PETER VINEY & KAREN VINEY
(Oxford University Press, 1996)
Handshake is a pre-intermediate level course. It aims to cover the needs of a wide range of students, from those who may go on to study English as an academic subject to those needing the language for work purposes.
Because it is aimed at such a broad readership, you might think this book falls short of the mark. You would be wrong. It succeeds because it does not try to be all things to all people. Instead, it concentrates on communication, and specifically (and refreshingly) on "behaviour" rather than "content" - how we communicate not what we communicate. This means that learners can even extend their knowledge about communication in their mother tongue.
Handshake is divided into nine units, each of which focuses on particular strategies, including requests, non-verbal communication and exchanging information. Each unit uses material that has been carefully chosen to demonstrate certain structures, and, more importantly, vocabulary learners can actually use this material instead of just filing it away.
The authors' aim is to separate practice of a communication skill from in-depth consideration of a language structure. This works because of the range of exercises and the well sign-posted sections for further discussion - at the end of each unit, there is an Active Grammar Appendix and a Language Focus.
This aim - to be as practical as possible - is carried further in the frequent interaction work. Here, students work in pairs and think about a situation or problem relevant to the unit - for example, using eye contact whilst reading texts ( non-verbal communication).
Overall, students are encouraged to think about their learning - for instance, in unit 5 (conversation strategies) students reflect on how they learn. All this work is supported by the accompanying cassette. A lot of work for the teacher but worth it for the student feedback.