New for old texts;Secondary;Reviews;English;Books

11th June 1999 at 01:00
TWO POEMS BY JOHN KEATS. By Gabrielle Cliff Hodges. THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. By Steve Willshaw and Ben Wilkinson. MURDER AND MADNESS. By David Draper. SHAKESPEARIENCES. By Peter Thomas. National Association for the Teaching of English pound;3.95 each. (pound;3.50 NATE members).

These titles mark the start of a NATE series tackling pre 20th-century literature at key stages 3 and 4. Using texts that are readily available in most store-cupboards or short enough to be reprinted in the booklets, they supply visual and written material and activities to aid students' understanding.

The activities are mostly student-centred explorations, drawing for a large part on approaches borrowed from drama and the media. The booklets would be most useful in catching students' interest on their first meeting with the texts.

Books suggesting approaches to Shakespeare are plentiful, and, although Thomas provides fresh activities, it is questionable how much these will add to what is already available.

The other three volumes more obviously fill existing gaps, with the poetry booklets being especially useful. In each, illustrations from contemporary artists, ranging from "penny dreadfuls" to the pre-Raphaelites, bring the texts alive, while the suggested activities demand close reading of the poems. All in all, these booklets are extremely good value, and will go a long way towards making the pre-20th-century component accessible and enjoyable.

Sarah Matthews is former head of English at Chipping Norton School, Oxofordshire

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