A star of the silver screen

STORY SHORTS. A Resource for Key Stage 2 Literacy. Video compilation and teaching guide. British Film Institute. Tel: 0870 241 3764. pound;24.99 mail order

This resource pack is excellent value for money. The five short films, ranging from five to 14 minutes in length, and the admirably succinct 64-page teaching guide, will be put to good use by any teacher with half a mind to develop their pupils' literacy beyond the printed word.

Each film is a quirky gem that will linger in the mind, probably for years. Four are animations. El Caminante is a drawn animation about a high-wire artist. Second Helpings, a clay-model animation in the style of Wallace and Gromit, is about the overbearing family life of an overweight girl. The regional dialogue might be difficult for children to interpret on first hearing, but guidelines for the films recommend second and third viewings in order to form considered responses. Growing and Train of Thought are artistic animations that demonstrate the close correspondence between picture and soundtrack.

The one live-action film - Mavis and the Mermaid (winner of the 2000 London Film Festival SHAN Award) - stars Eric Sykes as a fisherman and is a mood piece about illness, growing old, and death. The teaching guide contains informative film commentaries.

After a general chapter about the language and terminology of film, the guide then provides sets of questions for each title, under six headings: Camera, Colour, Character, Story, Sound and Setting.

The next chapter, "Using story shorts in the Literacy Hour", moves beyond these focused film questions and stresses that: "To use the films effectively as tools to explore literacy it is important to think of moving image products as 'texts'." A learning objective grid, identifying word, sentence and text-level work for each of the films for use with Year 3 through to Year 6 is followed up with a set of full-page lesson plans.

This is a faultless resource. Pester your literacy co-ordinator to order a copy.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary, Hailsham

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