The Sixties: Activities for Students of English as a Second or Foreign Language

Book Writer & Publisher: 
EFL Club Press
Mark Lewis, Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University


[Chris Elvin, Kawasaki: EFL Club Press, 2011. p. 92. $19.95. ISBN: 1453737731.]

The content of The Sixties is suitable for intermediate level Japanese EFL students, and is targeted for students who have a minimum TOEFL score of 400. The four skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking are emphasized in the rich context of recent history. Students will get the chance to listen to and learn about music they are familiar with, as well as gain some understanding of cultural and political issues of the time period.

The book is divided into ten chapters, one for each year of the decade: Chapter One, 1960; Chapter Two, 1961, and so on, and each chapter is divided into eight sections: Vocabulary matching; Songs from the Sixties (listening); Fluency practice (shadowing); Photo fluency practice; Dictation (“What happened in 1960?”); Face to Face; Conduct a survey; and Research and write.

In each chapter’s opening activity, students match 30 words with their definitions. My students enjoyed working together on this task, chatting and using their dictionaries as needed. They were excited to be learning vocabulary on their own. Unlike some textbooks that give little opportunity to practice vocabulary, new words are used repeatedly throughout each chapter.

The second section is for listening to popular music. The songs chosen for 1963 are Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys, She Loves You by the Beatles, Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, and The End of the World by Skeeter Davis. For copyright reasons, the author could not include downloads, or lyrics for the complete song; instead, samples with accompanying lyrics are available online. 

In the following fluency practice section, two or three sentences are written about the four songs. For example, perhaps it was a best seller for that year, or it talks about lost love. Students are asked to shadow these sentences: First I would read the sentence, and then one by one my students would repeat the sentence, and then would try to do it again, word for word, with the book closed. Prior to using The Sixties, I was unfamiliar with shadowing (Murphey, 2001), and was surprised to see how much my students enjoyed and seemed to profit from it.

Next, there is a photo from the year being studied. For 1962, it shows James Meredith, the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi, being escorted to the classroom by two U.S. marshals. Students are asked to talk about the photo in their own words for one minute. What do they see in the picture? What is the setting? What do they think is happening? In the next section, students dictate historical facts to their partner. An example from 1964: President Johnson declared a war on poverty campaign. Their partner writes the fact being dictated, and then dictates her own fact.

The following section, Face to Face, was my students’ favorite section because it gave them a chance to share their own ideas. Students ask each other a question and write their partner’s answer. The student being asked does not see the question because she is looking at a different page. For example, a student asks her partner: What can be done to fight poverty? Students are able to respond, because by this point in the chapter, they have been equipped with the necessary vocabulary and historical facts to do so.

The next section asks students to create a survey question based on the issues talked about in the chapter so far (e.g., Have you ever seen someone living in poverty?). After conducting the survey in class, they make a pie chart with a summary of their findings.

In the essay writing section, the final section of the book, students are asked to do further research and to write an essay for homework. They are given eight different topics to choose from to research online or in the library.

There is a detailed Teacher’s Book providing rationale for each activity and teaching suggestions. The Sixties also comes with supplementary activities such as history quizzes, music matching, and vocabulary matching. This supplementary material could be used for quizzes or tests.I used this new book with a class of three intermediate-level students at a four-year university. They enjoyed it immensely and found the activities engaging and useful.

The Sixtiesis suited for two 15-week semesters of ninety-minute class meetings. It took us more than two classes to get through one chapter, and we spent fifteen weeks working on the first five chapters. It was a relaxed, yet efficient pace, and my students asked to continue using The Sixties in the coming semester.


Murphey, T. (2001, April). Exploring conversational shadowing. Language Teaching Research, 5(2), 128-155.