“Interaction Online”: Book Review

“Interaction Online: Creative activities for blended learning”

I was excited to receive one of the latest publications from Cambridge University Press, Interaction Online . The book is co-authored by Lindsay Clandfield, who has written other titles including the successful Global coursebook series, as well as Jill Hadfield, who has written the recognisable photocopiable resources: Communication Games . As with other Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series, this latest publication is edited by Scott Thornbury.

Interaction Online” is aimed for teachers who are keen to incorporate an aspect of online interaction as part of their course. It also encourages use with not just face-to-face courses but also with online or blended learning courses. As you read further into the Introduction of the book, the authors focus on interaction and tools to promote online interaction. These suggested tools include message or chat services such as WeChat or WhatsApp, audio or video tools such as FaceTime or Skype as well as discussion forums or message boards. The Introduction is logically organised and well paced with suitable information for any reader who is keen to implement an element of online interaction with their course. The final section of the Introduction provides a comprehensive breakdown of suggested interactive online activities in their corresponding chapters: ‘Personal interaction‘ (Chapter 2), ‘Factual interaction‘ (Chapter 3), ‘Creative interaction‘ (Chapter 4), ‘Critical interaction‘ (Chapter 5) and ‘Fanciful interaction‘ (Chapter 6).

The initial Chapter which looks at ‘Setting up and managing online interaction‘, looks at platforms for consideration when developing online facilities to support student-to-student online interaction: do you use social media sites (Facebook, or Google +) or do you use a devoted virtual learning environment (VLE) such as Edmodo or Moodle? This chapter further considers rules of use for an online community, encouraging participants to post profile photos or having clear instructions for tasks. It is very thorough and supportive and it will require readers a period to reflect and then incorporate suggested ideas when developing a system for online interaction.

Within Chapters 2-6, each lesson suggestion is accompanied with detailed aims, levels, timing, staging and the preparation required. Readers can follow the procedure given with the lesson. Some of the suggested lessons throughout the chapters include a variation on the task which readers could incorporate to personalise the lesson. Chapter 2, ‘Personal interaction‘, focuses on the interaction of personal information such as sharing personal stories, sharing photos or reacting naturally to such information. There are 13 lesson ideas within this particular chapter and my favourite lesson within this chapter is “Finish my sentence” (p.34-35), whereby students are prompted with the start of a sentence, ‘After class I’m going to …‘, and they must complete the end of the sentence about themselves.

The following chapter, which focuses on ‘Factual interaction‘, involves the sharing of information on a factual topic. There are 19 lesson ideas such as finding out information about a festival or presenting information about a country. This focus of lessons could accompany exam preparation quite well, particularly for the reading and writing elements of an exam such as IELTS or FCE.

Chapter 4, ‘Creative interaction‘, encourages interaction between students to create a story, poem or advert. There are, just as in the previous chapter, 19 lesson suggestions which the reader could use in class. The ideas behind this chapter focus on projects and tasks which are familiar especially with young learners: “Design a festival” (p.94-95), “Art Monologues (creating a story from portraits or pictures)” (p.85-86) as well as many other tasks. Yet, Chapter 5, ‘Critical interaction‘, essentially encourages students to voice their opinion or ranking items or ideas, a total of 15 topics. You have the common ideas such as a “Balloon debate” (p.127-129), “Making improvements” (p.137) or “Cause and consequence” (p.154-155). Most of these tasks take a period of a week or so.

The final chapter for online lesson activities, ‘Fanciful interaction‘, involves students in role-plays or rewriting parts of a story with interactive activities such as “Fairy tale rewrite” (p.166-167) or “Murder mystery” (p.171-173). There are 13 suggested tasks within this chapter a reader could incorporate online.

Chapter 7, ‘Feedback and assessment‘, focuses on the use of online feedback and assessment, with ideas about how to go about delivering feedback. There are some useful thoughts about how feedback could encourage or promote online interaction as well as error correction techniques. The final chapter within the book, ‘Task Design‘ suggests different ways the reader could create their own tasks to generate useful and invaluable online interaction. It is logically structured and readers will be guided with some choices to consider before creating personalised tasks for students.

