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Monster appetites

Nicola Jones clicks through some monstrous, controversial and mischievous new CD-Roms designed to improve levels of literacy

COLLINS PATHWAYS. Age range: 4-7CD-Rom for Windows MultimediaPCs, Apple Macintosh and Acornwith teachers' notes and five core books, Pounds 82.19Collins Educational, tel: 0141 306 3484 (please quote code 2186)

You can eat my bicycle, you can eat my tree, you can eat my trousers, but you can't eat me." Teachers and parents using the Collins Pathway reading scheme will recognise this extract from the key stage 1 book, You can eat my Bicycle, by Steve Smallman. It's about a ravenous monster, with an appetite for everything.

The monster, which is awesome enough in the book version, comes alive with suitable monster noises and a cavernous mouth that opens and closes alarmingly in this new Collins Pathways CD-Rom, which takes five core books plus poems from each of the Collins Pathways, stages 1-3.

The other storybooks are Red Bird (stage 2) and You Can't Park an Elephant in a Car Park (stage 3). There are also poems taken from Ghost Train (stage 1) and Slide Down the Rainbow (stage 3).

The CD-Rom supports children in reading the story, with two options, either Read Together or You Read. An additional feature will allow a microphone to be connected to the computer to record their own voices reading the story for playback. The method is so simple even very young children should be able to manage it.

There are also some useful activities that support reading and language skills and provide practice in letter and word recognition, cloze procedure, rhymes, prediction, matching and alphabetical order. Some of these are directly linked to the story, such as a game where children have to match a word or letter to feed the monster, or colour the red bird, by reading the instructions for the right colours and carrying them out.

These activities are graded at three levels of difficulty, which will allow the child to gain confidence as the task becomes more difficult. There were no activities with the poems, which I feel is a lost opportunity, especially in the light of the feature which allows children to record their own voices. Rhyme and rhythm is an important factor in developing reading skills.

Collins should be congratulated on an excellent book of teacher's notes and resource masters which are included with this CD-Rom. This gives a clear and jargon-free guide to using the disc and then goes on to explain the activities with suggestions as to how they might be used in the classroom.

The resource masters support the activities on the CD-Rom and will extend what is learnt away from the computer. There is also a useful pupil record sheet included, so that teachers can keep a note of which part of the CD-Rom the child has worked on. The pack also comes with two sets of the five books.

The interface on this CD-Rom is first class and would allow children maximum independence to carry out all the activities with the minimum of initial support. Everything worked beautifully with no hitches.

Collins has put a great deal of thought into this product and it is worth buying. It could be used on its own or as an addition to the reading scheme. And all those ravenous little monsters in your classroom will gobble it up.

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