Knowing how much I love engaging and effective exam preparation materials, Peter Clements kindly asked me to review his latest book, which he co-authored with Paul Murphy, so here goes!
IELTS Reading Practice: Academic, published by Prosperity Education, is aimed at students preparing to take, you guessed it, the IELTS Academic exam. While it specifically focuses on the reading tasks found in the exam, that’s not to say that it scrimps on opportunities for practicing other skills and exam tasks. You can buy the book through the link below and also check out their other exam preparation materials:
The book is divided into 14 units, each of which examines a specific task type from the exam, ranging from tasks such as matching headings and true, false, not mentioned through to other IELTS staples like the table/flow chart/diagram completion tasks.
Each unit is divided into three two-page sections which follow a logical sequence with appropriate levels of scaffolding:
Think and prepare
The first part aims to activate students knowledge of the topic of the upcoming reading texts and also develop their understanding of some key lexis that will both be required later and also prove useful to students’ general communicative competence.
Here is an example of the “think” section:
You’ll notice that students are also directed to the bank of extra activities at the back of the book, where, in this case, they will find a topic card based on IELTS speaking part 2 covering the same topic as the unit. This is just one example of how the book offers teachers scope for planning varied, engaging, topic-based lessons, something that can be difficult to find in published exam preparation materials.
Students then move onto the “prepare” phase, which comprises short activities focusing on key topical lexis:
Students are led through a definition match activity followed by some controlled practice:
And finally some discussion questions:
While the structure may get repetitive – the same series of activities is repeated in each unit – it’s hard to argue with the logic of the stages and it’s one I use myself all the time so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The lexis chosen is extremely relevant to the topic and pitched at the perfect register. Aside from aiding students’ comprehension of the upcoming texts, they are exactly the kinds of expressions candidates will be expected to produce in the writing and speaking parts of the exam.
There are also extra activities for this section which act as nice learner training exercises to nudge students towards good habits such as effective note-taking:
I was particularly drawn to this example of a graphic organiser. Students are encouraged to make notes on specific lexis and also associate it with an image, something I’ve been experimenting with in my own exam preparation classes.
I feel like activities like this can be extremely valuable for students who haven’t developed good study skills or learning habits; the examples in the book are clear, simple and can be easily replicated.
In the next section of each unit students are presented with a shorter version of the given reading task, along with an action plan and strategies. They are then encouraged to reflect on the efficacy of the plan and their own performance.
Students first do an introductory skimming task, for example:
They are then walked through an action plan for the task stage by stage:
Put it to the test
Finally, students are let loose on a full-length example exam task in order to put their newfound strategies into practice. The book contains 14 full-length texts, one for each task type. However, it doesn’t end there, in the extra activities section you will find one additional task for each of the 14 texts. These extra activities focus on a different task type, so for example, students could work on a true/false/not mentioned task in class and then complete a headings match task based on the same text for homework. In the back of the book there are also additional post-reading vocabulary tasks for each of the full length texts. This means that each of the texts is fully exploited.
Task information & tips
The book also contains a detailed analysis of each of the tasks and specific, detailed tips for approaching each one. I was particularly impressed by the rationales given for each tip:
I particularly liked the example of drawing students’ attention to topic sentences in paragraphs for the heading match task.
As you can probably already tell, I was really impressed by the book for a number of reasons:
Ease of use
Flicking through the pages as a teacher, I can immediately form a lesson plan in my head for a 90 minute class on each unit plus at least one homework task. I know it’s all there and I can pick and choose the order based on my students. I know they’re going to get lots of valuable exam practice and I can spin off into speaking tasks or vocab recall games when their motivation starts to wane towards the end of the class.
