27th October 2000 at 01:00
SILVER HOOKS AND GOLDEN SANDS. HeadStrong Interactive. pound;95 + VAT for 30-user licence. Tel: 01484 660770.

HeadStrong Interactive is a small company with clear ideas on the power of multimedia software for exploring language and literature.

Silver Hooks and Golden Sands is a multimedia anthology - an introduction to poetry and prose in English from 1360 to 1900. Focused on the new orders for key stage 3, this disc provides multiple points of access for studying literature over a 500-year period. Work from all the named writers is included in a list that runs from Chaucer to Emily Dickinson. Most importantly, the title is designed as a resource to run over school and college networks, providing simultaneous access for whole-class groups.

In six thematic groups such as "seasons" and "narrative poems", the resource is easy to master. Each extract is accompanied by a reading. Good, clear, rich voices bring the works to life, and sound quality is excellent. All texts are carefully annotatd so that clicking on a difficult or unknown word brings up a definition and sometimes an illustration.

Another excellent feature is the timeline, where you may choose a year and have it graphically represented with illustrations of contemporary events and literature. This title will help students understand the development of written English over time.

The activity section also offers some genuinely new opportunities by helping learners write in a range of genres. With clever use of templates, students are invited to finish a line here and add a word there. Before they know it they have written their own poem or sonnet.

Further activities encourage work at word levels with voice prints, allowing students to see at phoneme level the use of syllable stress in the witches' speeches in Macbeth. Several key stage 3 literacy objectives will be met by this resource. If you've got a network this title deserves serious consideration - then again it will also run on a standalone computer.

John Davitt

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