Boys will be boys...;Books;Reviews

26th February 1999 at 00:00
WRITING UNDER CONTROL. Edited by Judith Graham and Alison Kelly. David Fulton pound;14

Writing Under Control is aimed at putting students in the picture, not developing debate. It addresses the National Literacy Strategy but the framework is unquestioned. This determines both its usefulness and its limitations.

The book begins with two chapters providing the historical contexts and continues with a useful "routines and resources" section. The chapter on composition is short relative to its importance, and is particularly thin on poetry. It deals most fully with non-narrative writing. The chapter on transcription, spelling, punctuation and handwriting is much longer. Does this emphasis represent the writers' reading of the strategy?

Permeating this book is the desire to wean boys away from boyish interests. For example, when a boy writes repetitively about tanks, the assumption is that he should be led into other paths, not that he could be helped to develop his research and writing skills by exploiting this interest. An otherwise admirable chapter on meeting individual needs sees no anomaly in illustrating imaginative differences between boys and girls, and prescriptively aiming to minimise them. One boy's writing about violent and "phallic things" is unquestioningly seen as undesirable and not in any way as evidence of a boy exploring his own identity.

Nevertheless, this book should largely achieve its aim of providing students with a secure foundation for facing the framework.

Nicholas Bielby's latest book is Teaching Reading - A Balanced Approach, published by Scholastic.

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