Overall, the latest publication further supports previous series by Cambridge University Press associated with technology such as Language Learning with Technology or Language with Digital Video . If you are a teacher who is keen to develop confidence and techniques associated with online teaching or online courses, then this book would be one to get.

Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers

"50 Activities for the First Day of School": Book Review

It is the first time that I have attempted to do a book review via video before and I decided the lucky book would be “50 Activities for the First Day of School” by Walton Burns. Watch the video below to find out more about the book and whether it would be useful for teachers.

Again, please let me know what book reviews I should do in the future. Again, a huge thanks to everyone who has been supporting my YouTube Channel – I now have over 42,000 minutes of watch time and over 12,000 views on my Channel. So a huge thank you to everyone.

"Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers": Book Review

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I jumped at the chance, having been asked to review a new series of eBooks by Nik Peachey, as I have followed his blog (Nik’s Learning Technology Blog) for a while now. Nik’s award winning eBook, Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers“, is such an invaluable publication for those teachers who wish to develop their technical skills related to video with their language lessons. It has recently won the ELTons 2016 for Innovation in Teacher Resources, so you know you can’t go wrong with this book. Nevertheless, let’s look at the publication in more detail and see what you get for purchasing this eBook.

The first chapter is a short introduction and history to digital video within the language classroom. Within the introduction, Nik highlights the reasons for authoring and the aims of the eBook. After this initial short chapter, there is short contents list of what is included within the following ten chapters as well as a navigation towards particular chapters. For example, if you want to learn a bit more about editing videos the reader is guided towards chapter 3. However, should you want to learn more about getting students to creating video with their mobile phones then the reader is recommended to read chapter 7 to learn more about student created videos and chapter 8 for activity ideas. The second chapter, ‘Video & Task Design’, is focused on selecting video clips to supplement lessons. There are three parts connected to this chapter: Choosing a Task, Task Design and Culture in Video. The first part, Choosing a Task, recommends useful criteria to consider when choosing a video clip such as selecting interesting content, keeping clips short, cultural references or overall quality to name just a few with some reasoning behind this. The second part, Task Design, looks in great detail at in creating some highly engaging tasks related to the video clip. It is incredibly useful for teachers wishing to incorporate and create their own personal lessons with online video clips. The third part, Culture in Video, obviously focuses on video clips and how they can make students more aware of culture.

The next chapter, ‘Video Tutorials‘, focuses on basic tutorials for the reader with seven key parts included. These seven parts include Hosting Video OnlineDownloading VideoEmbedding VideoMuting AudioSubtitles and AnnotationsCreating QR Codes as well as Video Slideshows. Each tutorial includes a link or QR code – which can be scanned – to a video tutorial. Each of the seven tutorials include a rationale and things to consider. This chapter supports the reader every step of the way and by watching each video tutorial, the reader would feel more confident while dealing with video clips. Chapter 4, ‘Approaches to Learning’, focuses on the integration between technology and video clips and online learning. There are four parts to this chapter and these include Video & Blended LearningVideo & Flipped LearningVideo in Task Based Learning as well as Video in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). There is a substantial focus on Blended Learning with much information for readers to consider. However, with each section, the reader is provided with additional background detail.

The next chapter, ‘Comprehension Activities’, is broken down into 20 different lesson activities which aims to focus on developing listening and viewing comprehension. As with previous chapters, each lesson activity includes a step-by-step procedure which explains to the reader how to stage a selected lesson. Chapter 6, which is called ‘Video as Communication‘, focuses on the use of online video and developing communication with an audience. The chapter looks at the various benefits of online communication, possible challenges faced with online video communication, advice on a good internet connection as well as tips on using a webcam for recording video. These two chapters naturally lends itself to Chapter 7, ‘Creating Video‘. This chapter assists the reader by looking at the stages required to create a video. Nik covers a lot of ground in this chapter to assist in the stage of recording a video such as different camera angles, the use of storyboards, editing the video or getting people (such as the students) to collaborate. At the end of this chapter, Nik offers a selection of topics which could be incorporated into video with students.

