Books to stimulate modern citizens

6th November 1998 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE AND SOCIETY. Series Editor: Muir Johnstone. SOCIETY AND YOU by Cruikshank, Lambert and Wilson. Textbook Pounds 6.99, teachers' resource Pounds 25. THE WORLD AND YOU by Deakin and Graham. Textbook Pounds 8.99, teachers' resource Pounds 30. Hodder and Stoughton.

In an attempt to widen the horizons of my Primary 5 class, I suggested we discuss some of the events in our local community. Such a simple task gave rise to unforeseen difficulties. After various lurid tales about who had been fighting outside the pub and what someone's uncle had done to a friend, I called a halt to our little excursion into the area.

This episode illustrated some of the difficulties encountered when teaching People in Society as part of environmental studies 5-14. Secondary schools have advantages such as subject expertise and specialised equipment which help teach subjects such as science. Modern studies matches People in Society, but does not have a direct equivalent in the primary curriculum.

People in Society is proving difficult to teach in primary schools and teachers are always on the look out for good resources. This set of textbooks and teachers' notes goes a long way to meeting the need. The publisher's claim that teachers wanting to cover all the key features, contexts and content for P4-P7 will find what they are looking for in Understanding People and Society is justified. The teachers' notes provide page by page instructions, detailed planning sheets and learning activities. There are also resource sheets to photocopy and a user-friendly assessment sheet.

Chapter headings in Society and You include Fair Play; Money; Family Matters; Developing Countries and Decision Making. The World and You for P7-S2 includes chapters on Decision Making, the Media and Rich WorldPoor World.

The textbooks should be used as a starting point for discussion since many of the topics lead to debate and do not have right answers. Various activities are included and clearly marked for the pupils with symbols indicating note taking, research, discussion, answering questions or using worksheets.

One danger with 5-14 developments is that teachers are forced to use materials which satisfy the requirements of the programme rather than those which are stimulating and enjoyable. These books are both, but they must be used in conjunction with other resources, many of which are listed. For example, in a chapter on democracy, teachers are advised: "Before you begin - collect reference books on short and long-term aid, third world countries and food. Write to Traidcraft."

Unfortunately the textbooks are not in colour throughout which is a pity since the colour pages look so attractive.

Environmental studies 5-14 is under review and schools may be reluctant to move forward until the position is clarified. However, Hodder and Stoughton is to be commended for producing materials which will be invaluable to primary schools and provide much stimulus to secondary modern studies courses.

Allison Hillis teaches at Dalreoch Primary School, West Dunbartonshire

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