19. A book or film review

Task details

Name of oral assessment task A book or film review
EAL curriculum level range  B3, C2, C3, C4
Text orientation Informative
Task type Oral presentation


Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to give a spoken review of a text (print or visual) they have seen or studied, in response to questions about it from a peer or teacher.
Description Students read a book/view a movie, and then are asked to give a brief spoken report and evaluation of the work, in response to questions from a classmate or teacher.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: familiarity with the genre of a book or film review, familiarity with the chosen book or movie
  2. Text type, genre: formal review of a literary work (visual or text), including a report on the main features of a literary work (setting, theme, characters), a summary of the plot, relate the plot to themes or issues, a personal response to a literary text, and evaluation of the work
  3. Linguistic structures and features: 
  • use of simple present in describing features of a book or film
  • use of either present or past tense in describing a summary of plot
  • use of either present or past tense to describe a reader’s/viewer’s response to a book or film
  • use of present modals to make suggestions and recommendations to others about a literary work

4. Vocabulary: use of adjectives and adverbs to describe settings, characters and events; use of expressions commonly used in discussing novels or films: a great read, a must-see film, a feel-good novel/film


Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class Mainstream class – EAL Support
Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes  English
Topic/teaching unit Responding to a text
Assessment conditions
  1. Pair activity
  2. Formal/informal: formal, planned speech
  3. Time limit: five to ten minutes per review, plus 5 minutes preparation time
  4. Teacher intervention: limited to encouragement
  5. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): guided
  6. Accommodations: Students can refer to notes completed in their 5 minutes of planning time. The nature of the book or movie needs to be relevant to the age, year level and prior experiences of the students.
  • See TEAL Writing Task 20 (Task implementation) for a model film review text
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended or reduced as appropriate for the learners
  • The discussion may be video or audio recorded for more careful analysis and assessment of individual students after the performance.  This may enable focused assessment and feedback for each student.

Task implementation

Pre-assessment activity
  • Students read a book or view a movie and complete appropriate analysis of the work.
  • The teacher gives a sample spoken movie or book review. Multiple reviews may be viewed. Also explore how people discuss novels or movies with others.
  • Students explore the descriptive, narrative and evaluative components of the review, and language used in each.
  • Tell students they are to have a discussion in which they will review a movie or a novel they have recently read/viewed, in response to a set of questions asked by a classmate. Use the book or movie review prompt questions task sheet [PDF]   [Word] to prepare students for the questions they will ask, and what they will be responding to.
Assessment activity
  • Group students in pairs, in which each partner is presenting on a different text.
  • Allow 3 – 4 minutes for the partner to ask questions and for the presenter to give responses. Give each students 6-8 minutes to present to their partner.
  • You may use the task sheet for this assessment: Book or movie review prompt questions task sheet  [PDF] [Word]  or a similar worksheet to assist the students to complete the task.
Post-assessment activity
  • Students produce a written version of their review (see TEAL Writing assessment Task 19: A book review or TEAL Writing assessment Task 20: A film review)
  • Students who have reviewed the same texts present in pairs or small groups and respond to each others’ reviews, agreeing or disagreeing with their co-reviewers, as appropriate.
  • Students could video record a more polished version of their presentation.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three







Purpose and value of the task

This task relates to TEAL Writing assessment Task 19: A book review and Task 20: A film review, and assesses students’ capacity to discuss a literary text or movie they have studied. This includes their ability to describe the plot, characters, relevant themes and issues, and provide evaluative comments and a personal response to the work.

The language demands of such a review can be complex and varied. A range of present and past tenses can be used in describing the plot, particular events in the work, the characters, themes and issues arising from the text, and in giving a personal response. Some meanings require present tense, particularly the discussion of themes and issues. Recounting the plot and re-telling events in the story, can be achieved by use of either the ‘historic present’, such as Paikea rides the whale, or past tense, such as Paikea rode the whale, when the plot is presented as a narrative. While either present or past can be used, there is an expectation of consistency in the use of one main tense, once the retelling has begun, and that the speaker will continue in the same tense. Similarly, characters can be described either in present or past tenses. Present or past tense can be used in giving a personal response to the work, for example, It’s alright, or I thought it was good. The challenge for EAL learners is to use this range of tenses consistently in acceptable ways in giving a review.