With Chapter 8, ‘Creation Activities‘, Nik provides the reader with additional activities to assist teachers getting students to create a video with over twenty lesson ideas. There are so many wonderful ideas for readers to exploit for use in class and each suggested lesson includes the key objectives and rationale, the language focus as well as the stages and procedures of the activity. There are also included with all these lessons, additional links to websites and other resources for the reader to view. The last three chapters, Chapter 9, ‘Cool Tools & Tips‘, Chapter 10, ‘Application Reviews‘ and Chapter 11, ‘Resource Reviews‘ focuses more on websites, tablet or smartphone applications and graded readers for use in the classroom. There is such a wealth of information provided in the final few chapters, almost 250 pages dedicated, that it would take a reader a great deal of time to go through each application and try them out for use in class.

Despite my personal confidence with technology, much of which is self-taught, I have very little confidence with digital video and it is an area which I am currently focusing on developing, with further focus on my YouTube Channel. However, this eBook lends itself very well for both the technological adept as well as those that need just a little bit of support. I have gained so many ideas from this eBook and I cannot wait to incorporate some of them into my future lessons. “Digital Video” is worth that digital space on your digital library and is really suitable for teachers who really want to try out video in their class.

"When Vowels Get Together": Book Review

41EWbDRPBRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_When I first started teaching all those years ago, I was not so keen on the teaching of pronunciation or phonics. It was after I returned to the UK, that I decided to learn more about the teaching of pronunciation. I also attended a training session by Adrian Underhill on the use of the Phonemic Chart and discovered that the area of phonics and pronunciation is not so difficult after all. Fast forward a few years later, having read up on many pronunciation books, I found the use of vowel sounds and their spelling still quite unpredictable. It was quite a relief to receive a book, written by Bob Knowles, dedicated to the sounds of vowels.

This book is called, as one would expect, “When Vowels Get Together” and focuses on “the different ways that vowels pairs can be pronounced” (Knowles, p.1). I was unaware how unpredictable and ambiguous the English language can be, especially when it comes down to vowel pairs. In fact, the other day I came across a video on YouTube which demonstrated this perfectly.

For the First Chapter, Bob Knowles introduces the paperback version of “When Vowels Get Together” very well and introduces the reader to the considerations included within this publication. These include why the book was written, why readers should use the book, how readers could use the book as well as the differences between a paperback and electronic version – it is invaluable that this book is available in different formats.

 

Throughout the book, the author introduces the vowel sounds in a logical fashion, with readers being guided through vowel sounds beginning from ‘A’ all the way to ‘U’. With each vowel sound, there is an associated vowel pair in alphabetical order. For example, with the vowel sounds beginning with ‘A’, Knowles has incorporated spelling with all different variations of vowel pairs such as ‘aa’, ‘ae’, ‘ai’, ‘ao’ and ‘au’. With each dedicated chapter or sub-chapter, Knowles has created a wonderful table for the pronunciation variables with each vowel pair and their corresponding percentile for the respective pronunciation variables. Therefore, you may refer to page 20 and note that the vowel sound represented by the spelling of ‘ai’ will have a 68% chance of being pronounced with the sound of /eɪ/. There is a table also included with a variety of different spellings.

Each chapter focuses on the sounds from various different vowel pairs and Bob Knowles provides the information in an easy and logical format. You soon realise that almost all words are underlined in the tables throughout the chapters. Initially, I was unsure why these words were underlined but then you discover that in the eBook versions, there are links to the Macmillan Dictionary Online where a reader could tap on a word, they are then transported to the definition to the word as well as the pronunciation of the word. You also notice that this book has real potential as an eBook but unfortunately that is lost with the paperback version.

“When Vowels Get Together” is a fantastic book which helps the reader learn more about the relationship between varying vowel sounds and their respective vowel pairs. It can be usefully exploited by teachers for classroom use, and if teachers are keen to develop learner awareness of vowel sounds and spelling then this book is absolutely brilliant. I would recommend any teacher to have the chance to refer to this publication so that they learn more about the reason how particular words could be pronounced and for learners to make an educated choice when faced with a new word.

