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Leading lads down the road to learning

Puzzle books featuring street signs may be the key to motivating boys, says Dorothy Walker

Traffic signs may not hold fascination for everyone, but they do spark enthusiasm among car-mad young men. Used as a theme in the classroom, they can even tempt disaffected teenagers to have another go at learning.

They feature prominently in Signs and Symbols, a new set of puzzle books designed to help young people find their way through the increasingly complicated maze of warnings and instructions they encounter in everyday life.

Aimed at the 14 to adult age range, the books are published by Axis Education. They are designed to appeal to pupils with learning difficulties and are useful for anyone preparing for independent living or the world of work.

There are four titles: On the Road features street and garage signs and map symbols; At Work covers health and safety and the workplace; Around Town focuses on town-centre destinations, such as restaurants, shops and banks; and At Home includes symbols that apply to laundry, ironing, food-packaging and household safety.

Jayne Garner, managing editor of Axis, says: "We found that young people at school had almost no knowledge of everyday signs and symbols, particularly the health and safety examples, which they have to be aware of at work.

Road signs are the best-known, and they are really motivational for young lads. We can capture their interest and then move into other areas of learning."

Each book offers 40 puzzles and activities, including crosswords, quizzes, word searches, mazes and matching games. Learning how to sort out low-flying aircraft from high-voltage pylon symbols not only saves lives, it can be a fun way into literacy.

Jayne says: "The students are actually working on synonyms, matching written signs with symbols, writing their own definitions and tackling comprehension exercises. But none of it feels threatening, because it's about everyday life."

Every page can be photocopied as a worksheet and a glossary of signs is included in each book. "The idea is to dip into a topic when you need it,"

she says. "Working right through a book as if you were taking a course would be tedious and is not recommended."

She describes the style of the materials as "crisp, clean and straight-talking": "My background is in prison education, and almost every resource I ever used was totally patronising and had no credibility with students. We are tackling an everyday subject in an adult way."

* Signs and Symbols. pound;22.95 per title; pound;80 for all four Axis Education Stand SN-A29

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