Sharing the magic
Primary file publishing, 61 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8TL HOW TO BE BRILLIANT AT SPELLING MAKING BOOKS WRITING POETRY WRITING STORIES GRAMMAR READING. By Irene Yates. Pounds 9.95 each. Brilliant Publications PO Box 143 Leamington Spa CV31 1EB
Jonathan Rooke looks at primary English work with a whole-school perspective.
Spell Bound is a comprehensive set of photocopiable resources that will provide substantial help for key stage 1 and 2 English co-ordinators implementing a whole school spelling policy.
In clear language the introduction explains the complex theory informing the resources. Its references to heavyweight figures in the field of spelling lend it authority and give the reader confidence in the practical materials that follow.
Teachers are invited to orchestrate six different spelling strategies at once within a broad multi-sensory approach. These are: matching and sequencing; rhyme; "read, write, cover, check"; knowledge of letters; initial sound symbol relationships and the structure of words, their roots and meanings.
Each strategy has its own section of photocopiable spelling games together with a developmental chart indicating when they should be used.
The spelling games are derived from lotto, snap, dominoes, pelmanism, battleships and rummy. There are some delightful board games like "Speedway" and "Stop Thief!" It is hard to see how children could fail to enjoy developing their "visual perceptual memory" while playing "Red Riding Hood: can you get to Grandma's house before the wolf?" The games are most suitable for use in small groups or pairs, encouraging teachers to differentiate their spelling lessons in order to meet the individual needs of the pupils. Some advice is given on how to diagnose the needs of pupils and how to intervene with the appropriate spelling strategy.
Spell Bound is not a restrictive scheme. It is a flexible starting point for the development of a well informed whole school approach to spelling supported by well thought out materials.
In the short term it entails a lot of work making the games, organising a central resource bank, learning to use the strategies and overcoming its inadequate advice on assessment. In the long term it promises to prove very effective and far more satisfying for staff, pupils and parents than a formal set of worksheets explaining spelling rules.
How to be Brilliant at Spelling offers a more traditional approach to teaching spelling. Photocopiable worksheets furnish the teacher with 42 discrete lessons each addressing a different pattern or spelling rule. The explanations are clear and the related exercises well constructed. They are geared towards whole class lessons and suited to the more advanced speller at key stage 2.
The other five English books in the How to be Brilliant series are a mixed bag. How to be Brilliant at Making Books is a very useful resource and the format of worksheets is entirely appropriate. Easy-to-follow instructions and supporting diagrams show children how to make a wide range of books, including pop-ups, flap books, pocket books and window books. The attention paid to planning a book is particularly good.
How to be Brilliant at Writing Poetry will provide security for those wishing to develop their own teaching of the forms of poetry. There are plenty of ideas for poems but children are given little encouragement to try to present familiar things in fresh and honest ways and little importance is attached to performance.
The worksheet in How to be Brilliant at Writing Stories offer plenty of starting points for stories in the classroom. They emphasise the importance of drafting, editing, sharing stories out loud and writing for a wider audience than the class teacher. There are excellent worksheets encouraging children to observe others, keep an "ideas" notebook and to discuss their stories with friends.
Insufficient thought seems to have gone into the preparation of How to be Brilliant at Grammar. The worksheets are dull and poorly presented. There are no background notes offering ideas for development and the exercises supposed to reinforce each rule are not very stimulating.
A better job has been done with How to be Brilliant at Reading. It is particularly useful for helping children to think about their own reading habits and preferences and to develop their range of reading.