 

"Penny Ur's 100 Teaching Tips": EFL Magazine

Source: Originally published in EFL Magazine (Book Review: Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips)

I received a small package from Cambridge University Press last week and was eager to open it up and see what I had received. Sure enough, as I was expecting, my new copy of “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” had swiftly been delivered. My first reaction was, “wow such a small book” and then I started to look at it in more detail. I instantly realised that this book is not meant to focus extensively on English language teaching, but is solely a practical source of information for teachers in various areas of teaching. We already, for example, have books which focus on Classroom Management Techniques or lesson planning, and it is refreshing to read a book which cuts down on the waffle and offers readers practical and clear ideas to incorporate in class. Penny Ur has authored or co-authored many practical books before such as “Vocabulary Activities”, “Five Minute Activities”, “Teaching Listening Comprehension” as well as “Discussions that Work”. Incidentally, my favourite book in my early years of teaching was “Five Minute Activities” and there were so many practical ideas which I incorporated into my teaching. Nonetheless, let’s have a look at her latest publication.

The book is split between 21 chapters – these including the Introduction and Index – and cover a range of areas of teaching. Penny Ur’s introduction explains why she wrote the book, covers a little of her teaching career and inspires the reader to continue on. There are a lot of sub-chapters from the remaining 19 chapters and the Index allows the reader to easily find an area of teaching, such as error correction, picture dictation or speaking, easily accessible. These chapters are organised into the following:

Beginning and ending the lessonThe Coursebook

Discipline

Error correction

Games

Grammar

Group work

Heterogeneous classes

Homework

Interest

Listening

Pronunciation

Reading comprehension

Speaking activities

Teacher talk

Testing and assessment

Vocabulary teaching

Writing

P.S.

Each of the chapters, which offers the reader the opportunity to make an educated guess on the topic to read, has between four to seven teaching tips apart from the final chapter, ‘P.S.’. The author has written the book in such a way that teachers do not have to read it from cover-to-cover. Readers can decide on a topic and then get some inspiration from a particular area of teaching. For example, if you are interested in the area of teacher talking time, you could look at the contents list and refer to the 6 sub-chapters related to the chapter on ‘Teacher Talk’. These topics sub-chapters include:

  • Talk a lot
  • Keep eye contact
  • Tell stories
  • Teach common classroom language
  • Use mother tongue occasionally
  • Invite short responses

Should you decide to read more about telling stories, you can go to the relevant page. Each sub-chapter has a page worth of teaching tips, therefore there are 100 pages of teaching tips within this book. Each teaching tip is easy to digest as there is not too much information on the page with a suitable sub-heading which encapsulates the topic effectively. For example on the subchapter on ‘Tell stories’, there is inspiring piece of sub-heading:

“One excellent way of exposing students to spoken English through teacher talk is storytelling – not only for young learners.” (p.94)

Further down the page there is additional teaching tips and techniques which the reader could easily incorporate into their own classes, such as using a picture-book with young learners to tell a story, using online video versions to support your story, as well as using jokes or other strange events to support the telling of stories and also keep students’ attention. This is one example from the many practical ideas within “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips”. All tips are broken down into an easy-to-read format and inspires the reader an opportunity to incorporate these invaluable ideas.

The major advantage to this book is that it is also downloadable as well as being available in paperback. The digital formats available include Apple iBook, Google ebook, Kindle ebook and an eBooks.com ebook. So if you wish to purchase this but are unable to purchase a paperback copy, you can purchase it in a digital format. It is not going to be a thorough book on all aspects of English language teaching as this is not what it is focused on. It is a book on the areas of teaching which are more pertinent to teachers and offers a number of ideas which readers could use or tweak if they should wish. As Penny Ur mentioned in her introduction, readers should not “regard [the teaching tips] as directives from an authority, but as suggestions from a colleague” (p.viii). The reader is encouraged to use the tips and techniques selectively.

Actually, this book reminds me of the teaching tips nearer the back of Jim Scrivener’s “Learning Teaching” where there were a number of recommendations for teachers to consider on all aspects of language teaching. I was so inspired by some of these statements by Scrivener that I typed them up on a computer, printed them out, cut these up and laminated them. These self-made flashcards are with me to remind about teaching which can so easily be forgotten. But I am also pleased to say that the book will also be with me so that I am able to get ideas for teaching.

