Miguel de Cervantes was born on this day

Don-Quixote-Cervantes-9780199537891Miguel de Cervantes was born 467 years (assumed) ago today in Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid. Most famous for his comic masterpiece, Don Quixote, Cervantes also wrote Exemplary Stories, short stories that, like Don Quixote, defy the conventions of heroic chivalric literature and range from the picturesque to the satirical.

To celebrate his birthday, here are five interesting particulars about his life:

  1. After fighting and being badly wounded (he lost the use of his left hand) in the Battle of Lepanto, he was captured by pirates and held for three years before being ransomed.
  2. Don Quixote is considered the first European novel.
  3. Deriving from a scene in Don Quixote where he imagines that windmills are giants and attempts to fight them, ‘tilting at windmills’ has passed into common usage as an English idiom that means ‘attacking imaginary enemies’.
  4. He was partially involved in the provisioning of the Spanish Armada that sailed to attack England in 1588.
  5. He died on the same day as William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616.

VSI-Spanish-Literature-9780199208050Want to know more about Cervantes? Read about his life, his influence on the Spanish language, and about other Spanish authors in our Very Short Introduction: Spanish Literature.

From Farm to Fork: Tomatoes

The saying goes ‘you are what you eat’, but just how much do you really know about the food you are eating? The term ‘Farm to Fork’ (or ‘Farm to Table’) refers to the stages involved in the production of food: cultivating, harvesting, storage, processing, packaging, sales and end consumption. It is also a ‘movement’ of growing interest. With these stages in mind, consumers are taking an increasingly holistic view towards food; Farm to Fork advocates are promoting the link between farming practices, communities and food production processes to end consumers. Its impact on businesses is palpable, with descriptions such as ‘free range’, ‘organic’ and ‘farm fresh’ used to appeal to consumers.

Restaurants too are allaying concerns regarding the social and environmental impact of their food by promoting sustainable ‘Farm to Fork’ practices; e.g. disclosing the origins of its fish, growing produce on-site or tailoring the menu to what is produced locally and in-season. Terms such as ‘Food Miles’ – the distance food travels from where it is produced to where it is purchased – are now more commonly acknowledged. Similarly, consumers today are far more educated and concerned about the health and wellbeing of farmed livestock.

The tomato is one example of a fruit that is produced locally in Australia, but do you know what’s involved in farming tomato crops before they reach supermarket shelves? Total Food 1 authors, Leanne Compton and Carol Warren, tell us more:

The common round tomato has a thick skin that makes it easy for growers to use mechanical harvesting and packing. They tend to be picked green and are the cheapest to buy. Tomatoes can be expensive to grow. They need fertile soils, and the cost of labour to harvest and pack them can be high, especially if they are picked by hand. Most Australian tomatoes are grown outside, but some varieties are grown undercover in greenhouses.

1. Germinating seedlings
Tomato seeds need warmth, so they are usually germinated in nurseries. After a few weeks, the seedlings have leaves and can be planted outside during the frost-free warmer months.

2. Preparing the soil
Tomatoes need full sun and a fertile soil that has been enriched with compost, manure and/or fertiliser. Greenhouse tomatoes are grown hydroponically in a controlled nutrient solution.

3. Planting seedlings
Seedlings are planted in rows one or two metres apart. The seedlings need to be watered in, and black plastic or a thin layer of mulch is placed around their bases to keep them warm and moist. Tomatoes are natural climbers, and seedlings must be staked. The 2-metre stakes are pushed into the ground near the base of each plant. Growing upwards, the seedlings take up less space and grow away from the damp soil, which can spread disease. New stakes are needed each year as they can harbour fungus.

4. Cultivating the plants
Tomatoes need feeding and daily watering. A regular spray program controls pests and diseases.

5. Harvesting
Each tomato plant takes between 10 and 12 weeks to mature and bear fruit. Ethylene gas is sometimes used to promote ripening. Trellised tomatoes are typically harvested by hand at two to five day intervals, when the fruit is only just red. Under-ripe, they are firmer and easier to transport. Ground crops of tomatoes are typically harvested in two or three picks when the maximum capacity is in a mature green stage. Careful handling limits bruising.

