Touchstone is a 'corpus-informed' course, drawing on extensive research into the corpus of North American English in the Cambridge International Corpus - a large database of everyday conversations and texts that show how people actually use English.
Touchstone merges the best features of familiar communicative methodologies while, at the same time, offering stimulating activities carefully crafted to focus on the learning process. The Touchstone philosophy maintains that a successful course meets all of the following goals:
An important learning aim in every lesson is to get students talking to each other. This strong emphasis on spoken interaction enables students to put new language to use immediately in order to communicate with their classmates. In addition, Touchstone devotes a full lesson in every unit to the teaching of conversation strategies so that students can learn the skills needed for effective spoken communication.
2) Personalizes the learning experience
Touchstone offers engaging activities that encourage students to talk about their own lives and ideas as they discuss topics relevant to their interests and experiences. Students will enjoy talking about topics such as TV, music, the Internet, sports, and celebrities. The About you icon points out some of these opportunities.
3) Promotes active and inductive learning
Throughout the series students complete tasks that actively involve them in the learning process. Students are also challenged to figure out (inductive learning) grammar structure or English usage. Solving a problem or figuring something out for oneself is a powerful aid to understanding, and research shows that activities that have students notice and figure things out result in successful learning. Figure it out tasks challenge students to think about how target grammar structures are formed and used before they are formally introduced. Notice tasks in the Conversation strategy lessons encourage students to think about how people manage conversations effectively. Word sort tasks and Vocabulary notebook pages get students to actively learn new vocabulary.
4) Encourages students to be independent learners
Clear learning aims at the start of each unit, a Now I can . . . checklist on each Vocabulary notebook page, and Progress checks at the end of each Workbook unit enable students to monitor their own learning. Vocabulary notebook pages encourage independent learning habits by allowing students to add their own words, expressions, and example sentences. Reading tips help students improve their reading skills as they tackle any new text. Each Teacher’s Edition provides a testing package that gives you and your students another valuable tool for assessing progress.
5) Recognizes the importance of review and recycling
Language students need constant review, and Touchstone systematically recycles and reviews target language in several sections of the Student’s Book – in Before you begin, Conversation strategy, Reading, Listening, Vocabulary notebook, and Checkpoint, as well as in the Workbook (or Online Workbook). Grammar, vocabulary, and conversation strategies taught in earlier units are recycled in later units. Items learned in lower levels are recycled in subsequent levels. Recycle icons throughout the Teacher’s Editions point out these and other opportunities for review and recycling.
6) Offers flexibility to meet the needs of specific classes
Touchstone can be used with large and small classes. Activities can be done in pairs, groups, or as a whole class, depending on your particular needs. Touchstone can also be adapted to varying course lengths. For shorter courses, the Vocabulary notebook pages and Reading and Writing tasks, as well as the Extra practice activities, can be assigned for homework. For longer courses, the Workbook provides additional learning tasks. The Teacher’s Edition offers a variety of extra classroom activities to reinforce learning that can be used when time allows.
The Corpus-informed approach
The syllabus will be familiar to most teachers to the degree that it teaches the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The syllabus is different in that it includes conversation strategies – an exciting new syllabus strand that is the result of extensive corpus research. Above and beyond the usual course material, Touchstone is full of helpful and interesting notes about the way English is really used. It also helps students become more efficient learners by presenting techniques to log and remember new language.
It is suggested that the lessons A, B, C, and D, are studied in order. This is because the new structures and vocabulary taught in the earlier lessons are generally recycled and reused in the later lessons. Each lesson in a unit assumes that students have learned the language of the previous lesson(s). So, for example, simple present statements are taught before simple present questions; students learn the strategy of asking questions in two ways only after they have learned how to ask yes-no and information questions.