Something to Say
Tessa Woodward and Seth Lindstromberg
Helbling Languages 2014
Something to Say is a photocopiable resource book of fun speaking activities aimed at older teens and adults from upper-elementary to advanced levels. The activities include some which are material-free, but the majority have A4-sized class handouts with detailed teachers’ notes. The activities cover a wide range of themes from pronunciation to interviews, and from riddles to grammar questionnaires. There are also different versions of each to cater for different levels. At first glance, the handouts looked rather dull: only black and white text with no images, illustrations or variety in fonts. The format also seemed very ‘samey’, with the majority having quite long numbered or bulleted lists, and my initial reaction was that they might not be particularly accessible or motivating for students. However, taking a closer look, the content really made up for the appearance. The activities are funny, engaging, surprising and really get students talking and laughing.
I used the ‘Expressive intonation’ tasks with a teenage group and they loved it. They were soon producing really great language, with a range of intonation and expression I hadn’t heard before.
As a bonus, they had a great deal of fun! Similarly, I used the ‘Surprising questions’ activity with an adult class and they were both challenged and motivated, producing spontaneous and natural utterances with minimum input from me. There really isn’t much more a busy teacher could ask from an extra speaking skills resource.
In addition, Something to Say includes very comprehensive teachers’ notes, with ideas for adapting the material, correcting the students and for follow-up activities or lessons. All of these ideas were incredibly practical, easy to understand and really seemed to maximise the output of the minimalist handouts. As stated in the introduction, the demand placed on students is relatively low, as written prompts form the basis of all handouts. This provides a lot of support for weaker and less confident students and is a useful building block for classes whom you may want to challenge further in follow-up lessons or activities.
On the whole, Something to Say provides material to boost students’ speaking skills that is entertaining, original and very well-thought-out. In their introduction, Woodward and Lindstromberg state that the material’s fundamental aim is to ‘engage students in lots of meaningful talk while saving time for teachers’ – which is exactly what it does.