Topic-based exam prep
I know I’ve already mentioned it but it bears repeating, in exam prep classes it can be difficult to stick to the themed/topic-based classes we know we should be teaching, especially when there’s a big scary official exam looming. I know that IELTS and the Cambridge main suite exams are different beasts, but in my experience, intensive exam technique-focused prep classes for the Advanced and Proficiency can end up feeling like a poorly assembled patchwork quilt of different themes and topics due to the range of different texts students have to tackle. However, in this book the topics hold equal billing with the task type, which surely helps make for more cohesive classes and also aids students’ assimilation of the lexis.
Fully exploited texts
With the time constraint associated with exam preparation classes, it can sometimes feel overindulgent to linger for too long on a reading text to really drill down into it and exploit it for all its worth. The way this book manages to combine that impulse with further exam practice and vocab activities is really ingenious, hats off!
Clear strategies with clear rationale
It can be difficult to get students to take exam techniques and strategies on board, some can be stuck in their ways or view them as waste of time. The detail and rationale behind each strategy presented here make them easy to follow with plenty of opportunities to put them into practice straightaway.
In short, if you’re teaching IELTS Academic, get yourself a copy! Here are the details:
IELTS Reading Practice: Academic | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy
Who is to blame for the falling rate of vaccinations, according to the video report?
Do the British public trust health care professionals?
Where does the British Health Secretary stand on making vaccinations compulsory?
How is the British government planning to stop the spread of fake news about vaccines?
Watch the video again and listen for the words in the gaps below. Discuss the meaning of the words or phrases in the gaps.
Teacher tip → Play twice if necessary.
In the UK it’s _________ parents whether their child gets vaccinated for measles
But if we want to _________ measles outbreaks don’t spread, we need ninety five percent of the public to be vaccinated
But why are we so _________ about measles right now?
More than half a million children in the UK _________ on the MMR jab between 2010 and 2017
Some ________________ what’s known as the anti-vax movement
Many worry that the MMR jab can cause autism, a theory ___________ from the British former doctor Andrew Wakefield
In 1998, he published a paper claiming there was a link, but his results were later completely _________ and he was __________ the doctors’ register.
___________, Public Health England believes social media isn’t a major factor
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to _________ children being kept out of schools if they haven’t been vaccinated against measles, but infection experts have said that this drastic solution could ________ a rise in the anti-vaxxer
… to remove any post promoting false or misleading information about ______, like MMR.
In the UK it’s up to parents whether their child gets vaccinated for measles. Last year 87% of children received their full dose of MMR; that stands for measles mumps and rubella. That number sounds pretty high, right? But if we want to ensure measles outbreaks don’t spread, we need ninety five percent of the public to be vaccinated. This is called herd immunity. But why are we so concerned about measles right now? Measles is one of the most contagious diseases; it can cause brain damage, blindness, and it can even be fatal. And now in England cases are rising. They’ve nearly quadrupled in the last year, going from 259 in 2017 to 966 in 2018. More than half a million children in the UK missed out on the MMR jab between 2010 and 2017, and each year the number of those being vaccinated is dropping. So why are vaccination rates falling? Well it’s not just the UK. In America 2.6 million children have gone unvaccinated. Some put this down to what’s known as the anti-vax movement. Anti-vaxxers believed that certain vaccines are not safe. Many worry that the MMR jab can cause autism, a theory stemmed from the British former doctor Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published a paper claiming there was a link, but his results were later completely debunked and he was struck off the doctors’ register. Since then the National Autistic Society has said there is no link between autism and the vaccine, but the scare story still continues to spread. Go online in search of information around vaccinations and you’ll find social media is awash with anti-vaccination propaganda. But is the anti-vax movement to blame? Actually, Public Health England believes social media isn’t a major factor. It’s surveyed parents and found that 93% viewed health care professionals as the most trusted source of information on immunization. In fact, public health England think the key to better vaccination rates is sending out reminders to parents and making GP appointments more convenient so that vaccinations can actually happen. So what can be done to increase vaccinations? Well, in France vaccinating children became a legal requirement last year. Could that be adopted here? Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out children being kept out of schools if they haven’t been vaccinated against measles, but infection experts have said that this drastic solution could fuel a rise in the anti-vaxxer movement. For the moment the governor plans to stop the spread of fake news by introducing legislation that would force social media companies, like Facebook, to remove any post promoting false or misleading information about jabs, like MMR.
