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Soft options;Hands on

Roger Frost picks the best educational software releases

It is good to see software houses catering for the younger end of the primary school. Especially when their products offer as much as All About Ourselves (age 5-7).

A section on senses asks children to match sounds to pictures, say what foods they like and use new words to describe textures and smells. Another requires them to write about themselves, pick foods for a balanced diet and sort people by their age. And a section in which pupils assemble parts of the body or examine one through an X-ray machine is sure to feed curiosity.

Each activity only takes a few minutes so pupils can be set a one-off task rather than be left to wander aimlessly through the program. You could set them to work on graphs, where they sort people by eye and hair colour to make a Venn diagram. Or pupils could try data collection, making a Carrol diagram or a pictogram to show birthdays and eye colours. Such flexibility is the program's strength, plus its ability to hold pupils' interest with stories they can hear as they read them or ways to make faces, slide shows and cards.

Best of all, few children (or adults) will struggle with it - it almost installs itself and at every stage a voice explains what to do and options are set out clearly. Other titles include All About Weather And Seasons and All About Shape And Space.

All About Ourselves

Price: pound;49+VAT

Granada Learning

Tel: 0161 827 2778

Tom Snyder Productions, rather grandly heralds this program as interactive group software. By this it means that Science Court: Water Cycle (age 9-11) is not simply a program about condensation, evaporation and water in the atmosphere, but will drive a lesson's activities.

The CD-Rom, one in a series that tackles gravity, soil, work, sound and statistics, presents episodes of a courtroom drama in which two cartoon lawyers argue a case about a pipe: the issue is whether it leaked or whether condensation dripped off it. At each stage of the trial witnesses are interviewed and the class is asked questions and required to undertake an experiment or discuss issues.

What you will witness (at least on-screen) is intelligent argument: the court proves a great setting for discussing science and its characters are likable and funny. All that remains is to allow two to three class periods as well as being prepared to reorganise your lesson.

If the class is ready for something a bit wacky, this could work well.

Science Court: Water Cycle Price: pound;39.95+VAT Brighter Vision Education Tel: 0181 228 2890

Words and pictures are the stuff of This Week In History, a CD-Rom for pupils aged 8-13 years that provides a wealth of facts and images on the Tudors, Victorians, Medieval times, world wars and Britain since 1930 to name but a few. Teachers and pupils can use this as clipart to illustrate a poster, a worksheet or even a web page.

However, developer Sherston has not simply provided images on a disk for you to rummage through. It has organised its material on a calendar basis, so you might discover that in 1620 in a given week, the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America, or in 1783 the Montgolfier brothers had lift-off in their hot-air balloon. For each story there is a paragraph of text with pictures, say, of hot-air balloons. You can also access the material via an index or by using conventional headings such as medicine, royalty, society or science.

Best of all the program demands no technical wizardry: just cut and paste data into the program you use.

This Week In History Price pound;40 Sherston Software, Tel: 01666 843200

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