Parse masters of syntax

20th February 1998 at 00:00
GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION. Sue Hackman and Claire Humphreys. Hodder Stoughton Pounds 19.99.

GRAMMAR RULES. Angus Rose and Richard Purkis. Collins Pounds 4.99.

The new programmes of study for English, as outlined in the nationalliteracy strategy, are extremely demanding compared with the expectations of the now passe national curriculum. Older primary pupils, for example, must be able to distinguish between the main and subsidiary clauses in a sentence. Teachers will be the first to feel the pressure of these new demands, especially those whose own education lacked any overt treatment of grammar. Help is at hand with these two books. Or is it?

The Hodder publication, self-described as "an exceptional resource which integrates training and practice for teachers with activities for pupils", is a costly spiral-binding of help-pages and worksheets. This kind of material (a mixture of the useful and the useless) always presents English co-ordinators with a problem. Dare they invest in it, only to find colleagues queuing at the photocopier to churn out the next happy-hour filler? On balance there's too much ballast in this, including a potted history of the English language, which is not what's wanted.

In Collins' Grammar Rules there are enough ingredients - from word work, through sentence analysis, to paragraph writing - for any grammar witch to brew up a wicked concoction for boggling the minds and bemusing the brains of those who are already speaking and reading English with some fluency. Intended as a crossover primer for key stages2 and 3, it reads, however, as if written for those learning English as a second language.Is it necessary to distinguish between seven types of adverb, each neatly bulleted?

Seven types of ambiguity,perhaps. Even so, there are times when a reviewer needs to be unambiguous. Are youlistening? Eyes back to work.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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