A tale of two halves
IN THE novel Divided City, young Joe's father is trying to persuade him to speak about his problems: "There's nothing I can help you with?" Joe shook his head. "Talk about?"
"We did all thon facts of life stuff a while ago, didn't we?"
Joe nodded. "Yeh, I think I told you everything you needed to know."
The exchange contains truth as well as humour, because everything that youngsters and their dads need to know is changing all the time. Asylum seekers, refugees, racism and religious bigotry are as important to understand nowadays as sex - and as hard to talk about.
Fiction like this can open doors in people's minds. A new resource from Glasgow City Council uses the Theresa Breslin novel as the basis for a series of lessons that guide pupils to explore their attitudes and feelings, and those of the people around them.
Divided City is a gripping tale about football-mad friends from opposite sides of Glasgow's sectarian divide. Sympathetic characters, familiar settings and a page-turning plot make the book an ideal starting-point and stimulus for learning in the classroom.
"Our strategy has always been to look at curriculum areas the teachers are already trying to develop, and weave the anti-sectarian stuff through them," says Alison Logan, co-ordinator of the city council's Sense over Sectarianism project. "We have done that with enterprise education, and with books in the English curriculum at secondary level. This resource is aimed at P7."
The CD-Rom consists of seven separate lessons, devised by teachers for teachers, and has been distributed to all Glasgow primary schools. Designed to promote discussion through engaging activities, the lessons use and develop pupils' reading, writing, talking and listening skills.
A wealth of teaching ideas and activities, learning intentions and outcomes for each lesson, are supplied, while additional resources are provided in Word form.
Lessons promote active involvement and exploration of the story's setting, atmosphere, character and plot. The themes of prejudice and friendship are explored in later lessons, once pupils are engaged with the tale and caught up in the lives and thoughts of its lead characters.
Prejudice against other faiths and asylum seekers each get a lesson, with activities to support discussion and analysis. The lesson sequence ends on a high note, as does the book, with the bonds that bring people together gaining the upper hand over the differences that pull them apart.
Towards the end of Divided City, Joe and his dad are talking briefly again, this time about Joe's mother, who died before the story started. Joe apologises for mentioning her thoughtlessly and his father, after a pause, reassures him.
"It'll take a while. But I'm getting there. Like our city. Some things have got to be done bit by bit."
E Alison.Logan@education.glasgow.gov.uk T 0141 287 4206 www.theresabreslin.co.uk