I recommend “Penny Ur’s 100 Teaching Tips” for any English teacher as this book is a wonderful reference book for those seeking a quick technique with regards to an area of teaching. I can see teachers referring to this book if there class observation highlights a few areas to focus on for next time.

There are more resources available for those wishing to learn more about Penny Ur’s latest publication here:

"The Ultimate Guide to CELTA": Book Review

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Last week, I was contacted by Amanda Momeni about receiving a book about the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course. For those that are unaware, the CELTA is a recognisable four week full-time (as well as nine week part-time) course for those that wish to pursue a career in English language teaching, either in their home country or abroad. It is recognised as an intensive course and puts all trainees through their paces. When I took the CELTA course nearly ten years ago, the Director of the British Council in Seoul mentioned it was the equivalent of a boot camp for English language teachers and I agree to a point. It is incredibly tough.

Anyhow, I received “The Ultimate Guide to CELTA”, written by Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, and I was naturally curious about how someone would attempt to encapsulate the course within 113 pages. It was first published in 2013,  is available in paperback as well as in Kindle format and is a wonderful example of two English language teaching professionals, Amanda Momeni and Emma Jones, authoring and publishing their own work. The fantastic drawings are by Kate Hoffmann and are plentiful throughout the book. I was immediately curious about the Glossary (p.107-112) as there is an alphabetical list of acronyms written down which trainees are introduced to during the CELTA course. For example, if you wish to know what TTT means, flick through to page 112. Want to know what ICQ means, go to page 110 to find out. It is a useful index of acronyms for trainees undertaking the CELTA. Looking at the Contents, there are 19 chapters throughout the book – including Glossary. Each chapter follows a methodical and logical pattern with readers being guided through each area of the CELTA course. The chapters are as follows:

  • Meet the Trainees
  • Course Content
  • Getting Accepted
  • Preparing for the Course
  • Trainee Diary Entries Day 1
  • Organising Your Time
  • Input Sessions
  • Lesson Planning
  • Teaching Practice
  • Feedback
  • Self Evaluation
  • Tutorials
  • Peer Observation
  • Written Assignments
  • Observations of Experienced Teachers
  • The Final Day
  • Trainee Diary Entries Day 21
  • Five Years Later
  • Glossary

In the first chapter, ‘Meet the Trainees’, the reader is introduced to four fictitious characters named Harassed Henry (a gentleman who has been made redundant and has decided to undertake the course), Fastidious Felicity (a lady who has followed her husband on his career and is now deciding to do the CELTA), Chilled-out Charlie (a chap who happened by chance to do the CELTA course after a gap year before university) and Anxious Annie (a lady who has just graduated from university and is seeking employment yet appears worried about the exposure that she will face during the CELTA). All names include an imaginative adjective preceding their name and you can start to imagine the different type of people that CELTA trainers may encounter during the course.

Chapters two, ‘Course Content’, is quite short having a fictitious conversation between Harassed Henry and his wife, Pleasant Pat about the content of the CELTA, the criteria for passing as well as what the course includes. The fourth chapter, ‘Getting Accepted’, guides the reader through basic questions for potential CELTA candidates to consider, such as “Am I fully committed, and able to dedicate 100% of my time to a full-time course?” or “Have I got the PC skills to manage basic programmes, such as Word?”. It offers possible trainees the chance to reflect on whether the CELTA is suitable for them. Other parts of this chapter include the application procedure, the language awareness test and the interview. It offers invaluable advice for those that are considering the CELTA and areas to consider during the application process.

