Beyond the superficial

1st December 2000 at 00:00
DIGGING DEEPER.Book 1 Britain 1966-1500. Book 2 Britain 1500-1750. Book 3 Britain 1750-1900. Book 4 The Twentieth Century World. By Alan Brooks-Tyreman, Jane Shuter and Kate Smith. Heinemann. pound;5.99 each.

Do you know how much urine a person produces each day? Could you recognise a witch? What roles did itching powder and exploding rats play in the Second World War?

You will find the answers by "digging deeper", a refreshingly new approach to history that is actually inspired by the changes to the national curriculum programme of study.

The renewed emphasis on skills is reflected in a section in each title which contains activities requiring pupils to work with sources of different kinds, understand causation and assess interpretation - was Cromwell a saint or sinner?

The series also provides topics for the in-depth studies and the exploration of themes such as poverty, medicine and transport.

Throughout the series there is an explicit and successful attempt to keep the interest of pupils by including such subjects as pets in the Middle Ages, the "beggars' brotherhood", Sweeney Todd (Britain's first serial killer?) and the early history of football. Units on sewage disposal in a medieval castle and arrington's flush toilet show that the writers understand how young minds work and this mission to engage is reflected in the selection of themes - all work and no play in the Middle Ages and propaganda in the 20th century.

Some topics such as the use of photographic evidence in history and the experience of black GIs in Britain show fresh thinking about what captures the experience and presents the important features of a period.

Visually exciting, the series uses the widest range of techniques to reinforce understanding, such as a large Venn diagram to show the interaction of political, religious and military causes of the Civil War and a plan of the Jallianwalla Bagh to show the significance of Dyer's actions at Amritsar, an event which is covered in some detail so that pupils can examine the evidence and argue a case.

Pictures of the bombed city of Grozny and, in another section, of the Gallagher brothers are reminders that history is still being made and that the pupils are part of it.

Although the series is not a substitute for a text that provides a more comprehensive overview of each period it offers stimulating supplementary material which pupils - and teachers - will hugely enjoy.

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