Review of "The Sea"

With the kind permission, we reproduce here a review recently published in Fine Print, the journal of the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council (VALBEC). 

The Sea: in the sea, on the sea, at the seaside
by Hazel Davidson with illustrations by Dorothy Court

 Reviewed by Marj Sjostrom
Reproduced with kind permission from Fine Print, the journal of the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council.

 I have always found the reading materials by Sugarbag on Damper Publishing very effective in the classroom so I was pleased to see that they have brought out another package (reader, workbook and CD).  The Sea: in the sea, on the sea, at the seaside (2017) didn’t disappoint and the stories provided timely discussion just before the summer break and the beginning of peak beach-going season.  As described on the publisher’s website the new package ‘…aims to encourage students to enjoy the beach and surf safely.  It shows interesting sea creatures and also alerts students to some of the dangers and how to avoid them’.

 The package consists of:

1. A reader with sea-themed stories, each written at what are described as ‘easy’, ‘medium’ and ‘hard’ levels.  The texts deal with such things as swimming between the flags and attracting help in the surf; poisonous sea creatures and advice on basic first aid; and interesting information about sea creatures, birds and coral reefs.

2. A CD of the stories read by an experienced Australian EAL teacher (Lyndal Reid).  This makes it easy to provide detailed listening activities in the classroom, or for individual ‘read-along’ practice at home.  There are coloured images which can be used as prints or slides to introduce the texts or stimulate discussion and also a song.

 3. A workbook to accompany the texts with such things as word searches for vocabulary reinforcement, spelling, grammar, crosswords, comprehension exercises, phonics and pronunciation, writing and detailed listening.  These are also graded for difficulty according to the levels of the texts and are accompanied by suggested answers.  The workbook also includes additional background information on the topics for the teacher.

 My Certificate I in General Education for Adults (Introductory) class found this resource to be interesting, informative and fun.  It was the perfect topic for them as there were many stories about drownings and people getting hurt when walking along the beach.  One of my students didn’t know what to do when her child was stung at the beach.

We brainstormed the topic and found the students knew lots about the fun at the beach but very little about the various safety issues connected with going to the beach. We read the ‘Easy’ section of the book together and then we read it again and discussed each section. From the outset the students were involved, asking questions, clarifying information and giving their opinions of Australian beaches. The pictures aided student understanding of many of the words.

 We also listened to the text to help students practice reading and pronunciation.  They enjoyed the challenge of listening to the story and filling in the missing words.

The students thoroughly enjoyed singing the song (to the tune of Jingle Bells) over and over using the CD.  They were amazed how many words from the song were in the story. By the end of this topic, they were able to recognise and read the words in the song throughout the story.

 The students enjoyed the variety of exercises in the kit as these reinforced their knowledge.  They completed the multiple choice, opposites, missing letters, the word searches and the ‘yes/no’ questions.  I found I could easily add questions to complete a CGEA task.

 For me this resource was great as it allowed me to give appropriate work to my more advanced students without doing hours of extra preparation; the work was all in the workbook.  Three of my advanced students read the ‘Medium’ level of the book which they enjoyed and then they completed three exercises from the workbook, which was quite challenging for them, but they were so proud when they completed the exercises.

 This resource also opened my students’ eyes to the various dangers at the beach, how they could help someone by using CPR and the role of the lifesavers.  As a result, they requested to learn CPR in 2018 and this has been added to my program.

 This resource is very user-friendly and a great help especially for teachers who have multi-levels in their classroom.  Teachers can decide to use all the exercises in the workbook or just use some of them.  It gives teachers a variety of ideas to do with texts which can be built on if needed.  It also includes background information to increase teachers’ understanding of the topic before they read the book.

 The only niggling point was the word ‘seaside’ which my students didn’t understand. However, this was easily overcome as we used ‘beach’ instead.

 This is a great resource and an excellent addition to all our libraries.

 The Sea: in the sea, on the sea, at the seaside is published by Sugarbag on Damper Publishing.

 Marj Sjostrom has worked in the field of adult language and literacy as a teacher and teacher educator and mentor at Keysborough Learning Centre for many years.  She was the Learn Local Practitioner of the year in 2016 and currently teaches Certificate I in General Education for Adults (Introductory).