Fictional paths lead into a wider world;Scottish Books

22nd March 1996 at 00:00

QUEST FOR A KELPIE By Frances Hendry.

Hodder amp; Stoughton. pound;10.99 per pack or pound;27 for set of three.

With environmental studies 5-14 having a high profile in many primary school development plans, it is no longer satisfactory to have a novel at the centre of a project. Novel studies, as they were once known, will often fail to meet enough key features in the guidelines. This does not mean that well-tried and well-loved novels such as Sula, Flash the Sheepdog and Quest for a Kelpie cannot be used to support a project.

But although the Kelpie Topic Study support material for Quest for a Kelpie provides some excellent practice of literal and inferential comprehension questions, its links with the Jacobite Rebellions and Bonnie Prince Charlie have not been fully explored. The follow-up work therefore covers few of the key features of the social subjects "Understanding People in the Past" and "Understanding People in Society".

It is also important that the children are exposed to a wide and varied curriculum which involves them in practical problem-solving activities in a group as well as individual pencil and paper tasks. One way is to offer activities which have a main focal point but will also provide opportunities to develop other curricular areas. There is some evidence of this in the Kelpie Topic Studies packs, but it could have been extended.

In Sula by Lavinia Derwent, one of the most important aspects of the text is the treatment of the characters. It is important that the children be made aware of the way the author builds up her characters both from the point of view of "reading to reflect on the writer's craft" and as a model for their own writing.

To develop the children's awareness of the use of descriptions, the children could make collage figures using the most appropriate materials with room for a forehead which opens to reveal both positive and negative aspects of the character. This is a useful approach with children who are reluctant writers.

It would have been helpful if the packs had been linked to 5-14 indicating appropriate levels, and with a wider range of activities.

Trevor Gray is assistant headteacher, Mill O'Forest Primary, Stonehaven.

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