6. Ripening
Green tomatoes are placed in ripening rooms and exposed to ethylene gas.

7. Packing and sorting
In the packing room, tomatoes are checked for quality, weighed, labelled and packaged, before being sent to coolrooms, ready for dispatch.

8. Tomato products
Tomatoes are grown for two markets. Victoria is the major producer for the processed market, while Queensland is the major producer for the fresh market.

Has all this talk of tomatoes made you hungry? Well we have a delicious recipe for you, perfect for the warmer months. Enjoy!

Lee Blaylock food stylistFattoush Salad
Serves 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Techniques: slice, chop, mix, toss


  • knife and chopping board
  • measuring spoons
  • lemon squeezer
  • garlic crusher
  • oven
  • bowl
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients – salad

  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, thickly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thickly diagonally sliced
  • ½ Spanish onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large pita bread

Ingredients – dressing

  • juice of ½ lemon
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


  1. To make the pita chips, preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Cut pita bread into bite-size triangle shapes and toast for about 12 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
  3. Gently mix tomatoes, cucumber, celery, onion, parsley and mint together.
  4. Mix dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over salad ingredients.
  5. Toss pita chips through the salad (or place on the side) and serve immediately.

Hint: Buy pre-prepared plain pita chips.

Design options

Add ½ teaspoon of sumac and ½ teaspoon of sugar to the dressing.

Add ¼ green capsicum to salad ingredients and substitute two roma tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes. Serve with grilled lamb cutlets.

Total Food, OUPANZThis recipe is taken from Oxford’s forthcoming food technology book, Total Food 2.


The importance of reading choices

Students' interests inspire their reading choices

Students’ interests inspire their reading choices

Choice in reading materials builds engagement and assists students to have a voice in what they want to learn. To ensure choice, teachers need to have a well-organised classroom library of cognitively appropriate print and digital books including many different topics, genres and text types. Book choice must be at each student’s independent reading level or easier, so students can read successfully using the strategies they have learned and don’t require teacher or parent intervention.

Richer reading experiences for school or at home.

Richer reading experiences for school or at home.

Ebooks can provide rich reading experiences at school and at home. Studies report that ‘reading in a digital learning environment is an incentive in younger and lower performing students and that feedback in ebooks and apps plays a powerful role for staying engaged and motivated. Digital features like animation, hotspots, and audio facilitate comprehension and aid recall of story plots and content information.’ (Kathleen Roskos & Susan B. Neuman, Best Practices in Reading, The Reading Teacher, April 2014, p. 509.)

To help students build reading fluency and encourage them to read for pleasure, ensure books are at the appropriate level to build students’ confidence and help them make progress. Access to up-to-date assessment results will help inform students’ independent reading choices – educators can recommend the right selection of books so students can read independently and successfully.

Independent and successful readers:

  • Approach reading with interest
  • Presume they will understand what they read
  • Have a broad reading vocabulary and know the meanings of many words
  • Have a range of strategies for working out the meanings of words
  • Can effortlessly decode many words
  • Recognise there are different text types and that they will need to draw on diverse strategies to read them
  • Realise when they don’t understand an author’s message and have a range of strategies to help them understand it
  • Know they will make errors, but are optimistic they will understand the text
  • Have a fluent reading rate and capably use prosody (expression to aid meaning)
  • Talk about texts and authors.

Oxford has a huge win at the 2014 Educational Publishing Awards Australia

The 21st Educational Publishing Awards Australia (EPAAs) were held at the State Library in Melbourne on Wednesday 17 September. Organised by the Australian Publishers Association, the EPAAs celebrate excellence in educational publishing and exemplify the work publishers devote to producing world-class educational resources. More than ever before, they also showcase innovative development and delivery of digital content.

