Journey beyond the literal;Primary;Literacy;Reviews;Books

28th May 1999 at 01:00
Scholastic Literacy Skills: Comprehension Key Stage 2 Pupil's Books 1 - 4. pound;19.99per pack of 6. Teacher's Book pound;21.99 Publisher-led rather than author-led, this comprehensive resource is bright and attractively produced. There are two main models of comprehension. One emphasises extended reading, higher reading skills, understanding of long narrative or argument, and assumes a variety of responses. The other is extract-based, with the emphasis on the literal. Responses tend to be in complete written sentences.

The first approach is one of the main legacies of the Bullock report, and the second has a long history born of secondary examinations. The reasons for its comeback are not hard to work out.

The odd thing is that publications of the second variety often claim they are of the first. Evidence is sometimes hard to find. Scholastic's format of four self-contained pupils' books and a teacher's book with answers suggest it is squarely in the second camp. Yet it is easy to find evidence that the editors have more in mind. Real efforts are made to use and develop forms of comprehension beyond the literal: there is no unhelpful distinction between "skills" and "development".

Many publishers complain that schools never buy the teacher's books. If this course is to be used properly, this one must be bought - if only because it contains photocopiable activities separate from, though complementary to, those in the pupil's books. Without it you have only half the course -and none of the answers.

But more than that, the teacher's book contains important discussions on rationale, responding and reading.

There are poems and narrative extracts, though sadly no invitation to extended reading. There is also a remarkably small amount of copyright material used. The editors must have written much of the non-fiction themselves. Fair enough, but it reflects an attitude in primary schools to non-fiction which is a pity.

Nevertheless, this is a good attempt to provide a worthwhile experience within a traditional format.

Dennis Hamley

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