The fourth chapter, named ‘Preparing for the Course’, suggests ideas for  the possible trainee to consider prior to commencing the CELTA course. There is a recommendation by the authors about what they suggest as a ‘sleep bank’ and filling up on your rest prior to the course. There is also a helpful checklist at the end of this short chapter for readers to consider. The following chapter focuses on Day 1 of the CELTA course and I can relate much of my own experience to this. All fictitious characters include a diary insert about  their first day of the course and their own opinions. It is an interesting idea and allows readers to reflect on their own first day – had they also graduated from the CELTA. The following chapter, ‘Organising Your Time’, provides readers with some highlights of those well-known characters from the book – if you have completed the CELTA course, you will start to recognise particular traits with other trainees who were present during your course – as well as invaluable tips to consider when organising your personal time, such as ensuring that one is aware of deadlines for written assignments, not leaving anything to the last minute or keeping your CELTA portfolio up-to-date. It is a useful chapter and one that readers of the CELTA course will quickly start to realise when managing their own time.

Unfortunately, for me when I undertook the CELTA course in Seoul, I had an hour and a half commute to the Training Centre. This meant that I had to wake up at 5am, catch the first bus to the train station, catch a train to Seoul and then get a tube to the Centre. Then I had another commute back home where I prepared my lessons till the late hours of the evening. It was one thing that I would not recommend anyone to consider and if I were in a different position, I would recommend anyone to be closer to the Training Centre. I had very little time to waste and much of it was dedicated to the course, so much of what is mentioned in the book is very different to my own personal experiences but I can relate them to those that were on the course with me. There were individuals who were working incredibly hard during the course, and were juggling their own time throughout their four weeks. The weekend is also a time to unwind and relax, as well as catch up on that much needed ‘sleep bank’.

The additional chapters throughout the book are wonderfully written, guiding the reader every step of the way with advice on the actual teaching practice, the input sessions, writing the lesson plans or the written assignments of the CELTA course with delightful illustrations supplementing each chapter. The chapter before last, ‘Trainee Diary Entries Day 21’, is a well written conclusion for those that have completed the CELTA. I can relate well to this chapter as I remember finishing the course with all my other trainees and being invited out for something to eat and drink with them. It was a wonderful chance to relax after such an intense and tough course. The final chapter, named ‘Five Years Later’, looks at predictably at all CELTA trainee characters from the book and where they are now. Each character has moved on from the initial course, each carving out fictitious careers paths in the whole world of English language teaching. I recommend readers to leave the final chapter until they have read the entire book as it would spoil the benefits that this chapter has to offer. In fact, I would recommend those that are doing a CELTA course to leave this chapter until they have written their five year plan. Ideally, readers should leave this chapter all together after five years and reflect back at their five year plan from the CELTA course. I remember from my course that I wrote that I wanted to focus on teaching Military English, become more involved in Examining and teach more adult language learners having taught primarily to young learners. How things have turned out.

The book is aimed at potential trainees for the CELTA and offers some incredibly valuable tips to consider while undertaking the course. One aspect would make the chapters more accessible were if they had been numbered. Each chapter, although not a problem, seems to seemingly cross to the next chapter but perhaps it would make sense for readers to have some signposting when introduced to a new chapter. If you have completed the CELTA and would like to reminisce about it, I would recommend this book as it would offer the reader a chance to think back about what they had undertook and what was included. It was a very memorable event and reading back on  all stages of the course, leaves me with fond memories. This book helped reflect on these. Finally, it is by no means a single book which helps the trainees throughout the course, they still need to do the hard work and there is  all the other recommended reading for CELTA trainees to consider purchasing as well. This is a supplementary book which is solely focused on the CELTA course and I wish it had been around when I took the CELTA all those years ago. I’d recommend the book for those that are considering doing the course and would like to discover what is involved in the CELTA. It is also a light-hearted look at the course and supports graduates from the CELTA to reminisce.

“Film in Action: Teaching language using moving images”: Book Review

The book review was originally published in EFL Magazine on 12 June 2015.

“FILM IN ACTION: TEACHING LANGUAGE USING MOVING IMAGES”: BOOK REVIEW

Film in Action book coverTeachers around the world attempt to engage their learners using various methods, one of which is the use of video in the classroom. When reflecting on video, I remember, within my first year of teaching, attempting to get all the young learners motivated by watching a cartoon or child-friendly movie. However, I was fresh out of ideas on how to exploit it in an educational manner. What I tended to do was just wheel out the TV and DVD player into the classroom and hit the play button. We would all just sit there and watch the DVD, totally immersed within the video with very little educational benefit. Now with the development and popularity of online video distribution websites, as well as smart mobile filming devices, teachers are now in the position to motivate and engage their learners with the language of English via the medium of video.

