English as she should be written

22nd December 2007 at 00:00

BIG BOOK GRAMMAR. Sue Palmer and others. Heinemann Big Books. pound;18.95-pound;26.50. Teacher's notes pound;9.95-pound;12.95. PCM books pound;19.95-pound;24.95

Grammar is a word that strikes terror into the heart of many a primary teacher. Most 20 to 40-something teachers were not taught grammar themselves, although that will not provide a refuge from the Government's drive to improve writing SAT results.

Heinemann's new series includes one big book for whole class sessions; one activities book differentiated into three levels, which offers mainly worksheets; and one teacher's guide, with teaching units and grammar notes providing quick reference points.

The whole package is designed to complement planning, rather than replace it. The differentiated activity sheets are well designed and tied in to the National Literacy Strategy.

The authors repeat the widely held assertion that unless children are able to use standard English effectively, "they will be unable to achieve success in schoolwork or to move freel within society". Not entirely true, I feel, and ever so slightly patronising when it advises teachers not to refer to non-standard uses as "mistakes" lest we "alienate the very children who most need our help".

The teaching of grammar is placed in a meaningful context and the authors emphasise (as does the national curriculum) the importance of making cross-curricular links in language teaching. These links are facilitated by the detailed lesson support in the teacher's guides, which also include grammar notes. The notes are, in the main, clear and succinct, providing both a glossary and a rationale for teaching specific areas of grammar. They vary a little in content according to year group, a nice touch which will aid teachers in their explanations.

The excellent Grammar for Writing guidance sent by the DfEE to every junior school, though, is more comprehensive, and only marginally less user-friendly.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary school, Fareham, Hampshire

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