English resources: lost pants and found poems

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
English Literature:A blueprint for Key stage 3

By David and Helen Orme

Stanley Thornes, #163;26.99

This A4 book of photocopiable sheets is intended for less able 12 to 14-year-olds, but like all well-designed material, has currency beyond its target audience. Helen Orme is a special needs teacher, David Orme is a poet and tutor in creative writing for all ages. Together they provide comprehensive, discerning literature work in a flexible collection worth serious consideration.

There are eight sections, each consisting of teacher's notes and worksheets - poetry, fiction, non-fiction, writing for performance, a theme (war), characters, Shakespeare and assessment. The various approaches used include individual work, working in a team, looking at texts, and looking at one's own work The teacher's notes chart a path with especially effective advice on differentiation.

An important principle never lost sight of is that the best way to understand what writers are up to is to write yourself: the guiding hand is plainly that of a poet. In the poetry section, kennings, riddles, personification, narrative, alliteration, rhythm, rhyme, performance all provide good models for the pupil's own emulation. Poems by Amy Lowell and Sir Walter Raleigh share space with David Orme's own work. There is a refreshing air of one practitioner talking to another.

The fiction section shows the same features, where a progression from oral storytelling, with the Odyssey seen alongside tall stories and urban legends, through science fiction, horror and scene setting, lead to quite complex work on constructing and writing about the novel.

Again, choice of material is interesting: for example, I was much struck by the use, in "Mysteries", of Catherine finding the chest in Northanger Abbey. It is the same in the section on non-fiction, defined as biography, autobiography, diaries, letters.

Scott Jenkins's lovely poem I've Lost Me Pants and a wonderfully eloquent,amazingly ill-spelt letter written to escape the draft in the American Civil War lead to Pepys. "Writing for Performing" deals with playscripts, war with Owen, Raleigh and Tennyson on the Revenge and The Red Badge of Courage.

The section on people involves a game approach to character, then Clare's The Lout, Chaucer's Miller and, as in the rest of the book, pastiche examples from the authors themselves. The Shakespeare section uses Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar.

My only cavil is over a typographical error - misplaced inverted commas in an assignment on dialogue - which is confusing.

DH

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