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If you go down to the woods today

Pam Turnbull looks at a golden oldie that is still a winner

Teddy Bear's Picnic Sherston Software pound;45 (single-user) Ages: 4-6 Tel: 01666 843200

Although in danger of showing my age, I still have a copy of the original BBC Micro version of Teddy Bear's Picnic. It was a classic in its day, so how does its re-issue look now? The graphics have certainly been improved and are now reminiscent of the Australian pre-school TV series Bananas in Pyjamas.

There are two choices in this program. One is an adventure where children help Natty Bear get dressed, find a picnic site, send invitations, research the most popular food and drink and go shopping for it. The other is a combination of seven activities which pupils dip into at random.

Available at three levels, the program defaults to level 2. However, accessing the teacher options allows you to specify level and content and refine the settings.

For instance, in Going Shopping at level 2 you can specify consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant (for instance, "ship") or consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant (for instance "cash") words or a mix.

A nice point is that, apart from the title screen, there are no text instructions. The animated Natty Bear provides narration and information and offers help if children run into problems. Controls are limited and so are quickly assimilated.

There is a bank of photocopiable sheets on the CD-Rom to support all the activities, as well as a manual and record-keeping facilities.

Content includes literacy, numeracy and ICT. At level 1, they have Natty reading consonant, vowel, consonant words (for instance "hat") for them to choose from and there are three sentences to complete.

At level 3, pupils have to make predictions and check the meaning of unfamiliar words in more complex sentences. Narration here is optional and drag-and-drop mouse skills are required. Then there's Dress Teddy, which involves sequencing vocabulary moving as well as more precise mouse skills.

The improved graphics are noticeable when playing Paying for Shopping as the coins are large and clear and easy to recognise. Pupils start by identifying pounds and pence, find totals and mentally add small numbers.

This program offers bright, animated fun and children will love it.

Pam Turnbull is ICT co-ordinator, The Heys Primary School, Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside

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