Oxford University Press EPAA winning titlesOxford University Press Australia went into the awards ceremony with 17 shortlisted titles – many more than any of our (larger) competitors and we didn’t disappoint on the night. Category after category it was Oxford’s name that was called across Primary, Secondary and Higher Education as we claimed 9 wins, 2 high commendations and 2 commendations. And to top it all off, the overall winner was Oxford Literacy Assess, about which the judges said: ‘Appealing benchmark readers, clean design, academic rigour in research and trialling and innovative digital tools allowing seamless application combine to create a system of substance. Oxford Literacy Assess with its important aim of monitoring young students’ reading progress over time impressed the combined judging panel.’

Details of Oxford’s winning, highly commended and shortlisted titles in each category can be found below.

Oxford Literacy Assess

Overall Award for Excellence in Australian Educational Publishing
Oxford Literacy Assess
Primary: Teaching Resource
Category winner:
Oxford Literacy Assess
Primary: Outstanding Digital Resource
Oxford Literacy Assess

Oxford Australian Curriculum Atlas 3-4Primary: Reference Resource
Category winner:
Oxford Australian Curriculum Atlas and Professional Support Years 3-4
Shortlist: Primary Maths Handbook


Oxford Big Ideas Geography/ HistorySecondary: Student Resource – Junior
Category winner:
Oxford Big Ideas Geography│History
Commended: Oxford Insight History
Shortlist: Oxford Insight Science; Oxford English 4; Oxford Insight History


Oxford VCE Psychology

Secondary: Student Resource – Senior
Category winner:
Oxford VCE Psychology
Shortlist: Oxford Insight Mathematics General HSC; Oxford VCE Psychology


Curriculum and Assessment - OUPSecondary: Teaching Resource
Category winner:
Curriculum and Assessment
Highly commended: Grammar Matters


Communication for Business - OUPTertiary (wholly Australian): Teaching and Learning Resource
Category winner:
Communication for Business
Highly commended: Food, Nutrition and Health


Human Rights Under the Aus Constitution - OUPTertiary (wholly Australian): Scholarly Resource
Category Winner:
Human Rights Under the Constitution, 2e
Shortlisted: Journalism Ethics & Law


Tertiary (wholly Australian): Student Resource
Shortlisted: Indigenous Australians and Health

TAFE & Vocational Education: Teaching and Learning Resources
Commended: Read It Write It

A huge congratulations to everyone involved in developing our brilliant, benchmark-setting resources.

EPAA-catalogue-2014For more details on the winning titles click on the catalogue image.

Ask the Expert: Anne Bayetto

Anne BayettoAnne lectures in Special Education at Flinders University, South Australia, and focuses on literacy and numeracy students with learning difficulties. Anne brings her knowledge of assessment, planning and the instruction of reading and written language to classroom practitioners.

As the author of the Oxford Wordlist Stage 2 Research Study Summary Report, Read Record Respond and Spell Record, Respond: Moving from Assessment to Instruction, Anne provides professional development to school leaders and educators.

Why do we need a range of strategies to teach reading?

Read Record Respond, Oxford, OUPANZ‘There is no ‘one way’ to teach reading because students in a class have diverse understandings, knowledge and skills. No single approach will suit all learners at the same point in time and your decisions will be informed by the careful selection and use of assessment processes undertaken prior, during and following instruction that guide what needs to be learned next. In my book Read Record Respond, I provide more than 500 reading strategies to help move educators from assessment to instruction, and to help develop students into independent and successful readers.’

To hear more from Anne, CLICK HERE to view a range of videos she has filmed with the Australian Primary Principals Association.

Connecting with Law Short Film Competition 2014 Winners

Oxford, OUPANZ, Connecting with Law Short Film CompetitionThe ‘Connecting with Law Short Film Competition’ is an annual event run by Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand. Now in its seventh year, the ‘Connecting with Law Short Film Competition’ runs from March to July and is open to all students currently enrolled in an Australian law school. Over the years, the competition has proven to be a unique way to encourage students to connect with the law and make a contribution to legal education in Australia.

