Reality check

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
Moving stories about working-class life are explored in a resource that's designed to develop thinking skills. Carolyn O'Grady reports

English is well positioned as a subject to advance thinking skills, says the key stage 3 national strategy.

Mrs Ockleton's Rainbow Kite and Other Tales (Thinking Through Literature Teacher Resource Book) is built around short stories by Garry Burnett (author and advanced skills teacher at Malet Lambert School in Hull) and is closely aligned to the strategy's Leading in Learning approach.

The stories, together with assignments and activities, are designed to contribute to meeting English targets, and also to help students develop important thinking skills. Clearly, any such approach must rely, to a great extent, on the quality of the stories at its heart, and these are tightly woven, unsentimental and often deeply touching pictures of working-class life.

Short stories can sometimes hold a students' concentration better than a complete book, and can be contained in one or two lessons. Most of these are seen from the perspective of a child, which will also, hopefully, draw students in. They often touch on the day to day cruelties of school and family life, and the illusions that people use to sustain their lives.

Burnett sensitively captures the pain of a boy mocked for crying during a film; a boy's embarrassment at the antics and put-downs of his Uncle Kevin, a serial loser with an formidable talent for self-delusion; and the pathos of a boy called Dog, with a false eye and many missing teeth, who acts out his dream of pretending to be a bus.

One quibble with the stories is that there are very few girls or women portrayed, though whether this is an intentional gambit to attract boy readers is not clear. The exception in terms of gender and subject matter is Mrs Ockleton's Rainbow Kite, a moving, poetical account of an old woman's death, although we don't know that until the end. Notes on dealing with difficult emotional issues raised by the story are included.

There is a wide variety of assignments (writing, drawing and drama activities) involving many learning styles. Included are other extracts from different authors with related activities.

The CD contains all the stories in the resource, as well as some others, all vividly narrated by the author and some to haunting music by Gordon Giltrap. An anthology is available separately.

* Garry Burnett will be reading from the anthology at the Education Show on Friday March 10 at 3pm, accompanied by Gordon Giltrap.

Mrs Ockleton's Rainbow Kite and Other Tales Thinking Through Literature -JTeacher Resource Book, pound;29.99; Anthology, pound;4.99; CD, Pounds 9.99

* Crown House Publishing Stand PZ-K50

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today