A time for listening;Reviews

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
EFFECTIVE IEPS THROUGH CIRCLE TIME. By Margaret Goldthorpe. LDA pound;15.95 LDA Abbeygate House, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1DB

CIRCLE TIME IN-SERVICE TRAINING MANUAL. By Carolyn Bromfield and Mollie Curry. NASEN pound;8 (inc postage) (10 per cent discount to NASEN members) NASEN, 4 Amber Business Village, Amber Close, Tamworth B77 4RP

Circle time, according to its best-known exponent Jenny Mosley, is not an easy option to be casually added on to the day. Margaret Goldthorpe, a special needs teacher who uses Mosley's model, writes at the beginning of Effective IEPs (individual education plans) through Circle Time, "It isn't carpet time. It is not a time when the children sit cosily on the floor... Neither is it a time when the children all talk about their problems, fears and worries in front of each other, in an unstructured way."

Properly used, she says, circle time follows a set pattern, and "promotes the capacity of the circle to plan, do and review."

Crucially, it is a time for listening - on the whole, not enough of this goes on in schools. Teachers are keen to teach; pupils are either keen to answer or anxious to withdraw. Careful listening, of a kind that values what the speaker has to say, is at a premium. This, more than anything else, is what circle time aims to put right. When it works, pupils feel valued, and become confident in expressing their worries and hopes. Not only does this have a direct effect on their academic work, it also increases the teacher's ability to assess their educational and social needs - hence Margaret Goldthorpe's book, which describes in detail how to use circle time in the construction of individual education plans for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Mollie Curry and Carolyn Bromfield's manual cleaves to a similar philosophy, and can complement Goldthorpe's book in the sense that it is more directly intended to be used as a tool for in-service training. It is divided into sessions, with activities for delegates and instructions for the session leader, and there are photocopiable pages to be used as handouts or with over-head projectors.

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