Commentary and context

The students had all recently studied a literary text, which happened to be a film in all three Samples. The student in Sample 1 had studied Edward Scissorhands, (20th Century Fox, 1990)while the students in Samples 2 and 3 had recently studied Whale Rider, (South Pacific Pictures, 2002). The students were asked to present their reviews as a pair activity, rather than a formal presentation in order to give them support in completion of the task. The student in Sample 3 completed his review in a conversation with his teacher, while the other students held conversations with classmates. The students in video Samples 2 and 3 had reference to notes they developed using the Task sheet (see Task implementation) listing key questions in the interviews, which were used by the students asking the questions, more than the student responding in the samples. Only three samples were obtained for filming.

These samples depict a range of responses, from a fairly basic description of the plot and comment on some aspects of the story, through discussions that build on a retell of the plot to relate it to broader themes such as gender roles, or tradition and change, and make evaluative comments about aspects of the work. Despite their still-developing English language skills, the students effectively communicate a range of meanings in their discussions, and demonstrate a range of language functions, including describing events and characters, identifying themes and issues, and evaluating aspects of the films they had viewed.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three

Sample 1

Biographical information

Student A (left of screen)

Year 9

Home language: Nepali


The student presents his review as a series of answers to questions he is asked. This review is limited to describing parts of the film Edward Scissorhands. A clear narrative of the plot is not given in one turn, but elements of the story are provided as the student responds to the questions he is asked. There is an element of personal response, but there is little exploration of themes and issues – there is no explicit reference to human and machine, and fear of ‘the other’ or those who are very different, or alienation, which are all issues raised by the film. The student is able to describe parts of the plot adequately, as well as aspects of the characters. However, he sometimes mixes the tenses he uses in doing this, for example He is made by manHe couldn’t finish him. He generally uses present tense to describe the character and capacities of the characters, Peg … is kind, and his neighbours love him, although he also sometimes uses past tense, he could kill people but he didn’t. His review is mainly limited to similar information about the plot and characters, and the structures used are a basic range of simple SVO statements (see TEAL assessment task glossary for an explanation) joined by conjunctions such as and or but, or a slight pause. When he is asked for evaluative comment he uses only a limited range of everyday words, like I feel good, … nice. His speech is generally clear and quite intelligible; although he doesn’t pronounce the final ‘s’ of the title of the film when he begins talking about it, he does pronounce it a few words later.

The marked criteria for video Sample 1 shows he performed the task mainly at Level 1 in relation to the criteria.

The students’ English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 19 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1

Sample 2

Biographical information

Year 8 (both)

Home language: Chinese (both)


This commentary focuses on Student A (left of screen), who does most of the review through the video, although she asks her partner to make more contributions in the final section of the review, which he does. They move away from the early question and answer format and have a more collaborative discussion to jointly construct the final part of the review. In doing this, they also make an in-class joke with and about their class teacher who was present off camera, in relation to him not letting the class practice doing the haka.

Student A begins the review with a long description of the plot of the film Whale rider, which is the subject of their review, elicited by TEAL team member who was off camera. In retelling the plot Student A uses a variety of tenses, mixing simple past tense this story was based on a book, she didn’t give up, and present tenses, she believe in herself, she’s born in a chief’s family. She also incorrectly uses a present continuous form, one girl was being born in chief family. There is little consistency in her tense use at this stage, as present and past tenses are used in close proximity, such as in, she didn’t give up, she keep trying. When she is asked about her favourite part of the film (the question is posed in the simple past tense), Student A moves more consistently to use of present tense, with verbs including, like the , and to discuss the issues addressed by the film, when boys and girls are equal, everyone has a right. However, there are some errors in verb constructions such as, when Paikea say ‘I’m back!’ Student A is more consistent in her use of present tense in making evaluative comments about her favourite scene and character, When Paikea rides the whale …, I like the… uncle, he’s funny and he’s chubby, and then consistently uses simple past tense in discussing what changes through the movie, Paikea was the first girl… whale rider, and in evaluating elements of the film, I saw water, it looked like. She uses simple past in asking a question, What did you enjoy?, but this is read from the note sheet. She is fairly ambitious in the meanings she tries to convey, and some of the grammatical errors can be attributed to her attempt to communicate complex meanings.

Student A is quite expressive and ambitious in her communication. However, she still has some pronunciation problems, such as omission of some final consonants, which can make it hard to identify whether an error is a pronunciation error or a structural error. She is willing to use gestures to facilitate her communication, and does so very effectively in demonstrating movements from the film, including parts of the haka, and poking out the tongue as a threatening gesture used by the Maori.

The marked criteria for Sample 1 shows Student A performed the task at level 2 in relation to the criteria.