Debate – Set up – Jigsaw Reading
Discuss with your partner or group whether your point is for or against compulsory vaccination. Then, summarize the main ideas to present them to the rest of the class.
Teacher tip → there are 12 statements in total: 3 PRO, 3 AGAINST, and each of their counterpoints. This activity can be structured in many ways depending on class size, level and time constraints. Here is a suggested way of structuring the activity:
Jigsaw Reading Phase 1:
Cut up the texts; keep points and counterpoints separate.
Split class into pairs or groups of 3 depending on numbers. Ideally you want either 3 or 6 groups.
Give out one point to each pair/group. Don’t give out the counterpoints for now.
Instruct students to read their text and first decide if it is a arguing for or against compulsory vaccination. Have for/against columns on the board and keep track of the points. Students could even come to the board to write their points in the column.
Have students reread their texts and summarize it in their own words.
Clear up any doubts about meaning.
Students present their summaries to the class.
Jigsaw Reading Phase 2:
Now tell students that you have counterpoints to each of the points they’ve just looked at.
Give out the counterpoint texts to each group randomly.
Students must now match their counterpoint to the previous points from phase 1 and then summarize it for the class.
Clear up any doubts about meaning.
Have students look at the underlined words and phrases in the texts they’ve looked at; have them infer meaning from context and take note of collocations and useful expressions.
You can now conduct a class debate on the topic. Divide the class into two teams and decide which team will argue for and against compulsory vaccination. Encourage students to include their own ideas and opinions as well as the points and counterpoints previously studied. You can structure the debate in many ways. Follow the link below for language for debating and suggested debate structures: https://freeenglishlessonplans.com/2017/11/17/debating-at-higher-levels/
POINTS FOR COMPULSORY VACCINATION
It’s the state’s duty to protect its community
In an industrialized country such as the USA, unvaccinated people were 35-times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated ones; in developing countries where these viruses are still endemic, the risk would be considerably higher. After a scare about possible side effects of the MMR jab, in 2008 there was a drop in voluntary vaccinations in a part of London (Lewisham). In that part of London only 64.3 % of children were vaccinated and in that year the district accounted for one third of all South-East London measles cases. Unless there is a 95 % vaccination, there is a great threat to public health of infection outbreaks. It is therefore the role and duty of the state to understand these issues and possible threats and provide protection and care, in this case, in the form of immunization.
Voluntary immunization should be enough
Compulsory vaccination is an example of the tyranny of the majority even if it is coming from a democratic government. And in a community that praises itself as democratic and respectful to wishes of others it is in no way acceptable that the rights of some get abused by the wishes of others. Besides, The United Kingdom does not have a system of compulsory health care, but disease outbreaks are still prevented due to the voluntary immunizations. The pediatrician Miriam Fine-Goulden explains: “The risk of contracting these infections is only so low at present because the voluntary uptake of immunizations has been high enough (in most cases) to reduce the chance of contact with those organisms through the process of herd immunity.”
Duty to protect children
Each year millions of children worldwide die of preventable diseases before the age of five. The argument presented here is that the state needs to protect the child and immunize him or her from preventable diseases as obviously the child does not have the capabilities at this stage to make informed decisions of their own. The United Nations Right to Liberty and Security of the Person treaty, article 6.2 supports this view – State Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
Forcing parents to vaccinate could backfire
The key issue at stake here is who gets to decide about the healthcare needs of children – the authorities or parents? Critics of enforced vaccinations argue that it may have the opposite effect to that desired, and end up demonizing parental choice. Indeed, adopting compulsory vaccinations can be counter-productive, causing concerned parents to withdraw their kids from school and entrenching anti-vaccination sentiment.
