Touchstone Series

Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten, and Helen Sandiford

Reviewed by Colin J. Toms
The Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Touchstone, a series by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten, and Helen Sandiford, is a well-thought out and motivating text for young adult beginning and intermediate learners of English and is written with the intention of helping students to develop confidence in their ability to understand real-life English and to express [themselves] clearly and effectively in everyday situations (Welcome to Touchstone,p. iv).
Corpus driven and grounded in lexical and communicative principles, the series comprises four course books of 12 units each (plus four revision units), which take learners from beginner to intermediate levels. Each text is buttressed by attendant workbooks and listening material (which comes in a choice of CD or cassette format). Add in the teacher s editions, and there are 36 different components in all (not to mention the video series or online test creator).
Each book, fronted by a comprehensive scope and sequence matrix, comprises 12 units, each interspersed with Checkpoints at three-unit intervals which review and revise what has already been learned.
Each unit is further broken into four sections, A to D. Each section typically occupies two pages, excepting section D, which runs to a third: the Vocabulary Notebook. Grammar is presented in the first section of each cycle and reinforced in the second, where it is integrated with vocabulary while sections C and D tilt the balance in favor of listening and speaking activities. Useful corpus inspired tips such as In conversation, I don t know is the most common three-word expression appear throughout as boxes in margins.
All readers will appreciate the series layout with its bright, modern and engaging photographs and illustrations. However, while the target audience,young adult learners, shouldeasily connect with the multicultural group of 20-somethings who people these books, older learners may have trouble identifying with the characters presented in the texts.Yet despite this, the Touchstone Series, due its content and design,is a good resource for beginning and intermediate students who wish to express themselves clearly and effectively in everyday English.