Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Review: 52

“This book is not for everyone.”

That is how the first offering from Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings’s e-publishing initiative The Round kicks off - a simple and yet challenging statement that sets the tone perfectly for this collection of ‘subversive activity for the language classroom’.

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For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, The Round is a new addition to the ELT publishing world, which dares to be a little bit different. It aims to ‘bridge the gap between blogs and books’ while also offering a fair deal to authors and readers.

52 also dares to be a little bit different by focusing on ‘the kind of stuff that doesn’t usually get past the publishers’ radar’. The activities openly embrace social and political issues that are often ignored by mainstream coursebooks and resource books. Indeed, the acronym PARSNIP which is often used to list the kind of topics that should be avoided in the language classroom (Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms and Pork) is actually the basis of one of the activities! There is an important message here - we should not assume what is and is not suitable for our classes. Rather, we should include our students by opening up the discussion to them and finding out what they think should (not) feature in their lessons.

But the book is more than just a collection of controversial discussion topics. There are also activities that ask the learner to reflect on why and how they learn (such as one of my favourites which encourages them to prepare ‘cheat sheets’ ahead of a test but actually results in them studying in a more systematic way as they do so!) as well as activities that encourage students (and teachers) to look at traditional tasks from a different perspective (for example, the daily routine of an innocent person in jail or role-playing someone arriving in a foreign country only to find their luggage has been sent to the wrong place). There are activities for teachers too, encouraging them to try something different such as teaching from a different area of the classroom or to reflect on their beliefs about best practice.

The book is a little on the short side (the whole thing can be read cover to cover in about half an hour) but that is in part down to the concise way the activities are presented. There is a welcome lack of detail or rigid step-by-step stages to follow. There are also no ‘suggested levels’ and no ‘target language’ (as you might expect with one of the co-authors of Teaching Unplugged involved) which means many of the activities are flexible and adaptable, even to someone like me who works with young learners.

Speaking of which, I am currently plotting with one of my classes to create posters with subversive educational slogans to be stuck on the walls around the school. Other classes have been discussing and deciding how to re-arrange their classrooms and what additional facilities they think are needed and I’m trying to persuade one of the senior teachers in the department to come in to one to answer the students’ suggestions of how to improve the school. This is definitely a resource you can keep coming back for ideas and inspiration.

So, yes, this book is not for everyone…. but if you are willing to experiment in the classroom or you are looking for a breath of fresh air in your teaching routine, it might well be for you. Smile

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image52 by Lindsay Clandfield and Luke Meddings is available in Kindle and e-pub formats. See The Round’s website for details. 

Also, check out the 52 blog www.subversive52.wordpress.com for more subversive ideas.

8 comments:

  1. I like the message it sends out to teachers which is 'you can push the boundaries and do risky but pertinent topics'. Some of us who are perhaps apprehensive about doing this can now feel supported by the growing trend that this book represents.

    It also shows that our models and procedures are stale and need reinvigorating to keep them interesting. It's like those Borg things on Star Trek that can only be shot at 3 times before they adapt. The students get used to and bored of the same things year after year. 52 shows us that we can adapt and mix things up and it is actually better to do it than to just trudge through the same old things.Also check out the blog!

    Phil Wade

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    1. I like anything that challenges assumptions. Too often in ELT and education in general we hear things like "that's too risky for the classroom" or "that'll never work with our students" - it's always good to test those statements out before deciding (not) to do something.

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  2. Many thanks for your another inspiring post.I'm going to read the book:)
    Dilek Gokce

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  3. Hi Dave

    Just seen this (got there a bit late) - thank you very much and we are both honoured you liked it! It's the first of many short books from the round, we hope. Well, not just short books but long books, curious books, different books... and eventually one of your books? :-)

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    1. I hope it's the first of many!! I am also looking forward to future titles, especially Özge and Jennifer's book.

      One of my books? I'll be in touch ;)

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  4. I think I'll talk about Pork in my next lesson. =) I have to check out this title shortly.

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    1. Or elicit the word by walking in munching on a big bacon sandwich ;)

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