Innovative opportunities

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Michael Thorn looks at books and resources offering a variety of activities to support literacy at key stages 1 and 2

ACCELERATED LEARNING IN THE LITERACY HOUR. Books for Years 3-6. By Sue Garnett. Hopscotch pound;15.99 each

These books, one for each key stage 2 year group, apply the results of research into learning to the teaching of literacy (we remember 20 per cent of what we see, 30 per cent of what we hear, 40 per cent of what we say, 50 per cent of what we do and 90 per cent of what we see, hear, say and do).

Each unit comprises a lesson plan in the form of teacher's notes setting out the objective, starter activity, ideas for group work and a plenary.

Structurally, then, completely orthodox. Each plan is accompanied by three sheets - a model for the starter activity, a page of group work ideas and a worksheet for children to complete.

It is the group activities that represent the innovative aspect of this approach. Three different types of activity are suggested for three main learning styles - kinaesthetic, auditory and visual - the children having first been given a questionnaire that will help identify their dominant learning style. Definitely worth trying out, if only in selected lessons.

MAKING THE MOST OF SPEAKING AND LISTENING IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL. By Wendy Bloom Birmingham Advisory and Support Service pound;11 Tel: 0121 303 8081 There is a growing acceptance that speaking and listening need to move back under the spotlight. Here is a book that aims to give teachers practical ideas for doing just that when planning classroom activities.

It also provides new (or even seasoned) literacy co-ordinators with a manifesto to pass round colleagues who might need that extra bit of persuasion. In this regard, the book's simplicity and limited scope are virtues.

Early on, Wendy Bloom accepts that "drama cannot be fully represented in this handbook". Instead, she focuses on the many opportunities for speaking and listening that occur in most classrooms - paired discussion, role play, guided reading - and demonstrates how to apply QCA learning objectives to them.

CORNERSTONES FOR WRITING Key Stage 1. Reception Teacher's Book + CD pound;39.95 Y1 Teacher's Book + CD pound;39.95 Y2 Teacher's Book + CD pound;45.95 Reception Big Book pound;39.95 Y1 Big Book pound;39.95 Y2 Pupil's Book pound;6.75 Y2 Poster Pack pound;45.95 Cambridge University Press

The key stage 2 components of this resource are already well-established in many schools. To resource KS1 in even a single-form entry school will cost in the region of pound;450, so these are not materials to buy in to supplement resources already available or to provide colleagues with one-off ideas. They should only be considered if a school has decided it needs a highly structured and programmed approach to teaching writing, with responsibility for planning the curriculum taken away from teachers.

Once a school has made that decision, the quality of the Cornerstones materials certainly justifies their price. The teacher's books are extremely thorough. Every unit begins with an outline of what children should already know, what they will learn from the new unit, with references to relevant literacy strategy objectives. Lesson guidance is idiot-proof. Pupil self-assessment sheets, a popular aspect of the KS2 components, are introduced at Year 1. A distinctive feature of the KS1 materials is the inclusion of a CD giving audio presentations of each unit.

Unfortunately, so coyly patronising are the voices used, you could be forgiven for thinking they come from the archives of BBC School Radio circa 1957.

LIGHTNING READS 1 and 2. Various authors. pound;15.95 each or pound;29.95 for both, from LDA. Tel:01945 463441

These collections of photo-copiable, read-in-a-single-session stories are aimed at struggling or reluctant readers aged 10 and above, and will be of interest to support teachers working with small groups.

Book 1 has an interest level of 10 to 12 with the difficulty pitched at reading ages six to eight. For Book 2 the interest level is 12 to 16 and the reading ages eight to 12. Book 1 starts with eight two-page cartoon strips. Of necessity, these are somewhat perfunctory and the comprehension questions, "developed by leading teachers", are occasionally obtuse. "Which picture shows what a teenage boy is really like? Picture 1 or Picture 2?"

More successful, are the themed story sequences in Book 2, which contains 18 stories altogether, in three sets of six.

An associated website,, is as perfunctory as the stories, but may be scheduled for development.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm Primary School, Hailsham, East Sussex

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