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Electric lingo land;Information technology

John Bald recommends software to help with reading and writing

Computers are not usually bought with the needs of English teaching in mind, and English co-ordinators are lucky if they have specialist training and back up. Software has to be easy to learn, resilient, and able to work on the machines a school has available. This list of tried and tested programs contains something for most types of machine. If you're Macintosh based, make sure you have the Scottish Council for Education Technology's catalogue (0141-337 5000).

Talking Textease

pound;65 (including site licence, Acorn Risc OS 3 or PC) Softease Ltd (O1332) 204911 The ultimate word-processor and desktop publisher, it is packed with useful features for school publications and pupils' work. Sizing, colouring, manipulating text and adding images is easy, and the range of borders, extras and special effects cannot be bettered in the price range. It has a very good speech feature to read back text. Files can be switched between PC and Acorn.

Writer's Toolkit

pound;59.99 (Mac or PC licences) SCET hotline 0500 515152 An important development in the use of information technology to teach writing, with well thought-out support for each stage of children's development, including planning, layout, word-banks and note-taking. Excellent for working with writing frames. Training video included. A serious investment (up to pound;180 for a large site licence) but worth it for junior and middle schools.

Creative Writer 2

pound;29.99 (Windows '95) Microsoft This version has helpful prompts to stimulate composition and good clip art. A useful buy for junior schools.

Clicker Plus

pound;55 (Acorn Risc OS 3.1, PC or Mac) Crick Computing 01604 671691 Clicker Plus lets teachers construct grids of words and phrases that the children can insert into a word-processing package by clicking on them. The grid occupies the top half of the screen and the word-processor the bottom. Each grid holds up to 100 cells, or elements, and each cell can be used to call up another grid with more advanced vocabulary. All versions offer a talking dictionary. It is good for beginning readers, special needs and stretches able pupils. A variation, Switch Clicker Plus, is for those who cannot use a keyboard or mouse. New versions of Clicker 3 and All My Words will be out soon.

Dorling Kindersley Children's Dictionary

pound;29.99 (PC or Mac) Dorling Kindersley The Children's Dictionary is brilliant, entertaining and a must. There are 14,500 key words, enough for almost all primary pupils. It comes with an entertaining animated alphabet and three excellent games - charades, hangman and spelling.

The Oxford Word Box

pound;19.99 (for PC or Mac) OUP By Janet Leonard and Sue Palmer Beautifully produced, with 1,000 words illustrated with animations, games, stories and poems, and with well-constructed word families. Easily used by a helper or teaching assistant with a less confident reader, or by more confident pupils on their own.

Oxford Children's Encyclopedia

pound;39.99 (for PC or Mac) OUP The full 1,700-page Oxford Children's Encyclopedia, with animations and video clips. Includes Oxford School Dictionary - click on a word and the definition appears. Excellent search engine, and an invaluable source of short texts to extend reading skills for juniors, especially when printed out.

Sherston Naughty Stories

From pound;60 Sherston Software (two volumes, six stories each, text included, for Windows, Acorn or Mac) By Bill and Lou Bonham Attractive stories for infants. Research by Jane Medwell of Plymouth University has shown good gains, especially from boys, when they work with the teacher, less when the children were operating alone.

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