This year, students were invited to make a two- to five-minute film exploring the 2014 theme, ‘Legal ethics: thinking, acting, being’. The standard of entries submitted was very impressive and the winners were those judged to be the most creative, instructive and original in helping to educate and entertain Australian law students. We are pleased to share the winning entries:

1st prize winner: Ethics in social media: Advice for the legal hound-dog
Katy Milne (Monash University)

This is a film about George, the legal hound-dog, who lazed his way through the online world blissfully unaware of the ethical dilemmas he was creating for himself as a lawyer.

We thought Ethics in social media was a very creative, entertaining and informative approach to the 2014 competition theme. It explores a topical aspect of legal ethics that is especially pertinent to law students, in their studies and beyond to their future careers.

2nd prize winner: Lie: A guide to legal ethics
Harrison Jones (Bond University)

3rd prize winner: The Questionable Ethics of Malcolm Practice
Madeleine Brown (University of Technology, Sydney)

The judges also selected a highly commended entry:

Do’s and Don’ts – Shyla Sivanas and Raad Haque (Monash University)

All of the past winning and commended entries can be viewed online at the Connecting with Law Film Library.

Interested in participating next year? Stay tuned to our website for more details about the 8th ‘Connecting with Law Short Film Competition’ in March 2015.

Stephanie Swain
Higher Education – Product and Marketing Specialist, OUP ANZ

Think you know food?

Oxford Companion to Food, foodies, quizWhat do you really know about foodstuffs? Take this quiz to find out!
To get in the right mindset, think about pancakes, desserts, cheese and sandwiches (yum!). Hint: all answers can be found in the newly published The Oxford Companion to Food, Third Edition


Interview with Thomas Keneally

Thomas KeneallyThomas Keneally recently spoke at our ‘Oxford is English Conference’ and our Secondary Marketing team were lucky enough to have some time with him beforehand to ask a few questions…

Tell us about your first experience as an English student.
My first experience as an English student of any seriousness was to be given Treasure Island to read in first year in 1948 or 1949 and I just thought the novel was a wonderful phenomenon. The thing about it is it seems so authoritative and so sure of itself. When you read a good novel, and because it looks authoritative and effortless, you get the feeling that you could do that, and that’s a fatal feeling that every would-be writer has and that I’ve always had.

What advice do you have for English students who aspire to be writers?
Well I think you are on the right track because you love the word, and I think that there are many kinds of writers you can be too. It’s not a mystery and it is a mystery, it involves starting to write. The process of writing, the instinct – all somehow fed to you from your subconscious ­– comes into play through the process of starting to write. As in any process of writing, the blankness of the page is the great enemy, and any kid who does an assignment knows that he feels better as soon as he puts the first words down. And it’s like that with writing. We have this talent for expressing ourselves in writing that we’re never quite sure what we’re going to write, so even if you’re not sure, if you’re only sure of the vague outline of what you’re going to write, start writing and you’ll find out eventually… and have courage, have ticker, don’t give it away just because you feel depressed. And above all, rule number one, don’t let the fact that you can’t write stop you from producing literature – that’s a big mistake.

What advice do you have for English teachers to inspire their students to start writing?
Yes, umm I think their own enthusiasm. One thing I always tried to do, and it doesn’t consort with modern critical theory, is to show the social background of the story. The other one they can’t do. I taught graduate English in American universities; they also served chardonnay and I think that’s the big tip for getting across, but you can’t do that in high school.

What’s been your greatest challenge as a writer?
Oh keeping originality and not succumbing to what other people suspect of you. And I wouldn’t boast that I’ve overcome or met that challenge. Another challenge I have is that I’m fluent and like all bull dusters I can produce stuff, but I am impulsive… a novel is not good for an impulsive person because it’s a long range project so not abandoning the novel before its finished, that’s important to me, and I have to discipline myself not to send it off too early, and that is a challenge.

