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Stories to talk about

THINKING MATTERS By Richard Fox Southgate Pounds 8.99.

Tracking down a story with a specific theme for an assembly, English or personal and social education lesson can be time-consuming. Thinking Matters conveniently groups together 11 short episodes written for those occasions when a particular discussion topic is needed. Centred on the primary classroom and focusing on a particular lesson (science, maths, history, technology etc), each story contains several ideas to encourage children to think and talk.

A central character, 10-year-old Simon, features in all the stories. He stands aside from his classmates to reflect on such issues as marriage and divorce (via Henry VIII), bullying, fighting, teasing, stealing, supporting other pupils, and many others.

Not all themes are moral or humanitarian. Some lessons provoke discussion around topics such as the meaning of art and music and the value of group work.

Since all the stories are set in class 5H and feature the same characters, children would find it tedious to follow the whole book from cover to cover, but as a resource to be dipped into the book contains a lot of useful ideas. The teacher's notes which follow each story make it easy to see at a glance which themes are covered.

Due to the setting and the age of characters, the stories are less likely to be used with older pupils, although they could be of value in special schools which emphasise a caring, tolerant environment. Children should relate to the characters and situations, especially if they are not exposed to them too often.

Though the stories are photocopiable, they are more likely to be read to pupils rather than by them.

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