As an introduction to life before word-processing, Writing Through Time is the definitive class pack. It provides a cross-cultural range of mark-making implements, from the papyrus and reeds of Ancient Egypt through to quill pens, inkwells and sand-shakers of Tudor times.
The pack, with its plethora of artefacts, is an excellent stimulus for a study of how a common activity has changed over history, focusing particularly on the key stage 2 curriculum.
Children can try out Mesopotamian writing using wooden styli and self-hardening clay or a Roman wax tablet. There are six dip-pens and six Victorian-style slates, enabling small groups of children to experiment. A John Bull set introduces the basics of printing, and facsimiles of newspaper front pages from 1900, 1950, 1970 together with a pamphlet from the Civil War demonstrate the progress of the printing press.
The hardware is well chosen. The replica artefacts are not just for show; most of them are robust enough for use by children to give them a real "hands-on" experience of history. The materials could easily be supplemented with existing classroom equipment such as modelling clay so that all children can participate. Don't be put off by the uninviting appearance of the activity sheets in the supporting book, Writing Through Artefacts. A close look reveals many suggestions for educationally sound activities, succinct background information and a timeline.
Writing Through Time offers very good value for money. The results achieved with the tools make ideal display materials - blots and all.
Gillian Blatherwick is deputy headteacher at Rushey Mead primary school, Leicester