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Desirably unliterary

School history project discovering the past medieval realms special needs support materials By Colin Shephard and Ann Moore. Picture pack pupil workbook Pounds 2.50 0 1795 80565 Teacher's resource book Pounds 29.99 0 7195 53814 John Murray.

Sue Jones on an inventive resource pack designed to aid pupils with reading difficulties. These materials provide a flexible approach to differentiation. They are based on the belief that all children are entitled to an education in history which enables them to use real historical sources and encourages them to think about real historical questions.

The picture pack, with its supporting workbook and the teacher's notes can be used to create a basic course in history for children with severe reading difficulties. The high quality reproductions are on laminated card, big enough to see the detail and in full colour. The worksheets are clear and well laid out and give opportunities for interrogating the text and for decision-making.

They also invite children to compare sources and to begin to think about the usefulness of those sources for the enquiry they are engaged in.

For those with less severe difficulties, the teacher's resource book contains no fewer than 59 tasks. A variety of sources is provided, such as artist's reconstructions, line drawing reproductions of primary sources, brief and simplified versions of documents and fictional stories about historical events.

There are extensive teacher's notes outlining the aims of each task and showing how it can be adapted for pupils with different abilities.

Flexibility is the key to these materials. They can be used as they stand to provide coherent courses but they could also be mixed and matched as appropriate to an individual's development, which is, after all, rarely consistent or linear.

They are obviously designed to support the School History Projects's Medieval Realms textbook, but you do not need to invest in a set of textbooks in order to use the materials.

The tasks are photocopiable and could be used by different children in various combinations. However, since most of the sheets are intended to be written on, this is potentially expensive and users would need folders rather than exercise books.

Some of the exercises involve a lot of paper for a relatively small amount of time and thought. The result might be a large reprographics bill and some children's folders which look good but consist of support materials rather than their work.

These are small criticisms of what is obviously a thoroughly thought out and well planned set of exercises. In variety and inventiveness it compares well with many of the existing resources for special needs pupils.

The national curriculum seemed to demand an approach to history that was undesirably literary and abstract and this approach has been reflected in many of the standard textbooks, which often seem more suitable for GCSE students.

As time goes by, it is to be hoped that more writers will concentrate on real history for real children instead of obstacle courses for attainment targets.

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