Visual Grammar (Elementary)
Jim Scrivener 
Richmond 2013 

This very attractive book, aimed at elementary-level students and intended for both self-study and classroom use, addresses the important question of how we can get our students to understand and internalise the grammar that we teach them. Each section is headed by a statement beginning I can ..., thereby mirroring the ‘can-do’ statements of the CEFR, and presenting the learning of grammar in terms of achievement and success, rather than as an uphill struggle. The fact that the sections are short (usually one page, sometimes two) also makes the information ‘bite-sized’ and easily accessible. 

However, where this book really succeeds is in the quality of the illustrations, photographs and diagrams, which give a visual representation of how English grammar works. As the author says in his introductory address to the student: ‘Grammar practice doesn’t have to be boring!’ This book even gives the impression that it might be fun! The timelines which demonstrate the sequence and meaning of the different tenses are particularly successful, and teachers who have struggled to draw their own timelines on the board will find these invaluable. The text explanations are clear and helpful, too. 

Returning to the section headed ‘To the student’ at the beginning of the book, I think this was a really good idea. Here, the students are given a simple but unpatronising explanation of why grammar is important and what they need to know; it also includes a clear explanation, aided by visuals, of some of the terms that many other textbooks assume that students already know and understand: collocation, chunks, contractions, third person, comparative, etc. This section is followed by an explanation of the different features of the book and how it works. Each new section has a selection of the following elements:

A blue grammar box. This shows the students how to ‘make the grammar’. The boxes contain rules and examples.

Example sentences. There are plenty of these, usually accompanied by eye-catching and relevant photos, which help demonstrate the meaning.

Diagrams. These show how the language works – for example, where word order changes. They include the timelines for showing the meaning of tenses.

Exercises. A range of different exercise types give the students a chance to practise using the language and encourage them to be creative in their use of it.

About you. Exercises with this heading require a personal response from the students, using the target language.

The tough one. Exercises with this heading are more challenging.

Internet quiz. This heading indicates that some online research will be needed to find the answers.

Wordpool. In these exercises, the students have to make sentences from a mixture of different words.

The book includes a code, giving access to the Richmond Learning Platform, where the teacher can assign and track activities. A Teacher’s Digital Book is also available for use on an Interactive Whiteboard. 

Buy this book from the English Teaching professional bookshop