Rising Stars is a series of fun, colourful, and interesting books for Very Young Learners.
Rising Stars was written by Saxoncourt Publishing who used their knowledge of recent developments in academic research and their experience of running all-day, all-in English kindergarten programs to develop a comprehensive beginning English course for children aged 4-6.
Rising Stars consists of 6 textbooks which use high-interest topics, colourful and appealing illustrations and fun activities to encourage our students to learn. Each book has 5 units, with up to 6 lessons in each. These all have a different focus and are taught differently to appeal to each individual student.
Lesson 1: Target Language
Target language is the main language that we will focus on for the unit. By repeatedly exposing the students to the same language using a variety of materials and activities we make sure that every child learns and can use the language.
Lesson 2: Talking Time
The talking time lesson is when we use the picture in the textbook as a stimulus for the students to speak the target language in context. We do this after the children have already learnt the meaning, form and pronunciation of the target language. This means we don’t overburden the students and they are able to use the target language with confidence in the talking time lesson.
Lesson 3: Phonics
In each Rising Stars unit, we teach 2 letters. This gives the children plenty of time to learn each letter and its phonic value. After we have taught each letter individually we can teach blended phonics of 2, or more, letters. In the lesson we will use a lot of fun activities as well as the textbook pages. This starts the children on their road to reading at a pace that the children can feel comfortable with and enjoy.
Lesson 4: Writing
Each writing lesson has an attractive and fun page in the textbook, this motivates the students to do the writing. As part of the writing lesson we teach the children all kinds of language they need for the English classroom: everything from “Pencil please” to “Please can you pass me an eraser.” This helps the children to communicate their wants and needs and gives them a reason to speak English.
Lesson 5: Maths
Each unit has a lesson that focuses on maths. As many maths words are difficult to distinguish and pronounce we have to practice them early and often. This is ideal as children are naturally beginning to play with maths at this age. Each maths page in the Rising Stars books has a variety of colourful activities for the children to complete, allowing them to enjoy their maths lessons.
Lesson 6: Character Education
Character education lessons are extremely important for very young children. Through character education lessons we teach the children to interact with their classmates in English. When every classmate is a friend, going to English school is a pleasure and the children will benefit academically from the better learning atmosphere.
SPEC is a nine-level Primary English course for Young Learners. Each level consists of a Student’s Book, a Workbook, a CD, and a Super Skills Book.
The SPEC series of textbooks was originally produced by Saxoncourt publishing in 1999 and it has been regularly updated to retain its contemporary look. In total, there are 9 SPEC textbooks, which take the children from the pre-A1 level on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) to A2/B1 level. The textbook package which consists of a student book, homework book, super skills book, and CD/ downloadable audio provides a comprehensive language course for elementary school age students.
The books feature target language (grammar and vocabulary) that is introduced in order of difficulty and frequency of use. Children learn first what is most useful to them to give them the ability to communicate from their first SPEC lessons. This provides the children with a reason to study English and ensures their continuing engagement.
The books are progressive and complement the children’s developing language ability. As the books progress the students follow a colourful set of characters as they interact in various situations. The situations in the book demonstrate to the students how they can use their language in real-life settings. When we re-create those real-life settings in the classroom, we prepare students to use their language outside.
Listening is the key skill for elementary students to develop in order to acquire the English language. We want our students to practice listening and each lesson in SPEC contains a written dialogue and a listening exercise.
The listening practice features both male and female speakers and the children are exposed to a variety of accents. The children listen to native speakers, talking at near-native speed, this greatly enhances their ability to communicate and to pass external exams like Cambridge Young Learners Exams (YLE) and Trinity Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE).
After introducing the dialogue and checking the students understand its meaning, we practice speaking it with the students. In this way, the students listen, read, and understand before speaking. This supports them to use their new language in a confident and fluent manner in a realistic conversation.
When checking answers together, the students also speak. In the early books, this requires repeated use of the target language. The later books require longer and more complex answers. As the children develop linguistically, they are increasingly challenged to use their English spontaneously and independently.
The speaking practice that is facilitated by the SPEC books enables many of our students to score highly on external tests, such as the Trinity GESE exam.
In order to develop all 4 skills, the SPEC books feature reading sections that increase in length and complexity as the series progresses. The early textbooks enable the students to learn and practice the phonics knowledge that they developed with the Rising Stars series. The dialogue sections provide valuable initial practice as they enable our students to develop more complex writing/ sound associations. From SPEC 4 onwards, the children are exposed to longer dialogues and reading passages. These readings are in a variety of genres and use increasingly varied language. All of this prepares our students for lessons at their regular schools and to take external exams such as the Cambridge YLE exams.
For further reading practice, Saxoncourt Publishing introduced the Crest Readers series of books, which allow students to see the vocabulary and grammar they first encountered in the SPEC books in a new context. This helps students develop their knowledge of language in use, as well as increase their reading fluency and accuracy. Regular reading practice will develop students’ love of reading and equip them for later study of various subjects, not just English.
The SPEC series enables our students to progress from pre-writing through to accurately writing in a range of genres such as letters, emails, diaries, pen portraits etc. Students starting SPEC 1 are introduced to the alphabet. We then progress to tracing and copying words and sentences. From SPEC 4 paragraphs are introduced and the students are encouraged to produce original, connected writing. This is done in class and set for homework and students’ progress is regularly checked.