How do you see digital publishing changing the written word?
I think… I’m not sure… but every cultural influence changes writing – I’m sure that, for example, the movies changed the way fiction writers wrote – and because you’re not immune from any of these technological influences. Now if you’re sending off tweets and Facebook as well as trying to write your novel, it can often be for the good of your writing. I think that the tweet is wonderful; I’m a fan of the tweet because it’s like writing a haiku and it makes you economical. So you try to put down a relatively sophisticated thought, to get that down to 140 characters is really a good exercise, and so that might influence your writing. It’s interesting that for young writers who are cool dudes and know IT and so on, being published in Guttenberg form is still important. Now why is it so? I don’t know. I think it’s because there’s nothing more validating than the physical book, and we are tactile animals and we want to smell that book, that crack when you open a book. I think the job hasn’t changed, just the media, in which it goes out, has changed.

What books are you currently reading?
Ok yes, there are a lot of them. I’m actually reading a Scott Turow but you don’t want to hear that you want to hear something posher, so I have just finished reading a book of Philip Roth called Letting Go, and I thought that was a brilliant book. There’s a writer called William Boyd, I’m hanging out for a new Barbara Kingsolver book and last night I was reading various poetry books including Gerard Manley Hopkins. I have a copy of Gerard Manly Hopkins that I’ve had since I was 16. It was one of those books that I thought this is such magical power, that I must wear it in my breast pocket and girls will be attracted by it, that’s the sort of dopey kid I was, I thought this has such power that it’s my talisman.

Did it work?
They just thought I was weird… and they were right!

What’s your favourite word?
Ahhh my favourite word, of all the words is, I think, there are a few but I’ve got to choose one…

We’ll be flexible, word or words!
Transcendence is my favourite word. I was going to say limitable but something is saying don’t say limitable, but transcendence has got that rhythm that echoes what it is.

Developing reading strategies

Children reading, OUPANZDeveloping a broad range of reading strategies, and understanding how they may be used, supports students to become independent and successful readers. Educators need to specifically teach students how to think and talk about texts, rather than just conveying information about texts or doing the reading and thinking for their students. Following are some great reading strategies that will help you encourage your young readers to think about what they are reading and engage more fully with the text.

10 great reading strategies*

  1. Orally provide a sentence from a text with a key meaning word deleted, e.g. an adjective or noun. Ask for an appropriate word to complete the sentence. Invite students to justify why their word is a logical one to use. (Meaning)
    Alex got a new bike for his…(birthday).
  2. Supply a root word from a text and ask students to add another word that makes it into a compound word. (Structure – root words and compound words)
    out (outside), play (playtime, playground), under (underground).
  3. Give students two L-shaped pieces of card so they can frame single words. (Visual)
  4. After you have completed a story map for a text with students, model how to use this information to retell what was read. (Retell)
  5. Model how to make connections between the text and students’ own experiences. (Comprehension – connecting with prior knowledge)
    This text makes me remember when I…
  6. Use a pointer when reading big books so students can see the flow of the text as it is read. (Fluency – rate)
  7. Model for students how to hold a finger at the end of a line to guide their reading. (Finger-pointing)
  8. Read a text to students. Then give students a hard copy of the text. Now read the text again, and while students follow along by pointing to each word, add some additional words. (Insertions)
    ‘We are all free to go to school.’ What did I say that was different to the text?
  9. Compose a sentence. Write the sentence onto a card and cut it into individual words. Give students one word each and ask them to stand in line to represent the original sentence. Now ask a student (or students) to step out of the line. What happened to the meaning of the sentence? Repeat for each word. (Omissions)
    ‘We are all free to go to school.’ What did I say that was different to the text?
  10. Focus on a word that students have mistaken for one with a similar meaning. (Substitutions)
    You said…It sort of means the same, but have another look.