Compulsory vaccines are a financial relief on health system
Commonly used vaccines are a cost-effective and preventive way of promoting health, compared to the treatment of acute or chronic disease. In the U.S. during the year 2001, routine childhood immunizations against seven diseases were estimated to save over $40 billion per birth-year cohort in overall social costs including $10 billion in direct health costs, and the societal benefit-cost ratio for these vaccinations was estimated to be $16.5 billion. Additionally, if less people get sick, productivity rates remain high and less money is destined to social and health programs.
The cost of vaccines is itself high
Vaccines themselves are expensive to develop in the lab and to mass-produce for widespread compulsory vaccination programs. The cost of developing a vaccine—from research and discovery to product registration—is estimated to be between $200 million and $500 million per vaccine. In addition to these upfront costs, organizing compulsory vaccination programs across an entire country can be very complicated and expensive. For instance, mechanisms must be set in place to ensure that the program is indeed compulsory, which means establishing a database of those that have and have not received the vaccine.
POINTS AGAINST COMPULSORY VACCINATION
Compulsory vaccination violates the individuals’ right to bodily integrity
In most countries and declarations, one of the most basic human rights is the one to bodily integrity. It sets down that you have a right not to have your body or person interfered with. This means that the State may not do anything to harm your body without consent. The NHS (National Health Service) explains: “You must give your consent (permission) before you receive any type of medical treatment, from a simple blood test to deciding to donate your organs after your death. If you refuse a treatment, your decision must be respected.” In the case of vaccination this principle should be also applied.
Social responsibility trumps individual rights
The problem with the idea of “individual rights” is that those refusing vaccines on account of this effectively violate the same right for other people if, and when, there is an outbreak of the disease against which the vaccine is protecting. Those who wish to opt-out of vaccination (often on behalf of their children, who have no say in the matter) are classic free riders, hoping to benefit from the more responsible behavior of the rest of society. As it is assumed that most of society see it as a responsibility and a duty to protect others.
It is a parental right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child
Through birth, the child and the parent have a binding agreement that is supported within the society. This agreement involves a set of rights and duties aimed at, and justified by, the welfare of the child. As custodian, the parent is under the obligation to work and organize his or her life around the welfare and development of the child, for the child’s sake. Therefore, the parent is endowed with a special kind of authority over the child. If the parent believes the child will be safer and better off in society without being given vaccine it is the parent’s right to decide not to give vaccination to the child.
Parents do not have absolute rights to decide for their children
An adult vaccine refusal and a parental vaccine refusal are not the same. Parents do not have absolute right to put their child at a risk even if they themselves are willing to accept such a risk for him or herself. Minors have a right to be protected against infectious diseases and society has the responsibility to ensure welfare of children who may be harmed by their parents’ decisions. As seen not to vaccine children can represent a danger for their future, there should be no ultimate power of parents to prevent vaccine jabs.
Vaccines have severe side effects
Some of the used vaccines may have severe side effects, therefore we should let every individual assess the risk and make choices on their own. Besides introducing foreign proteins and even live viruses into the bloodstream, each vaccine has its own preservative, neutralizer and carrying agent. Evidence also suggests that immunizations damage the immune system itself, because vaccines trick the body so that it will no longer initiate a generalized response. In addition, the long-term persistence of viruses and other foreign proteins within the cells of the immune system has been implicated in a number of chronic diseases, such as allergies. Moreover, MMR vaccines may cause a child who is genetically predisposed to have autism, due to the Thimerosal, which is a compound that contains mercury.
Lack of evidence for prevalence of severe side effects
First of all, many of the arguments suggesting vaccination is dangerous refer to observations from the 60s or 70s. Since then, more recent studies have reported no link between MMR vaccines and autism. Similarly, a 2011 study from the German Health Institute comparing the prevalence of allergies and infections in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and teenagers, concluded that there was no difference between them, other than the frequency of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as mumps or measles.
The text was reproduced and adapted from http://www.idebate.org with the permission of the International Debate Education Association.