The SPEC series provides a comprehensive introduction to writing for our elementary school students. We want our students to use English to pass exams and to work in the modern world. To do that our students need to know how to write well. The SPEC series can help your child to achieve that.
We recognize that the elementary school period is key to our students’ language acquisition. We don’t just want them to communicate, we want them to communicate in accurate, fluent English, whether in speaking or writing. As the SPEC books progress there is an increasing emphasis on explicit explanation and practice of key grammar. The workbook and super skills book, which are designed to be used at home, consolidate the learning that we do in class. The activities in the books require the children to think about the way the English language works. This enables discovery learning to happen, as the children find out patterns for themselves. This learning is more engaging and more long-lasting for the students as they work their way through the SPEC books.
The vocabulary taught in the SPEC books is the most frequently used in the English language. Repeated exposure through listening, speaking, reading, and writing with our various books helps our students remember this key vocabulary and use it in a variety of contexts. The SPEC series provides students with an excellent vocabulary base from which to pursue their further studies.
Crest Readers are a series of supplemental materials that work with SPEC and EXCEL.
Crest Readers are a series of exciting and engaging readers for young learners of English. The stories provide enjoyable reading practice and include phonics, vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension activity pages.
The Readers are designed to run alongside the SPEC and EXCEL textbook series. The Crest readers provide an integrated review, grammar, and comprehension activities.
The Excel series consists of 4 textbooks that take students from A2 to B1/B2 level on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference). Each book has 8 units, with each unit having a high-interest theme such as health, school subjects, animals or careers. Each unit has 8 pages, with listening, speaking, reading and writing exercises as well as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation study. Students benefit as they approach each theme from a variety of viewpoints with an appealing range of activities.
Excel books were first published in 2016, so they have a modern feel with up-to-date contents. The books are well-laid out and approachable, with information that is easy to find. Each unit follows an engage-study-activate progression, as does each page within the unit. This is a logical progression which gives students the vocabulary and grammar they need before they produce the target language in various high-interest speaking and writing exercises.
There are many different text types in the series- everything from recipes to diaries, and letters to newspaper articles. These help the students understand how the language we teach is used in context. The texts become progressively longer and more complex across the four books, which reflects the kind of language that the students are expected to produce. The texts are laid out as we would expect to see in natural English usage and are supported by clear, colourful illustrations.
Each unit in the Excel series has the following contents: Vocabulary, Listening, Grammar, Speaking, Reading, Writing.
The vocabulary page covers the key vocabulary for the unit. The vocabulary pages focus on providing an increasingly sophisticated level of understanding for general words that were introduced in the SPEC series. An example of this is where we teach ‘cook’ in SPEC, we teach ‘boil’, ‘steam’, ‘fry’, ‘heat’, ‘roast’ and ‘bake’ in Excel. As students at this level have a good basic vocabulary, their continued progression depends on them learning the more precise words they need to express exactly what they mean. The Excel books enable students to gain this extra knowledge with their vocabulary pages.
Each listening page provides input practice with the previously learnt vocabulary. The listening features a long text with comprehension questions. The questions require the students to have a general understanding of the text and also to understand the specific features of the conversation. This exercise provides valuable practice for students who will take English exams in the future, as well as facilitating students’ ability to understand an everyday conversation.
Each listening page has a “pronunciation corner”. This activity introduces a specific feature of natural, everyday native speaker conversation which is present in the text. Students are given the opportunity to listen out for the feature (such as intonation patterns in lists, WH- questions, Yes/ No questions etc.) and an activity is provided to practice the feature. The “pronunciation corner” puts accurate, native-like pronunciation to the fore in our Excel courses and provides invaluable practice.
The grammar pages in Excel teach the grammar that the students will naturally need to talk about the theme of the unit (phrasal verbs to talk about jobs, countable/ uncountable nouns to talk about food etc.). This provides a reason for the students to learn, practice and use the grammar, mirroring the ESA method. The grammar pages provide a comprehensive course for structures that are needed for communication at the A2-B2 level on the CEFR.
Each unit has a speaking page, which enables the students to apply the grammar and vocabulary they have previously learnt in the unit. The speaking unit shows the grammar and vocabulary used in a natural context, which provides an example for students to work from. Each speaking page has an appealing and engaging speaking activity which helps motivate students to use the language. Teachers will also prepare speaking activities that directly target the likes and needs of their students. The speaking pages offer valuable practice for students who will be taking speaking exams in the future.
There are 2 pages that concentrate on building reading skills in each unit. The reading passages provide an increasing level of challenge for students as they progress through the books and will develop students’ reading skills. In addition, the reading passages are inherently interesting and are a basis for further study. Students may discuss the contents or their reaction to the contents. Students may do further language work arising from the passage. Finally, students may use the passage as an example for producing a similar passage themselves. The reading passages motivate the students to read, support them with their reading and help them to use their newly learnt language afterwards. As so much of the information, we process every day is in written English, including in exams and at work, the reading passages are excellent practice.
Each unit has a writing page in which the students will have a chance to write their own text. The texts are in a variety of genres and the students are taught how to write according to the conventions of that genre, i.e. how to structure a formal letter, how to write an informal email. As students have the knowledge to construct correct sentences at this level, but may not understand text organisation, this is very valuable knowledge that rewards explicit instruction. As the students are instructed to do their own writing, they also gain extra awareness of different genres, which helps their ability to understand texts as well.