Concise texts for teaching good citizenship

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Understanding People in Society series Citizenship editions Society and You by Mary Cruickshank, Christina Lambert and Margaret Wilson pupil book pound;8.99; teacher's resource pound;45

The World and You by Richard Deakin and Sam Graham pupil book pound;10.99; teacher's resource pound;45 Hodder Gibson

Just when you were wondering if a comprehensive Understanding People in Society resource would ever arrive, along comes a four-pack. Primary teachers can relax. Modern studies teachers can take it easy. Citizenship co-ordinators can leave their grids for a while.

These updated resources are good. Aiming to provide a comprehensive and adaptable programme of study for the environmental studies 5-14 attainment outcome Understanding People in Society, the resources plan to create "rights-respecting global citizens". Ambitious stuff, and this is without a doubt the biggest attempt to tackle such broad targets to date.

Society and You targets the P4-P7 market. In eight chapters it moves from money to developing countries via topics such as child rights and families.

The material is concise, unpatronising and deals with a series of difficult topics in an upbeat and focused way. Those 5-14 co-ordinators who are worried about patchy provision for Understanding People in Society, would sleep more easily if their cluster primaries were following this course.

There is no longer any good cause for this element of environmental studies to be the Cinderella of the primary curriculum.

The second book deals with S1-S2, and it will therefore be used primarily by modern studies teachers. An initial study of rules, political decisions and groups is followed by a close look at the media, development issues, the USA and international relations. The material is logical, well presented and stimulating. The clarity of the presentation also means that complex issues are distilled down into manageable chunks.

A pleasing feature of this book is an innovative first chapter. Planned as a "bridging" unit, it spans the gap between primary and secondary coverage.

Most teachers are only too aware of the deficiencies in primary-secondary transfer outwith English and maths, so it is good to see a text addressing this difficulty.

The teacher's resource packs are also good. Clear planning sheets accompany off-the-shelf pupil profile grids, but most useful are a series of activity sheets to supplement the book tasks. Easily photocopiable, many of these sheets are likely to fill magazine files around the country.

So what's the "citizenship" bit? Unicef has played a part in the production of these resources, and therefore a global context permeates throughout.

Rights and responsibilities are also to the fore, and this undoubtedly strengthens the material. Schools that use these texts will certainly be enhancing their citizenship provision.

Any negatives? Yes, but they can be overcome in straightforward ways.

Some teachers may feel that many of the topics are not treated in enough depth. It's hard to argue with this, although it is understandable in such an ambitious undertaking. It does mean that some of the secondary material in particular might need a little expansion for more able students.

Differentiation is also an issue. Although the teacher's resource packs do broaden the work in interesting ways, they do not actually differentiate the tasks. This is a real weakness, but a little creativity could still see the material forming part of a differentiated curriculum.

The primary book could, for example, provide simplified tasks for lower ability S1-2 students working on existing units. Likewise, the secondary book could certainly support Standard grade students at Foundation level, as well as providing tougher extension tasks for P6-P7 students. Different differentiation.

Some teachers will see these resources as a series of pre-prepared units.

Others will dip into them here and there. Either way, this is a flexible resource that moves Understanding People in Society in the right direction.

Worth buying.

Gavin Clark The writer is PT of modern studieshistory at Dunbar Grammar, East Lothian

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