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ENGLISH ESSENTIALS FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS

George Henaut and Patrick F. Walsh.

Antigonish (NS), Scotia Design Publications, c1983.
Distributed by Scotia Design Publications, 1 Sunset Terrace, Antigonish, NS,B2G 1K2.
104pp, paper, $10.15.
ISBN 0-920147-00-3.


Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by Robert W. Bruinsma.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March


Perhaps the best way to introduce this handbook to prospective users is to quote from the brief preface:

         English Essentials has been designed for use
         by high school students and teachers to serve as a
         ready reference; a means of reviewing in outline-form
         material already taught in more depth in the English
         classroom.

The handbook (in an 8'/2 x 11 inch format) is comprised of six chapters of varying length and, in my view, varying usefulness.

Chapter I provides an interesting, though sketchy, summary of the history of the English language that might serve either as an introduction to this topic or a brief review. I am not sure about the appropriateness of the designation of the Celts as a "crude people" or of the medieval period as the "Dark Ages," but some over-generalization is bound to occur when one attempts to summarize two thousand years of linguistic history in six pages.

Chapter II deals with traditional school grammar in a very traditional manner. Here one can find everything one wants to know about parts of speech, parsing sentences, and the like. The curious thing is that the authors were at pains to point out (in chapter I) that modern English grammar is primarily syntactic in nature and not inflectional as was Old English and Latin. Yet traditional school grammar was borrowed from Latin School grammar at a time when the English language was introduced into the school curriculum. English was assumed to be unworthy as a medium of learning and learned discourse; it was a "decayed" language to be fitted into the mould of Latin. The mould was not and is not terribly fitting, however, so the relevance of this twenty-two page chapter is somewhat in doubt. However, if high school students need to learn this sort of thing to pass examinations, then it is all there.

Chapter III is ostensibly a section dealing with usage but is just a random collection of typical usage errors with sample corrections. There is no attempt to organize or index these errors in any helpful manner. This short section concludes with an interesting list of homonyms that may give problems.

Chapter IV, entitled "Guidelines," is a pot-pourri of writing, spelling, and literary aids ranging from guidelines on abbreviations and punctuation usage to definitions and examples of figures of speech. A useful fourteen-page section.

Chapter V, "Focus on Assignments," is another pot-pourri of information dealing with guidelines for writing assignments such as the precise and the critical estimate as well as with guidelines for project work and conducting group discussions. The chapter also contains a host of suggestions for ways in which students on an independent reading program can be encouraged to respond to the books read. It concludes with a section on letter writing.

Chapter VI deals with the use of the library and the writing of the research paper. This latter section is especially helpful in that it works through all the phases of research, note taking, outlining, writing, and referencing in step-by-step, illustrated detail. In summary, I would judge this handbook to contain information of use to both teacher and student, but a couple of classroom copies should suffice.


Robert W. Bruinsma, King's College, Edmonton, AB.
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