Author: Sue Sherman
Publisher: Insight Publications, 2011, 140 pages
With twenty units and several other learning resources, Insight English Skills 9 provides many class activities for a relatively low price.
Each unit consists of three parts: interpretation of a text, understanding the language of it, and creating a text in response. Texts range from paintings (John Brack’s Collins St, 5p.m.) and symbols (Australian national flag) to news articles, poetry and cartoons.
The varied nature of this textbook makes it useful for supplementary activities throughout pre-planned class units or ready-to-go ‘last minute’ activities.
For example, the unit on sustainability – which includes a cartoon by Ron Tandberg – could be used during a unit on persuasive texts. Students are guided through seventeen comprehension questions, which progressively require more analysis. There are semi-completed tables so that students can see persuasive techniques and structures in another format, and a final section that requires students to either create a cartoon, song, picture book or persuasive piece. The variety of assessment tasks (which is a feature throughout the textbook) means that all students should feel confident with at least one of the tasks on offer. At the end of the unit, there is a reflection activity for students.
The unit on punctuation could be used as a stand-alone lesson or as part of a wider unit of grammar. Again, there are several comprehension questions, diagrams, creative tasks, and reflection opportunities.
While some units are text-specific (The Book Thief, Lord of the Flies, Pride and Prejudice), the activities remain based on concepts or features of writing, meaning that students do not necessarily need to know the text to complete the activity. For instance, activities on The Book Thief focus on repetition, theme, setting, metaphor and tone (amongst others).
The learning resources section cover topics from class discussions (how to appropriately participate, how to work in groups) to common spelling errors with tips. Sentence structure is also covered, but many students will struggle to understand such concepts without them being contextualised.
Lastly, a glossary is offered for all key words – a valuable resource for students.
This textbook is probably best used sporadically – not due to poor quality, but instead so that students can pick-up these condensed but essential English lessons throughout their studies and as a supplement to their regular class work. While there isn’t any ‘groundbreaking’ material or particularly innovative activities here, it is a useful resource for middle school students who are seeking to master the basics.