The original plans for the first textbook (level 1) was slated to have six units. However, after two years of trials in adult ESL classes, it became clear getting through just three units for the whole 72 hour course was difficult. It’s difficult because there are so many basic components of the English language that students need to understand in order to lay the foundations for more advanced comprehension. The three units address these fundamentals which are rich in phonic activities, listening and speaking exercises, and grammar components.
Having only three units simplifies many aspects of this textbook as well. For example, concentrating on pronunciation of words with specific digraphs, such as the “ch” and “th” sounds, also gives opportunities to engage in modeled conversations that have words embedded in them with these specific digraphs. This also extends to incorporating a short storyline, grammar practices, writing and reading activities. The concentrated portions of the lessons are in the main units, but the supplemental sections (toward the back of the book) give many more exercise and practice activities to further examine details explained in the main units. This also allows for more emphasis to be placed on details within each lesson without overwhelming students with too much information processing too quickly.
I believe the approach of going step by step renders more language dividends in the long run. Since 2012, students who worked with the I Want To Learn English prototype units have improved their scores on the CASAS exams and some even jumped two levels within a single semester. Some may attribute these highlights to a number of factors, but going further back to years before I developed IWTLE, the success rates did not have the kind of surges I see in the overall numbers now. And with help coming from other instructors using IWTLE with their students, overall student scores will reveal its effectiveness. Stay tuned for these results in the coming months.