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FROM complete packages to time-saving big books, Jonny Zucker, Julie Yaxley and Michael Lockwood look at a selection of resources for primary reading and writing

WORKING WITH WORDS - Year 3, 4, 5 amp; 6. By Sarah Allen (Y3 + Y6) and Paula Goodridge (Y4 + Y5). Hopscotch. Price: pound;15.99 each. Tel: 01926 744 227

As with so many Hopscotch products, these texts are well thought-out and clearly presented.

Each of the four books covers 10 elements of the literacy strategy. A double-page spread guides the teacher, with ideas for a whole-class lesson introduction, group work and a plenary, as well as for sentence-level and text-level activities. This is followed by a page of class text and three differentiated, photocopiable activities relating to that text. The differentiation is carefully graded and provides a realistic selection of activities to cater for a mixed-ability class.

Each unit can stand alone as one lesson, but there are plenty of extension activities promoting a range of skills, from library use to performing group poetry.

As you familiarise yourself with each title, you get the feeling that these have been produced by people who really know what it's like to teach a mixed group of children. While some literacy resources are overburdened with technical pointers and crossreferencing, these books are a valuable, easy to manage literacy resource.

JZ

English for the More Able - Books 1-6 By Mary Green and Chris Lutrario Folens Price: pound;14.95 each Tel: 01582 501000 www.folens.com

Are you unsure of what to do with your higher-achieving children who speed through work like a smoking bullet? Folens has created a series of books to challenge more able children.

The activities are geared to two years above chronological age. Each activity contains one page for the teacher and a photocopiable page for the pupil. The teacher's pages detail one key word, sentence or text-level objective, expectations of the children's tasks and necessary resources.

The children's pages are clearly presented, stimulating and occasionally humorous. With a variety of layouts and witty line drawings, pupils in need of extended challenges will find much to keep them busy.

Each book provides a once-a-week activity for all three terms, but teachers can use these resources as it suits their pupils. A simple grid at the back of each book provides links to the literacy strategy. JZ

Skeleton Poster Books By Sue Palmer TTS Group Price: pound;5.99 each Tel: 0800 318 686 www.tts-group.co.uk

This series of seven big books, for use in the literacy hour, provide large prompt cards to stimulate ideas, discussion and good quality work.

They cover a range of genres, from recounting to persuasive writing. Each page contains some form of bold instruction, flow chart or diagram.

The series works through various strands of the literacy strategy, which is an admirable goal, but one that can be easily achieved with a pen and a whiteboard. Some pages literally contain three words, such as "rehearse", "write", "re-read", making these skeleton poster books ideal for the teacher who has no time or desire to write up even the most basic nuts and bolts of their teaching framework for that lesson.

They do have some use as time-savers, but where financial resources are limited, literacy budgets could be better spent elsewhere. JZ

Sellardore Tales By Marshal Anderson Topologika Software Price: Single-user pound;34.95 (ex VAT), site licence pound;139.80 (ex VAT).

Extra books from pound;2.50 to pound;3.30 (no VAT), depending on the number purchased Tel: 01326 377 771 Email: sales@topologika.com www.topologika.com

This literacy pack is designed to support children who have a reading age of seven to eight years. It consists of an illustrated reading book (also available on the CD-Rom as a talking book with clear, slow speech), an "adventure program" and support materials, such as activity sheets and teacher's handbook.

Children first need to read the book (or have it read to them), as this sets the scene for the adventure and introduces the main characters.

The adventure has two levels of difficulty and children make choices by entering instructions such as "go south". The challenge is to unblock the Black River in order to return the water supply to Black River Village. There is an option to have the text spoken, although you may find that the background sounds will not work at the same time.

The adventure is extensive and children will need a fair amount of time to explore it. They will also have to be good at using directions. Help is on hand, however, in the form of a step-by-step solution provided in the teacher's handbook. JY

Writing Focus Granada Learning Price: Single-user pound;49, additional user (ex VAT) pound;10 Tel: 0161 827 2877 Email: info@granada-learning.com www.granada-learning.com

Writing Focus provides a stimulus and structure for writing at upper key stage 2 and would also be a useful addition to the literacy hour.

Eight types of writing are provided, including "shape poems", diary, playscript, "for and against", and biography. There is also the option for "free writing". Each type of writing has a few examples and children are encouraged to compose in a similar manner. Word banks, pictures and even videos are provided.

When using videos as part of the "roving reporter" activity, children can record a commentary (this is explained on the website).

For those who know their way around a computer and want to provide their own content (pictures, and so on) the manual provides instructions.

Simple formatting of text is incorporated into the program, as well as rather a robotic speech function, but there is no spell-check facility. Useful teacher support materials give ideas for classroom activities and summary grids showing links with the Year 5Year 6 literacy hour. JY

A Poetry Teacher's Toolkit Books 1-4 By Collette Drifte and Mike Jubb David Fulton Price: pound;15 each Tel: 020 7405 5606 www.fultonbooks.co.uk

This series aims to provide a complete package for key stage 2 teachers who are uncertain about poetry, but need to teach it as part of the literacy strategy.

The four books covering words and wordplay, rhymes, "rhythms and rattles", style, shape and structure, and language and performance offer writing activities, a detailed literacy hour lesson plan for Year 34 and Year 56, accompanying photocopiable worksheets differentiated at three levels and the complete texts of featured poems.

There is also the same "must read" introductory chapter in each book, which lives up to its title, and a good glossary and index.

The writing activities are the most rewarding as they are written in a bright, breezy style by a practising poet. They suggest plenty of tried and tested practical ideas for writing that are sometimes linked to featured poems and are sometimes freestanding. These include the excellent idea of setting up a school poetry choir.

The literacy strategy lesson plans and worksheets are more formulaic, more conventional and less exciting in their ideas, although book two has some more adventurous ideas on rhyme and rhythm.

The poems are of variable quality and cover a wide range of periods (including a lot of Wordsworth) and there are plenty by children and Mike Jubb himself. ML Jonny Zucker teaches at West Acton Primary School in the London borough of Ealing Julie Yaxley is ICT co-ordinator at Wincle CE Primary School, Cheshire and NOF teacher adviser Michael Lockwood is a lecturer in English and education at the University of Reading

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