It's Magazine - The Good and The Bad
It's Magazine is a magazine for ESL students and teachers (go to www.its-online.com). For roughly 39 U.S. dollars, they offer a subscription that includes two issues of their magazine for teachers, four issues of their magazine for students (with teaching notes), and access to several websites. They also offer packs of teaching activities at an additional cost.
I got a subscription last year, and here's my impression. The magazine for students is very well put-together. There is a good variety of activities and articles, with emphasis on popular subjects, such as travel, movies, and music. There is also a section of the magazine that helps students focus on grammar points related to the articles. Students who access the website can get pen pals, do additional activities related to the current issue. With a subscription, one can print out a copy of the magazine. One problem I had is that some of the pictures do not come out very clear if you want to copy them. Also, some of the sections intended to be cut out (for example, a board game in the Summer 2001 issue) is printed on lightweight paper that could blow away a little too easily. Finally, unlike Interchange or other ESL coursebooks, there is not a system to the magazines, which might be a problem if you intend to use the student's magazine regularly as a coursebook.
The teacher's magazine is also highly recommended. It includes articles by ESL gurus such as Mario Rinvolucri, and emphasises practical ideas, as well as interesting articles on new teaching methods and techniques. The website allows you to print out all of the magazines and teaching notes. It also includes some extra teaching ideas related to the teacher's magazine, as well as a site called 3sixty5, that has a wealth of ideas for ESL teaching. I also ordered several of the packs (2 project packs, and 3 theme packs), and found them excellent - very creative interesting stuff. Each pack costs 21 or 22 U.S. dollars and has around 15 or so activities (handouts and teaching notes).
A few problems with the teacher's magazine - some of the activities in the first issue seemed a bit dated (although the second issue showed a noticeable improvement).
Also, when I started my subscription, there was an additional section of 20 or 30 really excellent activities, with handouts and teaching notes, on the teacher's site. One day I was upset to find that they had been removed from the site. I contacted the editor, who said that he might put them back online at some point, but so far has not done so. So, if you subscribe, you might want to keep in mind that some things might be removed from the website without notice.
Also, some of the packs recycle articles from the magazine, which might be a little disappointing if you subscribe to the magazine and want to order some of the packs as well.
Overall, I was very pleased with It's Magazine. I have used several activities from both magazines with my class and got a good response from my students. If you are looking for new teaching material to use with your class, you might want to give it a try.
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