Read Record Respond, Oxford, OUPANZ*These strategies are taken from Anne Bayetto, 2013, Read Record Respond: Linking Reading Assessment to Instruction, Second Edition, Oxford University Press

The importance of debate in active learning and the development of critical thinking skills

Daniel Baldino, Head of the Politics and International Relations Discipline, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, discusses why the use of a debate style framework in undergraduate political textbooks is so important.

The structure of Australian Foreign Policy, OUP ANZ, Oxford, 9780195525632Australian Foreign Policy: Controversies and Debates is based around a deliberate pedagogical design that aims to encourage critical thinking, reflective learning and self-assessment. Debate has long been considered central to intellectual development and effective communication. As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once observed, ‘The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.’

Such an approach was relatively straightforward. For example, two separate authors each contributed to a specific chapter topic, theme or controversy. The text is then presented in debate style presentation, with one author on each side of an issue. For example, the utility of the UN, to what extent Australia is a climate change laggard or the merits of Australia’s approach to alliance management with the US.

It should be highlighted that although a calculated debate format was used, sometimes overlapping and interrelated but divergent or disagreeing approaches to a single issue are presented rather than two diametrically opposed standpoints. Rather than pressing for a polemical discourse, students are encouraged to appreciate numerous nuances and varying degrees of connection as well as vivid notes of distinction.

For most university students, reading a textbook is a slightly intimidating or disconcerting experience. They are handed a chapter, often written by some distinguished scholar or senior professor who has been doing this sort of thing for decades, and then asked by tutors and lecturers to argue over it. If this is the first time they have encountered a thorny topic or multi-layered issue, how can they lucidly disagree with the expert author? Worse, as students go through their studies and into graduate and higher levels, they quickly find that other just as knowledgeable experts will have different views and varying assumptions about the same topics they read about. Why then did the textbook present it as a straight forward or settled point?

So this book takes a different approach. It embraces the value of debate alongside constructing and defending an argument as a valuable scholarly activity. Academic debate remains a robust educational tool to test ideas and to facilitate both a depth and breadth of study. It can help us understand, evaluate, disentangle and formulate new and alternative ideas about a range of contested and controversial topics, in a wide range of areas including foreign policy, in a meaningful and rational way. The debate format itself was intended to help students become independent thinkers and problem-solvers while appreciating the varied assessments, perspectives and assumptions that other scholars and policymakers might bring to a range of real-world and critical modern-day political challenges.

At the same time, the task of articulating ideas, and effectively defending or even adapting one’s own position, will demand critical thinking, reflection, accurate research, valid evidence and high-level analysis. Unfortunately, it is often too easy to dismiss the contested nature of problems or discount (or even dismiss) the complexity of facts, methods of interpretation and the existence of ‘shades of grey’.

Notably, always trying to be ‘balanced’ can simply lead to the spread of informational bias, misperception and imprecise reporting. So students must be wary of the trappings of false equivalence —the presentation of opposing arguments as equal, when one side has a wealth of evidence, analysis and logic while the other side of the argument is substantially weaker. Too often—with climate change ‘denial discourse’ being an obvious example—a variety of public debate formats in the media tend to avoid trying to establish genuine rigour, allow lazy logic to go unchallenged and have no real merit as vehicles for discovery and good reasoning. In short, not all arguments are equal. A badly designed debate obscures this, suggesting equivalence between the two sides; good debating practice on the other hand can help us recognise which side has the stronger argument and why.

Overall, students should derive long-term benefits from their time in the classroom and be encouraged to think critically and develop problem-solving skills through creative tasks and group work. But rather than supply students with static facts, the framework of Australian Foreign Policy: Controversies and Debates hopes to serve them better by teaching them how to define a problem, how to decide what they need to solve it, how to find and evaluate new information, how to recognise limitations and strengths of arguments, and how to be prepared to both change or adapt as well as justify their opinions based on new pieces of evidence. As facilitators hoping to motivate students to engage in learning situations and to assist reflecting on particular learning experiences, the authors all believed strongly that students continue to need skills in, and an attitudinal commitment to, high-quality and active debate points in their learning situations.