The students’ English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 19 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2

Sample 3

Biographical information

Year level: Year 8

Home language: Mongolian



This student gives his review in the form of replies to questions asked by his teacher. He is quick to relate the story to general issues and to his own response to the text, following the questions of the teacher. As he is not requested to present a full account of the plot, he is limited to describing scenes from the film in reference to themes or issues or in making an evaluative comment about and aspect of the film. The student gives a strong personal response to the film and elements of it.

The student uses past tense quite consistently and accurately for many parts of his review. He uses the past tense to describe incidents in the plot, A man named Paikea rode a whale to New Zealand, characters, elements of the film such as special effects, and his responses to the text. He uses a wider variety of verb structures to make a wider range of meanings than other samples, such as, if I were to, …devoting yourself to, trying to… He also uses adverbs like actually, I’m pretty sure,  to give more precise and nuanced responses. He uses some technical terminology of the film, e.g. taiaha and Maori (although his pronunciation of this is not accurate) and is able to use some terminology for issues relevant to the film, such as gender equality. His pronunciation is generally very clear, and he has an accent that sounds as if it has been influenced by North American English.

The marked criteria for Sample 3 shows he performed the task at level 3 in relation to the criteria.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 19 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3

Using the assessment to improve learning

Self reflection

  1. Answering using the same tense as the question

Explain that in English we usually expect an answer to a question to be given in the same tense that the question is asked. This usually applies to the main verb in the answer, including the auxiliary verb in tenses such as the continuous (which uses the verb to be + ing at the end of the lexical verb) and the perfect (which uses the verb to have + the past participle of the lexical verb). So if someone asks Did you like the film? the expected answer would be Yes, I did or I liked it, not I do like it.

Students watch the video of their review and note the tense used in the questions they were asked, and the tense they used in their responses. They can then note the tense that was consistent with the question, if they used a different one. The third column can be completed after they have watched the video.


Question Tense used in the answer Tense consistent with the question
You watched the movie ‘Whale rider’. Did you like it? It’s alright. It was alright.


  1. Use of historic present or past tense to retell a story

Explain that when describing events in a literary work, such as a book or film (and the same can applied to paintings and artwork), English allows us to use one of two possible tenses. One is to use the past tense, because you are talking about events that happened previously and are complete. Alternatively a special form of the present tense can be used. This is called the historic present which is used for retelling past events, including those in a book or film, as if they exist in the present time. It usually doesn’t matter which is used, but it is expected that there is consistent use of the tense chosen, and the verbs will be in that form, such as, When Paikea rides the whale … or When Piakea rode the whale… Other tenses, like the continuous, such as is riding or was riding and the perfect, such as has ridden or had ridden, are consistent with the main tense being used. The same choice of tenses is also available in discussing our reactions to a book or film, e.g. I like the book, or I liked the film.

Ask the students to watch the video, and complete Column 1, to record the tense they used in the video. When they have done that, ask them to complete Columns 2 and 3, using first the historic present, then the past tense to practice using each of these consistently.

Event or situation described Verb form using the past tense Verb form using the historic present

Edward’s hands.


Edward had scissors for hands. Edward has scissors for hands.

Peer reflection and interaction

  1. Ways of responding to and evaluating a book or a film

We can use a range of different words to describe our responses or ideas about how we like a book or a film, or how good it is.

For example:

  • I really enjoyed Whale rider. (Personal response – uses a verb)
  • Whale Rider is an interesting film. (Evaluation – uses an adjective.)

The following table illustrates some ways of giving personal reactions or evaluations of a book or a film.

Personal Responses

[   ] = optional, if one is used, then the other won’t be.












really liked


really enjoyed





the book


the film







[name of the book or film].

didn’t enjoy

didn’t really enjoy

didn’t like

didn’t really like

With your partner, say five sentences giving personal reactions to books you have read or films you have seen.


[   ] = the words in this column are optional, and can be used to weaken or add emphasis to an evaluation.




The book


The film


[Name of the book or film]











[sort of]

[not very]












Can you and your partner think of some other words to add to Column 4?

Now say five sentences to your partner to give evaluations of books you have read or films you have seen.

Now watch the video of you and partner’s reviews, and see whether you can use these tables to improve the personal responses and evaluations you and your partner made in your reviews.

  1. Relating a story to broader themes

Good novels or films are interesting because they help us to understand issues that affect us in our lives or the lives of others

We can talk about the issues that affect us in the following ways:



Whale rider


Edward Scissorhands


is about


relates to


talks about




change and tradition.


gender roles.


gender equality.


how we react to people who are different to us.


Tell you partner five sentences like these about books or films you know.

Now, watch you and your partner’s videos of your reviews, and compare what you said about the issues in the book or the movie with this table. Can you suggest to each other some more ways of making comments about issues in the book or the film?



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