An exclusive review on the title ‘In my Opinion’ by Phil Keegan


In My Opinion                                    

Title: In My Opinion

Author: Phil Keegan

Publisher: ELB Publishing

Reviewed by: Alex Warren, Academic Director, British Study Centres, Bournemouth                      

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement

As educators we’re always looking to encourage students to speak as much as possible and so by that virtue always on the lookout for new, quality supplementary speaking and conversation material. With its roots firmly planted in the principles of communicative language teaching and supporting a natural approach, Phil Keegan’s In My Opinion fits the bill admirably well.

Aimed at intermediate and above level students, In My Opinion provides discussion tasks on a wide-range of different topics – 50 in total. These vary from the more common topics such as sports (34), friendship (15), music (23) and work (19) to more abstract topics including discussions on privacy (48), religion (29) and politics (26). There are also more advanced, controversial topics such as drinking and drugs (32, 33) gays and lesbians (16), the death penalty (28) and conspiracy theories (49). Certainly there’s not a lack of topics to discuss. This is a real strength of the book, as in having such breadth it covers the most common themes covered by the majority of coursebooks, thus making it ideal as a supplementary resource.

In regards the activities, they take on two main forms – card based discussion tasks and information gap tasks in the form of different types of questionnaires – making them perfect for group work or pair work.  The questionnaires are mainly the strongly agree/agree/not sure/disagree/disagree strongly type (military service, 21, immigration, 47), though there are some other more Q&A type ones (smoking, 31, Privacy, 48). These work especially well for pair work, whereas the card based activities – students take a card off the top of the pile and discuss the question/talk about the statement – are better suited for group work.  As is always going to be the case, some activities and topics are better than others, but overall the tasks are of a good standard.  More importantly, though, they really do get students actively communicating, discussing and giving their opinions in as natural a way as possible within a classroom environment.

The activities are well supported by some useful teacher’s notes (p.67-87) detailing the procedure, timings as well as things to look out for and potential and language/vocabulary issues. In reality though, these are very much activities which are self-explanatory and which a teacher can just pick up and let loose on their students, safe in the knowledge that they will get students talking. Just what a teacher needs in other words.

Overall rating                    4

What outstanding strengths/ weaknesses do you feel this title possesses?

Strengths

  • A good range of topics
  • Encourages plenty of speaking with student focussed activities
  • Easy to pick up and go with minimal planning for the teacher

Weaknesses

  • Could do with more language input
On which courses do you envisage being able to use this material?

Due to the wide range of topics covered, In My Opinion is suitable supplementary material for a wide range of courses, though it is probably most suited to young adult/adult General English and conversation courses. That said, it could also provide useful language practice (certainly for some of the topics) for Part 1 and Part 3 of the IELTS speaking exam.

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement

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