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Get the inside story;Software

The literacy hour may be a trial for some. But a new CD-Rom series could change all that, writes Chris Davis

If you're looking for a series of early years programs to bring an information and communications technology element into your Literacy Hour, look no further. Kingscourt has produced eight superb packages in a series called Inside Stories that build word, sentence and text level work around a well-known story.

Stage 1 is targeted at six and seven-year-olds. It features Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Gingerbread Man, the The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Three Little Pigs. Stage 2, for seven and eight-year-olds, has Red Riding Hood, The Fisherman and his Wife, Cinderella, as well as Jack and the Beanstalk.

Each story comes with a full colour poster (depicting a very useful flow diagram of the structure of the software), a teacher's resource book and a book of photocopiable masters. Supplements are supplied for each stage, cross-referencing all the activities directly and precisely to the Year 1 and Year 2 National Literacy Strategy objectives.

The CD-Rom begins by offering the beginner the chance to hear the story read, in an expressive voice, by Obadiah Owl. He appears, superbly animated, in a small window, while larger, still pictures illustrate the story as he recites it. There is no text on the screen.

Obadiah then offers you the choice of eight sets of activities, which vary from package to package. These are those from Goldilocks. Story Track is a sequencing exercise. Four pictures, each with a few lines of text, illustrate scenes from the story. The child must put them into the correct order. They can all be printed, in colour, to cut out and sequence away from the computer. When all are correct, the story is read, each panel of text illuminating in turn.

Is it True? offers a choice of three statements (one is true) about a character. There is no help with the reading, which may be felt to be a little demanding.

In Mix and Match, the child has to match up rhyming words, while Time For Two introduces an element of competition, as two children each try to spot their set of four words from those displayed and read aloud.

Forest Folk asks the child to complete a sentence describing a chosen animal, using one of four words provided, while Puzzle Place is a word square with missing vowels. Verbal clues are given.

Tell a Story begins the tale, but stops part way through a sentence. Each time, the child must choose the next appropriate phrase from three presented. Finally, Mailbox shows letters written from one character to another. First the child must decide who wrote it, then they are shown another letter with initial letters of words deleted. These must be typed in to complete the text.

Each Stage 2 story is presented slightly differently. Little Red Riding Hood begins with the traditional story being very well told by a live storyteller, in full- motion video - once again with no text but, this time, with no illustrations either. However, the teller is compelling.

This is followed by a Modern Version, presented in storybook format, with a picture and text on each page, each phrase illuminating as it is read. This features a streetwise Red Riding Hood on a skateboard - and it's great fun.

The activities begin in Wolfy's Word Works with a multiple-choice cloze exercise, followed by selecting appropriate endings for root words, then deciding whether or not two parts of a split sentence go together to make sense. In the Race Through the Woods, the child must answer questions, based on either version of the story, in order to get Red Riding Hood through the woods in the quickest possible time. All Mixed Up tackles sequencing again, initally in a very similar way to Stage 1, but then adding a speech bubbles version.

The teacher's resource books are excellent. There is a very useful guide to the whole package and there are very useful assessment suggestions, a list of the relevant print-outs and blackline masters and some ideas for follow-up activities away from the computer. Books reproduce the entire text of the story and there are both individual and class record sheets.

All in all, this is an excellent series of CD-Roms which will help children develop both literacy and IT skills veryeffectively.

Inside Stories CD-Roms for PC and Mac pound;29.95 each - discounts for bulk orders.

Kingscourt Publishing Ltd Tel: 0181 741 2533

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