Rules of the game
Exploring Language is a timely publication which will reassure many teachers of five to seven-year-olds. It is founded on the principle that "learning about grammar and language is not, for the most part, a matter of learning rules and applying them. It is a matter of understanding how language works, and what its possibilities are".
The pack aims to assist teachers in applying this principle, so that children understand how language works, learn correct usage, and acquire the terminology to talk about language, as well as take an active interest in it.
The heart of the pack is the demonstration book, supported by the children's workbook, and a teacher's handbook, which explains the relationship between activities and the key stage 1 programme of study for writing (and Scottish and Northern Ireland equivalents).
A full set of lesson notes for 24 sessions is provided, with material for deeper exploration of an aspect of language if this is required (for example, standard English, or parts of speech). Full and clear references are made to the demonstration and workbooks. For good measure, assessment formats are also provided - again linked to key stage 1 requirements.
Exploring Language is an excellent aid to the teaching of grammar, spelling and standard English. The versatile and attractively-presented demonstration book can be used for planning, structuring and drafting group writing. It is likely to stimulate children's interest in language and its possibilities.
While teachers should be expected to draw on a wide range of resources for language study, the pack offers a secure framework and starting point.
As one perceptive seven-year-old commented: "It can teach a lot of people at once. I felt excited because it's different."
Maureen Hughes is head of Milecastle First School, Newcastle