ask your colleagues”, students are required to activate their new vocabularies by using them in meaningful conversations with their classmates. After practicing the new vocabularies, each chapter is augmented by a grammar lesson, reading for comprehension, and a cultural overview. After each of these sections there are drills, some designated to be completed at home, and others as in-class activities. Teachers can use these drills either as homework assignments or as formative or summative assessment. The book highly encourages communication and working in groups, as most of the drills need to be completed in groups or in pairs. As a result, students always find opportunities to use their language skills and enhance new linguistic proficiencies. Some of the book’s objectives are: 1-The ability to speak about oneself and to initiate and sustain conversations on daily life topic with native Arabic speakers 2-The ability to read simple authentic material and understand the (topic) without using a dictionary. 3-The ability to write informal notes on familiar topics. 4-The ability to comprehend and produce the basic sentence structures in Arabic 5-A general understanding of “everyday life” aspects in the Arab culture.
Evaluation Summary: Al-kitaab became a favorit choice as a textbook for educators due to its communicative approach that ensures introducing vocabulary in an authentic context, which enhances the student’s ability to learn and use Arabic in real life situations. Each chapter provides the students with opportunity to perform presentational and personal modes of communication. The companion website and DVD provide the students with a rich supply of input through the videos and interactive drills. Al-kitaab makes it possible for students to choose from three different forms of Arabic as it introduces formal, Egyptian and Shami (Levantine) Arabic. One of the great aspects about this textbook is that it includes teaching grammar through authentic context, which is clear enough for students to understand without the need for long lectures. The book introduces level-appropriate grammar lessons that enrich the student’s communication method in learning. Grammar is also introduced through communicative drills that allow students to apply their knowledge in daily life situations. The communicative approach for Al-kitaab made it an excellent candidate to be evaluated based on the ACTFL standards. This evaluation is based on the 5C’s (The national standards for teaching foreign language) which are communication, comparison, culture, connection and community. To highlight this evaluation: 1-Communication: The book evidently provides opportunities for cooperative learning and information gap activities. These activities are also designed in an age-appropriate level and context. For example, in the first lesson, students learn how to introduce themselves and talk briefly about their families. Students are encouraged to ask as many questions as they wish to their work-group and use as many new vocabularies as they can, to better introduce themselves using the Arabic language. 2-Culture: The textbook provides a wide variety of age appropriate authentic text and multimedia resources that presents the Arabic culture in general and stimulates interest. For example, one of the drills provides a website that connects young people among the Arab countries by chatting online. In this drill there are many different models on how one can introduce him or herself, which reinforces the lesson’s target linguistic skills. 3-Communities: One of the great elements in Al-ketaab is the variety of spoken Arabic forms it provides (classic, Egyptian and Levantine), which encourages students to choose, then continue to use Arabic within, as well as beyond the classroom setting. This will further help the students to use Arabic for their personal enjoyment, academic or professional enrichment. 4-Comparison: Although Al-kitaab provides an insight into the nature of the Arabic language and culture, there is a lack of drills that prompt students to linguistically compare their own native language, to Arabic. Nevertheless, Teachers can always modify / scaffolding such a shortage within the lesson plan. 5-Connection: Al-ketaab offers rich thematic materials that provide students with a basic introduction to different topics, which they can build upon areas that interest them. For example, lesson three has a brief introduction to Islamic history. Another example is the variety of restaurant menus in lesson four. In addition, lesson five includes an article about New York City. Although it may seem like limited materials that are not sufficient to provide a strong cross disciplinary projects, I believe it continues to be level appropriate for the target population and provides the teachers with a great foundation that they can build on, to challenge their students.
Significance of the work in the context of current theory: 1-Al-kitaab fii Taalum Alarabyya represents an example of the communicative language teaching methodology. It adopts the notion of communicative competence as a goal of teaching Arabic. Some of the principals that illustrate this method are: -The lessons introduce topics that are relevant and appropriate to the age group which give the students a skill that they can use in their daily life. Second language teaching is facilitated when learners are motivated to learn and interact in a meaningful communication, (Burns and Richards, 2012). - The drills require working in pairs or small groups, which ensure the interaction and encourage communication. It is an opportunity for the teacher to push new input and challenge the students to produce output in order to use the language more accurately and fluently. Effective classroom learning tasks and exercises provide opportunities for students to negotiate meaning and expand their language resource, (Burns and Richards, 2012). 2-Task based language teaching method is highly considered throughout the Al-ketaab textbook. We find the “Ask your colleagues” drill in every lesson. This drill has an information gap, negotiate meaning and challenge their output to better use the Arabic language. While it is a pedagogical task, teachers can manipulate / mold the structure of the drill to include problem solving, opinion exchange and value clarifications. Al-ketaab includes authentic text and multimedia resources in each lesson, which provides both students and teachers with ample opportunities to enrich their task based language education. Text authenticity is an important feature of TBLT. Text authenticity is the use of spoken and written materials that has been produced for purpose of communication, not for purpose of language teaching. ( Chapter 29, Nunan 2014_TBLT) 3-Alkitaab textbook can best complement a notional – function syllabus. Alkitaab textbook provides both teachers and students with communicative activities and language structures that refer to certain situations throughout the drills. Functional modes are illustrated by introducing oneself, applying to college, ordering from a restaurant; while notion modes are illustrated by vocabulary, nouns verbs, adjectives and structure verbs. These provided a way of going from specified types of meaning, or universal communicative and conceptual categories, to their realization in specific language (Robinson syllabus design, chapter 17).
In Summary, Al-kitaab textbook covers all language related skills including listening, speaking, reading and writing. The book adopts a communicative approach which incorporates extensive use of authentic materials for reading, culture knowledge and focus on forms. The textbook provides the students with three different forms of spoken Arabic to choose from in order to enhance their skills beyond the classroom sitting. My review is based on textbook observation and not on a classroom experience. Hence, further study should be taken inconsideration to validate the anticipated outcome.
Title: Al-kitaab fii Ta’alum Al-Arabiyya (Part one), Third Edition. Authors: Kristen Brustad, Mahmoud Al-Batal, Abbas Al-Tonsi Publisher: Georgetown University Press - Washington, DC, 2011 ISBN: 978-1-62616-063-7 Number of pages: 350 Pages Price: $24.95 (USD) :
1-Burns, A. & Richards, J. (Eds.). (2012). The Cambridge guide to pedagogy and practice in second language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2-Long, M. & Doughty, C. (Eds.). (2009). The handbook of language teaching. In Peter Robinson(ed.), Syllabus design ( pp.294-310) 3-Nunan (2014) - Task-Based Teaching and Learning