Helpful guide for English studies

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Standard Grade English: General pound;11.99 Heinemann Educational tel 01865 888080

Heinemann claims that Standard Grade English: General, an adaptation of its English Programme 4, has been "fully revised to prepare students for the demands of Standard grade English". A Standard Grade English: Credit book is also available and a Teacher's Guide to using the books.

This perhaps reflects a weakness in adapting programmes of study designed for English schools to the Scottish system. Attempting to differentiate the skills required for reading and writing at Standard grade General and Credit levels seems to be somewhat inappropriate as most students will be attempting close reading at both levels and achieving a range of grades for writing and responses to literature.

Having said that, a successful attempt has been made to include Scottish writers and media texts in the examples selected, with the likes of Brian McCabe and William McIlvanney featuring prominently and newspaper extracts culled from The Daily Record and The Scottish Sun.

There is, however, an absence of any sustained analysis of talk skills. Talking is included as an activity in several of the units but there appears to have been little attempt to reflect the requirements of Standard grade talk assessments. Given that this accounts for a third of the final grade, this omission is surprising.

The teacher's guide may cover this but I would have preferred it to feature more directly in the main text, given that the book aspires to offer "complete coverage of the Standard grade syllabus".

The book is divided into two main sections: section A covers approaches to reading, writing and literature, plus an analysis of forms of writing; section B offers longer units designed for exam practice and coursework.

Section B is usefully cross-referenced back to the skills section and includes an interesting and varied selection of textual extracts plus three complete short stories.

Section A is divided into 26 units covering skills such as "Reading between the lines", "Building a story" and "Imagery, metaphor, simile and personification".

The layout and graphics are good and should appeal to pupils. I particularly liked the use of artwork to underline the importance of detail in character descriptions.

Overall, the book offers a wealth of material, although as a free-standing text it is better described as a good resource rather than as a course in itself.

Larry Flanagan is principal teacher of English at Hillhead High, Glasgow

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