It now seems fitting that the latest publication from the DELTA Teacher Development Series attempts to illustrate the educational benefit by which teachers, and their learners, could use video to supplement the teaching of English. “Film in Action” (2015), written by Kieran Donaghy, is a wonderful resource for teachers seeking further ideas on how to exploit video inside and outside the classroom with their learners. As with previous publications from the DELTA Teacher Development Series, you can expect three parts to this book: Part A, Part B and, if you hazard a guess, Part C. Within Part A, Kieran attempts to answer six key questions related to:

  • The role of film within society;
  • Film within education;
  • The relationship between film and literacy in the twenty-first century;
  • The importance of the young analysing and creating their own personal films;
  • The educational benefits of creating moving images; as well as
  • Strategies to using films inside and outside of the classroom.

Each focus is clearly written, with reference to further reading in the bibliography, which guides the reader towards the relationship between education, film and teaching. The final focus of Part A – using film in the classroom – offers some invaluable and reflective tips for using feature films or short films in creative and educationally rewarding ways. Part A offers the reader websites related to short films, general film resources as well as additional lesson plans and projects.

Part B, which offers a wealth of lesson ideas, is split into two chapters: Chapter One focuses on learners actively watching film with the aim of improving their language skills as well as developing their visual literacy, while Chapter Two offers concepts of lessons designed to encourage learners to actively produce their own film with a focus on English. Chapter One, which contain in total 68 lesson ideas, in the predictable lesson structure which is clear, methodical and well organised. This simple and effective process, as with all of the DELTA Teacher Development Series, offer readers inspired lessons to incorporate films within the classroom. All the lesson ideas in this section are further split into 8 other categories related to actively watching film: exploring film (7 lesson ideas), exploiting moving images (12 lesson ideas), exploiting still images (7 lesson ideas), exploiting sound (12 lesson ideas), exploiting music (4 lesson ideas), analysing characters (8 lesson ideas), analysing scripts (8 lesson ideas) as well as exploring new film genres (10 lesson ideas).

Chapter Two, within Part B, focuses on learners producing and creating their own films in an educational manner. It is, again, clearly organized using the DELTA Publishing formula. The focus of learners actively producing their own films, of which there are 43 lessons, is split into three main areas: creating narrative (15 lesson ideas), creating images and sounds (9 lesson ideas) and creating moving images (19 lesson ideas). One of my favourite lesson ideas, within Chapter Two, Part B, is getting learners to create a ‘how to’ video. Kieran has written a wonderful lesson plan which naturally develops towards students creating their very own ‘how to’ video. The lesson itself is incredibly powerful as students are no longer restricted by the topic. They can work together to create a video, which can then be played back to the rest of the class.

There is a natural development towards Part C, which considers the adoption of a ‘three C’ approach to film: Cultural access, Critical understanding and Creative activity. Kieran considers exploiting the three Cs approach, within Part C, by considering four projects which readers could incorporate within their classroom: the film club, film circles, film chronicles, and the film course. With these four considerations, which any language institution could incorporate to supplement language courses, the author highlights very important aspects to consider. For example, with a film club the reader is reminded to consider equipment required, the environment, legal implications as well as selecting appropriate films. Additional resources and lesson ideas are offered for readers in the final Part, with readers feeling motivated to attempt film projects with their educational institution.

The book itself covers a variety of areas with film in the classroom in a well-defined and logical fashion that naturally guides the reader towards different aspects to consider when incorporating film in the classroom. Readers will gain confidence and inspiration when incorporating ideas suggested by Kieran Donaghy. There is such a wealth of recommended websites and links that it can initially seem daunting for any reader. Yet, with enough perseverance and determination, these websites can support and complement the lesson ideas. “Film in Action” is a vital book for those teachers wishing to incorporate film in the classroom with some stimulating and rewarding ideas for lessons. It would have saved me countless times when I incorporated film in the classroom.