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Lexical squibs

THE LITERACY KIT. By Geoff Barton, Michaela Blackledge, Joanna Crewe, Jane Flintoft and Becca Heddle. Student's Book 'Inform Explain Describe' pound;8. Overhead transparency pack pound;25. Word level Lesson Starters pound;50 + VAT. Oxford University Press

Leaving aside the tedious jargon and Byzantine cross-referencing with which publishers feel bound to introduce their literacy manuals, Oxford University Press's attractively presented and comprehensive package is certainly worth a second look.

The student book tackles the gamut of non-fiction text types in basic format for Year 7, then develops the study of the "Inform, Explain Describe" genre for the remainder of key stage 3 through a range of well-chosen and often entertaining extracts.

Supplementary examples are available on overhead projector transparencies, and the package is supported by a detailed teacher's guide which should ensure that no one is stuck for ideas or material.

Presumably there is no irony intended in the "Trivial Pursuit" style packaging of The Literacy Kit's collection of starter activities. How to tackle this aspect is a serious matter for those schools who are pursuing the KS3 strategy with proper vigour, and this tempting box of lexical squibs should arouse plenty of interest.

The main elements of the Starter Activities set are: a booklet of teacher's notes; a booklet of photocopiable masters; a collection of OHTs; and multiple packs of small (perhaps too small) cards which form the basis of some of the activities. These come in self-sealing packs, and while they are relatively easy to extract, they are rather less easy to get back in.

The activities are helpfully indexed to the Year 7 word level objectives and extrapolated from there to the rest of KS3.

For some of the starter activities the preparation required (for example, reading the notes, photocopying sheets, cutting up squares and checking cards) will be considerable, and, for simple concepts such as the apostrophe of omission, will hardly seem worth the hassle.

However, other National Literacy Strategyimperatives, less rooted perhaps in the English teacher's psyche, may be better served by the kit. Analogy in spelling rules, for example, is supported by a useful photocopiable master which would be well worth putting on acetate.

For those departments in receipt of extra funding to support implementation of the strategy, The Literacy Kit is probably worth the money. I suspect, however, that it is the type of resource that will be most effective on that day - perhaps not so far distant - when every English department has its equivalent of the lab technician, and all manner of things, including flash cards, will be made well.


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