Vol. 1, No. 2, September 2001
Focus on Grammar CD-ROM
Reviewed by Nicole Décuré
Focus on Grammar CD-ROM
Corporation, 2 Graham Road West, Ithaca, NY 14850;
Tel: (607)-257- 5634 and Addison Wesley Longman, 10
Bank Street, White Plains, NY, 01606; Tel: (914)-993-5000,
95/98 or NT version 4.0, 2000* or later, or Macintosh
Minimum hardware requirements:
A PC with 386SX:25MHz
or better processor
Microsoft Windows 3.1 or later
Quick Time for Windows (included)
8 MB of RAM SVGA graphics card (640x480x256 colors
minimum) with compatible monitor MPC-compatible
Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers
hardware requirements: for Macintosh
||A Macinstosh with a 68030
processor or newer
640x480 (13") or larger color monitor
OS 7.0 or higher
Quick Time for Macintosh (included)
5 MB of RAM
The Focus on Grammar
CD-ROM (intermediate level) provides grammar practice
through a number of reading, writing, and listening exercises.
It follows the same plan as the book but the exercises are
different and it can therefore be used on its own or as
supplementary material with any other grammar book or language
course. The CD-Rom also contains the reference material
of the book (appendices, grammar notes and charts) that
is readily available with a click of the mouse whenever
needed. It is therefore self-sufficient. Each of the 8 units
is divided into five sections.
Discover the Grammar: The user has
to recognize the target structure and its function with
-Recognizing sentences that contain a particular structure.
Four sentences are given, and the user must click on the
two that contain the structure.
-Identifying the parts of a particular structure in extended
discourse. The user picks out examples of the structure
within a paragraph and clicks on them word-by-word.
Practice: The learner uses the target
structures in five to eight separate exercises per unit.
A variety of exercises (about fifteen variations) is offered.
Practice exercises often utilize illustrations, word banks,
charts, and other material to provide context or reference.
The exercises are fairly classical types: fill-in-the-blank(s),
unscrambling a list of words to create a sentence containing
the target structure, multiple choice, correcting mistakes
in a sentence or paragraph.
Reading: A reading passage demonstrates
use of the target structure in context and is the core of
three types of exercises: comprehension (multiple choice),
cloze (putting back in the blanks the words from the text),
and unscrambling sentences.
Listening: A recorded listening passage
(a few sentences) demonstrates use of the target structure
in context. Four types of exercises follow. The user may
listen as many times as s/he wants.
Focus. Understanding the gist of the passage with
yes-no questions about the topics, details or ideas contained
in it (8 items).
Recall. Choosing the best answer out of three propositions
Guided dictation. The user hears a sentence from
the listening passage. The same sentence appears on the
screen, with some words blanked out. The user types the
missing words in the blanks.
Dictation. The whole text is dictated, one sentence
at a time. There is a bit of overkill in this section. By
the time we get to the last part (dictation) is there a
problem left? We have listened to the whole thing so many
times that we soon know it by heart.
Writing: The user uses the target
structure to express his/her own ideas. Three to five topics
for writing are provided. When completed, the writing selections
can be printed out for a variety of uses (peer-editing,
teacher feedback, portfolio development, etc.) but the CD-Rom,
of course, does not offer correction.
Review Tests: After a group of related
units, there is a TOEFL-type test: the first section of
the test is a multiple-choice test; the second section requires
the user to recognize the element of a sentence that is
incorrect. The disposition of the various elements on the
screen is well done. Everything is under our eyes. At the
top, there is a menu bar giving access to the parts, units,
sections, activities, items. Underneath, six more buttons:
Menu, View scores, Quit, Appendices, Grammar notes, Grammar
charts. At the bottom are the commands to do the exercises:
OK, Next Item, Help, Answer, Listen, View Reading, Print
Reading and two arrows on each side to go to the next/ last
item. In between are three windows: one for instructions
(top left), one to remind us of the section (top right,
useless, really, and too big, with a very childish drawing),
one for the exercise (bottom) and sometimes another one
The problem, as often with such software, is that the user
is expected to regurgitate the original text (in the reading
and listening sections) and may well produce a correct sentence
which will be then be declared wrong. There is no explanation
why the mistakes are mistakes, which leads to frustration.
We only know it is wrong. The way the corrections are done
is that if one letter of the word we typed is correct it
stays in green. This gives the impression we have a partially
right answer, when in fact we don't. If, for example we
typed rid instead of red (it could be a typing mistake),
r and d will be kept on each side of the blank box. But
can we really say we got two thirds of the answer right?
What I object to is that it gives the false impression that
there is ONE way of saying things, which, we all know, is
not true. If it were, language teachers would soon be out
of a job. Anyway, after two wrong answers, the right one
is given so we are spared too much suffering.
In the practice section, if six choices are given the only
answer that can be correct is the one with the right number
of letters and spaces!!! For example: "I'm tired. Why
.? admits only one suggestion: "take
a nap." My first choice would have been "go shopping,"
or "go for a walk" which, when I am tired of working
with a computer sounds like a good alternative. All the
suggestions are suggestions that are structurally correct.
The rest is a question of context which is not provided
and therefore is left to everyone's imagination. Again,
implying there is only one correct answer suggests that
there is no alternative to taking a nap when one is tired.
What has happened to freedom of thought and expression?
Still, in spite of these minor flaws, inherent to this type
of material, the Focus on Grammar CD-Roms (I expect
the two other levels to be similar) should be a satisfactory
tool for weak students, giving them a sense of completion