6th October 2000 at 01:00
RIGBY STAR GUIDED READING, Various authors, Rigby Educational Big Book Packs pound;19.99, Teaching Pack pound;3.99

Have you ever asked, "How do I plan and teach quality guided reading lessons?" queries the promotional blurb for this guided reading programme, in more temperate language than the teachers who routinely spend at least two or three hours each week doing such planning. This series claims to ease the burden.

The texts themselves are comparable with other quality schemes for the primary age range and include play scripts (something of a rarity at key stage 1). There are two photocopy masters (reading and writing) for each text as well as checklists for phonics and high frequency word recognition. The levels of the books are geared to SATs and correlated with the Reading Recovery National Network guidelines.

Full marks for the "reading behaviour checklist" included in the Planning and Assessment Guide. This is a basic conferencing system designed to assess children ad keep ability groups fluid. The children's "writing target sheets" are similarly well thought through, enabling children to assess themselves and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning.

The uniqueness of this scheme, though, lies in the "teaching version" that accompanies each text. This is somewhere between a very detailed lesson plan and what might almost be a lesson script. Each one includes guidance on using picture and context clues, simple inference, prediction, and so on, as well as ideas for independent group work and whole class follow-ups. It is so clearly laid out anyone could follow it.

Some teachers will loathe this concept as a further erosion of individuality and professional judgment, while a few will follow it out of laziness. Most, though, will gratefully seize on it, personalise it for their own classes, and use the time saved for getting a life.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary school, Fareham, Hants

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