Home About Tune in » Authors' interview

Authors' interview

Richmond Publishing (RP): Tell us a little about yourselves and how you started writing for upper-secondary students. How did the Tune in project begin?

Mike Downie and David Gray (A): We have been writing materials based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for several years now, and in the LOE we immediately saw the link between the CEFR and Bachillerato. We decided to write a course book that reflects this. We do all our writing together as a team – our different experiences and strengths complement each other very well.

RP: Students preparing for university entrance exams need to develop particular skills and exam strategies. Can you explain how Tune in prepares students for PAU exams?

A: The PAU is a tough exam. In our view, we need to start looking towards PAU from the beginning of Bachillerato. Obviously, this doesn't mean doing practice papers from day one, but it does mean getting students used to PAU-type texts and questions from the early stages of Bachillerato. Exam training also involves introducing and practising specific reading and writing strategies from the start of the course.

RP: Reading and writing skills are currently very important in PAU exams. It's essential that students practise reading and writing throughout their exam preparation. How does Tune in develop reading and writing skills?

A: Well, we started by choosing topics and text types that are typical of the exams, as well as being of interest to the students. The questions were also very important – they had to be typical exam questions. The course covers all genres of writing texts: progressing from controlled writing tasks based on models to freer writing activities. Tune in also includes lots of useful tips for students, as well as extra resources for teachers like the Tune in to Writing worksheets.

RP: In some regions of Spain PAU exams also have a listening component and it seems likely that speaking will be included in university entrance exams in the future. Does Tune in teach listening and speaking skills too?

A: Very much so. According to the LOE, speaking and listening are important for Bachillerato students and we think this makes sense. Tune in has lots of listening practice and opportunities for communication. Like the CEFR, the course distinguishes between spoken interaction and production, and gives systematic practice of each.

RP: Let's not forget about grammar and vocabulary! By the time students reach Bachillerato, they have seen lots of grammar and vocabulary, but may need to consolidate their knowledge. How does Tune in help students with the language they need for exam success?

A: We completely agree that grammar and vocabulary are the building blocks of language. In Tune in, students start by reviewing the language they already know, for example the simple past, and then go on to focus on a new related point. We give lots of extra practice too, in the Student's Book, the Workbook, the CD-ROM and in the Tune in to Vocabulary and Grammar worksheets sheets which the teacher can choose to use as necessary.

RP: What features of Tune in make it different from other books on the market?

A: We wanted to write a course that was very complete and at the same time, easy to use. We think we've managed it. We're also pleased at how thoroughly we were able to treat strategies, both communicative and exam-specific ones. We think that the CEFR distinction between spoken interaction and production is important, so we give great importance to developing both areas too. The On Air section of the Student's Book, a reference section focussing on speaking and writing, is a feature we hope that students will find useful.

RP: We live in a world where technology is a growing part of our lives, especially for young people. What role does technology play in Tune in?

A: We really think that Tune in breaks new ground here. Not only do all Tune in students receive CDs with the Student's Book and Workbook audio tracks, they also receive CD-ROMs. These CD-ROMs have a range of interactive grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation activities. In addition, two electronic dictionaries have been included on the Tune in 2 Multi-ROM.

A: We are particularly excited about the e-solutions pack. Teachers can use the e-book in their classrooms in conjunction with an interactive white board to motivate students. You can even project video from the Tune in website in class, and do the related activities. It's wonderful! The e-solutions pack is also a fantastic planning resource for teachers: they have all the course materials on a single CD-ROM.

RP: The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has had a huge impact on language teaching and assessment. How does Tune in take the CEFR into account?

A: The LOE has established communicative objectives for this level based on the CEFR. We have worked with these specifically in the course. We've included a Language Portfolio, where students assess themselves against communicative objectives set out in the CEFR, as well as putting together their own dossiers and language passports. In Level 1 the Language Portfolio comes with the Workbook. In Level 2, it's on the website.

RP: Why will students enjoy studying English with Tune in?

A: We think that students will see that Tune in helps them to communicate in real-life situations as well as helping them pass PAU. The course has very clear objectives, so that students always know what they're learning, and they get a real sense of progress. Tune in is transparent and easy to use, with a good range of extra resources. It's also very up-to-date with topics that are engaging for the age group.

RP: And what about teachers? What will they like about Tune in?

A: Like students, teachers will also appreciate how clear Tune in is, and the fact that it has lots of extra resources. The course also has lots of additional testing material, which is especially important at this level. The Tune in e-solutions pack is ideal for teachers who are looking for an effective (and very easy!) way to incorporate technology into their English lessons.