School radio: Friends indeed

18th September 1998 at 01:00
Friday 4.20-4.40am
Age range: 9-11

Friday 3.50-4.05am
Age range: 7-9

Tuesday 3.45-4.00am
Age range: 5-7

Teachers will start this term anxious for help with the literacy hour, which looks like being a text and activity-devouring monster. These programmes will prove reliable friends.

Listen and Write's 10 pro-grammes are divided into three units: Grammar, Poetry and Story-writing. The grammar programmes are based on sentence-building. Illustrations come from such sources as Bernard Young's poem "Bored", The Iron Man by Ted Hughes and The Book of Proverbs using text from The Good News Bible.

Rather desperate devices are used to enliven the subject. Thus two children, Rosalind and Jack, encounter a "literacy labyrinth", a "verb elevator" takes them to an "adjective attic" guarded by a "noun nosher", and so on. Teachers must use these programmes with care if they want to stay below the tedium threshold.

Things look up in the other two units. In Poetry's "Wonderful Word Searchers" (October 23), Nathan, a reluctant reader, finds a book that talks to him. it shows him you can write about anything, even smelly old football boots. To prove it, there is a reading of "My Old Boot" by Pie Corbett.

The story-writing programmes are similarly inventive. The first of this unit, "Sensational Scraps for Sizzling Stories" (November 20,) gives excellent advice on building good stories on small anecdotes. Nathan appears again, and writes a story based on getting a bump on the head.

It is good, too, to see Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons used in this section, a pre-War Carnegie Medal winner.

Words Alive! is also lively and based on good children's literature. There are three units in this series, too: Poetry, Dialogue and Myths, Legends and Fables. The rich selection of poems, includes half a dozen or so each from Michael Rosen, Judith Nicholls and John Agard. The dialogue programmes look at reported and direct speech and at play-scripts. Myths, Legends and Fables builds discussion around some traditional tales, including "The Hare and the Tortoise" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf".

Stories and Rhymes is just what it says. The 10 programmes are filled with poems and stories. These will encourage children to listen to the stories, to discuss them and to develop the skill of retelling them The first has a traditional story - Goldilocks and the Three Bears - told by Morwenna Banks. But instead of Mummy, Daddy and Baby Bear, we have Great Big Bear, Middle-Sized Bear and Tiny Little Bear, presumably in recognition of the passing of the archetypal family unit.

All the programmes have a wealth of support materials. There are also lots of teaching ideas - the provision of direct links to the requirements of the literacy hour will be welcomed.

As always, the programmes should be used carefully and selectively, which means listening to them in advance, plan-ning how to use them and making full use of the pause button.

Audio cassettes of each series cost Pounds 2 each; literacy support packs for each series cost Pounds 5.99 each. Credit card orders can be made to 01937 541001.

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