Playing the field

20th June 2003 at 01:00
New resources for primary geography reviewed by Stephen Scoffham.

Coastlines PhotopackRivers PhotopackMountains Photopack By Sandy Smith Pictorial Charts Educational Trust pound;19.99 each plus VAT Tel: 020 8799 5705 www.pcet.co.uk

Each of these packs contains 20 laminated A4 photos and a 48-page guide with pupil activities and suggestions for extension work. They match the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's units on rivers, mountains and coastlines and could also be used to support school-designed geography lessons.

The photographs are well selected and cover a range of examples. They would be suitable for a wall display or for group or individual work and are sufficiently durable to last well. However, the supporting activities are less inspiring.

The pupil exercises follow a standard format and generally consist of unimaginative questions followed by a cloze procedure exercise and atlas work. A well-informed teacher might use these creatively, but they provide little help for the non-specialist. Concepts such as processes, pattern and change need to be developed much more explicitly. The opportunity to engage pupils through studying issues is overlooked. Fieldwork and practical investigations, so vital to geography, are largely ignored. The photos alone are a relatively cheap and valuable resource, but don't be taken in by the claim that these packs provide all you need to teach the relevant QCA units. They do not; geography can be more exciting than this.

Bristol - The Living City

CD-Rom and workbook LearnITEurope pound;66.99 plus VAT single user, pound;99.99 plus VAT, unlimited user licence Tel: 02476679324 www.learn@learniteurope.co.uk

This CD-Rom and supporting teacher's guide provide a wealth of information about Bristol. The package, which is designed as a resource for the key stage 2 unit on a contrasting locality, will also help pupils to develop their ICT capability.

The material is divided into 25 lessons. They first establish the location of Bristol at a range of scales, from the regional to the global.

Subsequent lessons explore the city's features, history, land use, environmental issues and development. There is much to recommend this approach as it brings live issues into the classroom.

The CD-Rom also provides pupils with a range of imaginative and inventive activities (mostly involving drag and drop) supported by photocopiable sheets and teaching notes in the guide.

Ultimately, however, one wonders what pupils will learn from this package.

Bristol is far too large to count as a "locality" in national curriculum terms and despite the focus on enquiries, people are curiously absent from the photos and the copymasters. This is a pity, because there are good opportunities for applying ICT in geography and this is a package with lots of potential.

National Geographic Windows on Literacy

Sets of independent readers (four different titles) pound;8.50 to pound;14.95 (discounted prices for packs). Guided reading support books pound;11.99 to pound;12.99 eachRigby Educational Publishers Tel: 01865 888044 www.myprimary.co.uk

These sets of readers for Reception and Years 1 and 2 are an excellent non-fiction resource. The programme consists of 80 titles, all carefully organised with guided and independent readers for each level in line with Book Bands for Guided Reading. The books are illustrated with photos, many of which are stunning.

There is also a teacher's support book for each year group with concise teaching notes and photocopiable activity sheets for each title. The books cover a variety of topics, many of which have a geographical focus, for example, Weather in the City, Wind Power, Up the Amazon and Volcanoes. Not only are the topics varied and original but the treatment is imaginative.

Maps, diagrams and half pages are included alongside the photographs to illustrate processes where appropriate. Eye-witness accounts are also used to bring the material to life. These books would enrich many lessons.

However, they are essentially literacy publications and should not be regarded as core geography texts.

Stephen Scoffham is principal lecturer in primary education, Canterbury Christ Church University College

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