Plutarch thought of it first

20th February 1998 at 00:00
IMAGINE THAT: A Handbook of Creative Learning Activities for the Classroom. Stephen Bowkett. Network Educational Press Pounds 19.95.

It's refreshing to read an educational book which deals with thinking skills. This one is full of breathless excitement for the possibilities of the mind. The Introduction begins with Plutarch's dictum, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be lighted" and then we're off, on a manic gallop through almost 100 classroom activities designed to help children think more actively and creatively.

There are lively, often wacky, ways of encouraging children to think about their powers of observation and deduction, problem-solving, story-making and socialising.

They're the kinds of activities you used to have to do on INSET courses before people in dark suits took over. I once saw the leader of a stress management conference visibly develop a nervous tick as those of us attending tittered shamefully through the concentration and breathing routines.

In a utilitarian age of performance indicators and targets, it's not quite clear whom this book is aimed at. "Throughout the curriculum and across a wide age-range with children of all abilities," says the blurb, seeming a tad desperate not to lose any market opportunities.

But it's probably true. I could imagine the fun to be had in every classroom as children set off "on the spice trail". They inhale unlabelled spices and try to articulate them as colours or places or concepts. Just our luck if they name them Baby or Posh.

I think this pack of resources would be most useful for teachers of PSE, drama, and those developing tutorial programmes - or anywhere that the focus is on teaching students more about how to learn. It doesn't provide a programme of lessons or anything like that, but the sheer abundance of ideas here would justify the cost.

Geoff Barton is deputy head at Thurston Upper School, Suffolk

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