Powerful Greece;Primary;Reviews;History;Books

10th April 1998 at 01:00
CAMBRIDGE PRIMARY HISTORY ANCIENT GREECE. Tim Copeland. Teacher's book pound;13.95. Pupil's book pound;4.25. Picture pack pound;35. Cambridge University Press.

This latest unit is as excellent as its predecessors in the Cambridge Primary History series. Research into how children learn has been translated into a rich variety of practical teaching strategies based on differentiated progression in learning historical skills, concepts and knowledge.

The influence of Jerome Bruner is obvious in the combination of text, images and activities through which enquiries are developed. The work of Bruner and of Lev Vygotsky and his successors underpins the many frameworks for developing ordered thinking and exploring abstract concepts: lists, sets, webs, Venn diagrams.

R G Collingwood's method of historical enquiry is evident as the book proceeds from specific questions about the purpose and significance of objects (whether gold earrings, Xenophon's house or Olympia) to the people who made and used them, classifying what is known and what can be inferred. It is good to see research translated into practical materials for classroom use.

So, if language is central to history, can history be integrated into requirements of the literacy hour - a Happy Hour perhaps? This would resolve previous reservations about the time needed to do justice to this series.

Powerful cocktails could be created; a history text base spiked with phonology, graphology, morphology, and some syntactical twists?

These materials provide suitable shared texts in a range of genres: the story of Theseus; Aristophanes' poems about his farm and the sea; extracts from tragedies and comedies. Structured activities develop comprehension and composition, from labels to complex sentences and ordered paragraphs. There are opportunities for comparing the sound and alphabets of English and Greek, for discussing word structures and derivations.

Literacy and Ancient Greece are an elegant combination; not pia colada, but Pelion on Ossa, perhaps.

Hilary Cooper lectures in history and education at the University College of St Martin, Lancaster .

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