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Review ~ National Geographic Footprint Reading Library

I love these books, and I love the audio CD and video DVDs that accompany them. This is great stuff – not just another graded reader, but a cross curricular multi skills learning resource.
Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kaithe Greene

This series ranges from pre-intermediate/A2 through intermediate levels to Advanced/C2. The catalogue lists five themes – Incredible Animals, Fascinating Places, Amazing Science, Remarkable People and Exciting Activities. It includes such unlikely titles as Blue Cows? and Flying Pumpkins, as well as more ordinary sounding titles such as Gliding Across the Gobi and Saving the Pandas. The titles I reviewed are Volcano Trek (A2), Cheese Rolling Races (A2), Wind Power (B1), Polar Bears in Trouble (B2) and The Hidden Treasures of Egypt (C1).

I particularly enjoyed Cheese Rolling Races; it provided my students with an insight into strange and unusual customs in the English speaking world, as well as a good laugh, followed up with some discussion about odd things that people get up to in various parts of the world. As I was previously totally ignorant on the topic of people chasing wheels of cheese down steep hillsides in Gloucestershire, I appreciated having my personal knowledge bank extended.

I decided that this series would be worth a look because it’s always good to bring some variety into the classroom – not just to keep the students interested, but to keep the teacher interested too! Students always love watching a movie. Or rather, they think they will, until they discover that there’s loads of language work involved! The DVD/audio CD works fine on a classroom computer or laptop and would be even better on an IWB, or shown through a data projector. It offers the soundtrack in either American or British English, with the option of subtitles if desired. Therefore, even before you start watching there’s scope for a class discussion on the merits of displaying the subtitles.

My initial reaction of “Wow, that’s a great idea!” was proven correct on reading the books, watching the DVDs and listening to the CDs. The books are slim volumes, so not too scary for students who find reading in English challenging, and very nicely illustrated with colour photographs, drawing and diagrams.

Each book starts with a vocabulary section with the clear aims of preparing students for the key language they will need to understand and work with the text, and introducing the topic of the book. This is followed by the main text which contains a number of short activities, with titles such as Infer Meaning, Summarise and Predict. After that there is a short section containing comprehension questions and, last but not least, another short text in the style of a newspaper or magazine article. So, reading, listening and watching all in one- giving rise to plenty of opportunities for speaking and writing activities.

The publishers suggest using this series as either a supplementary resource or as a basis for lessons. I am looking forward to using this material for topic-based work with teenagers at summer school; not just because of the interesting themes and great pictures, but also because this is not just another course book, it’s not just another graded reader, its something different and therefore interesting!

The themes presented will fit comfortably into most modern school curriculums, and individual titles could be selected (at the appropriate level) to correspond with your students’ school work in other subjects. Creating a cross-curricular link in this way is usually very motivating for students, particularly those who need a little help in this area.

Although I didn’t have a copy of the teacher’s book to review, if it is of similar quality to the readers and audio-visual material I’m sure it is extremely useful.

To sum up, I was expecting great things from National Geographic, and I was not disappointed – great photography and interesting and current themes, all linked together into a well presented book, film and audio experience. This series is the product of excellent teamwork from an established ELT publishing company and National Geographic doing what they do best – showing us the world in full colour. These books would be an extremely useful and interesting addition to the resources of any language school.

Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kaithe Greene
June 2009 | Filed under Student Materials
Having been in the EFL industry for nearly twenty years Kaithe is currently working for Language Link Vietnam where she is Head of Teacher Training and Development. When not working she can be found grannying in Devon or Australia.

2 Comments on “Review ~ National Geographic Footprint Reading Library”

  1. yesim Says:

    hi I am also using those videos in the class, do you have any lesson plans or ideas for the videos for pre, while and post watching? thank you.

  2. Mihaela Says:

    There is a Teacher’s Guide for the series providing photocopiable worksheets for both the book and the video.
    Then Heinle has an excellent online course for teachers: Communicative Teaching for the ESL/EFL Classroom in which a a whole chapter deals with teaching reading communicatively. It’s brilliant! Search for the ELT Advantages course – they also end in TESOL accredited certificates.

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