Scholastic's Pocket Guides provide practical comfort for hard-pressed teachers. It's a treat to discover books which are a model of good teaching and go back to real basics: well-structured education as a guide to exploring and enjoying life. Each book provides a brief and informative overview of what teachers do (and don't) need to know and why.
Technicalities are reduced to manageable briefing sections, which include subject facts, vocabulary, golden rules and suggested resources. Common misconceptions - such as the reasons for the brightness of the first bulb in a simple circuit - are cheerfully dispatched on what can only be described as the crest of rising subject confidence.
Samantha Uppal's ICT volume avoids anorak overload and offers a highly competent overview of ICT essentials: hardware, software, and applications, the Information Superhighway. From bitter experience, I know that ICT maintenance is often neglected and stops the whole show. Here you'll find simple guidelines on keeping the classroom computer running. This book addresses every issue I could think of in ICT curriculum management, purpose, and integration and includes dozens of tips from teaching experience.
For primary mahematics, DfEE Circular 498 prescribed what trainee teachers should know. This provided little consolation and some consternation for those in the front line of the national numeracy strategy. Richard English introduces the Pocket Guide to Number by demystifying the mathematical language which blocks most non-specialists. Calculations are turned into curiosity, while the tough stuff - fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and algebra - is given its proper place in the real world, without undue fuss.
The QCA has just issued a useful appendix to the national literacy strategy, a sort of grammar school for grown-ups. Scholastic's version is more readable and profound. Better written, perhaps. Grammar is linked to the real purpose of language: shaping and forming our ideas. In this way, the literacy strategy's mechanical exposition of word, sentence, text is reworked to help us explore and understand language.
The Pocket Guide to Physical Processes addresses another area where teachers' self-esteem and potential, like those of struggling pupils, are limited by a conveyed sense of inadequacy. There is, after all, fun to be had in finding out about electricity, magnetism, energy, forces, light, sound and the Earth in space. I thoroughly recommend all four guides. It's not what you're told; it's the way that you're told it.