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Some reason, but little rhyme

Nelson English - Foundation Skills Activity Box, Word Book and Workbooks By John Jackman and Wendy Roberts Nelson Pounds 94.35

The Nelson English Foundation Skills Activity Box and accompanying graded workbooks and wordbook aim to develop the early language skills of sequencing, comprehension and phonics. The box contains card-based activities for individual or paired work at key stage 1, cassettes to accompany the sequencing cards, copymasters to supplement the pictures and a 14-page booklet of explanatory material for teachers.

For schools wishing to replace worn out equipment with something similar, these materials may be recommended for their durability. However, the "phonics" element is disappointing, considering the well-publicised research in this area over the past two decades. There is no mention of rhyme or indeed any element of phonological awareness, and no consideration of the role of spelling in early phonics.

The sequencing cards and stimulus pictures are based on six themes: home, animals, weather, food, transport and school. Each pack of sequencing cards tells a simple story and could promote discussion among children as they choose one of the alternative endings. The semi-dramatised versions of the stories on cassette provide opportunities for working independently of the teacher, while the picture cards are designed to stimulate discussion or writing.

Inevitably, however, these materials lack the vibrancy of other media which teachers use for the same purpose. There is a vast array of picture books on the market for stimulating discussion and providing opportunity for developing sequencing and prediction skills. At least six educationalpublishers have added to this stock by commissioning books from leading authors fortheir language programmes. These programmes include guidance notes for teachers on how to use the books in an effective way.

Teachers today can provide children with the opportunity to improve their writing skills in meaningful situations. They can can also write with a class, modelling elements of language such as spelling, punctuation, structure of a text and the use of descriptive or precise vocabulary.

It is not obvious where theNelson English Foundation Skills Activity Box fits into this rich provision.

Laura Huxford is a senior lecturer at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education

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