Steps to achievement

12th September 1997 at 01:00
Go for Science. By Martin Hollins, Peter Horsfall, Janet Major and Mary Whitehouse. Nelson.Textbook 1 Pounds 7.99. Teacher's Guide 1 Pounds 14. 99. Photocopy Masters 1 Pounds 44.99.

Starting Science Special Needs Copymasters. By Carol and David Coppock. Oxford University Press Pounds 29.50.

New Understanding Science Special Needs Support Material Book 2. By Carolanne and Robert Davies. John Murray Pounds 30.

Lynn Marjoram reviews materials for low ability pupils at key stages 3 and 4

Go for Science is an important development at key stage 3, "designed to address the particular needs of the pupils who make up the lower attaining half of the school population". It is not for the least able, but covers a broad range of ability, even, with support, mixed ability classes where they still exist. Structuring and differentiation are key words.

Part 1, for Year 7, with a national curriculum range of two to five, comprises six topics of about 16 lessons each. Painstaking, step-by-step development of concepts ensures understanding. Differentiation is achieved partly by making each lesson's core fully accessible to all, then developing it with reinforcement and extension activities.

The Teacher's Guide, essential for interpreting the resource, provides excellent support for inexperienced staff. All the usual features are included - homework, computer skills, national curriculum references and use of apparatus.

Noteworthy are the clear "Learning Outcomes", differentiated into what "all", "most" and "some" pupils should achieve. Well-planned lesson outlines use a broad range of teaching strategies. Teachers have a key role as expositers and there is a wealth of practical work and investigations.

The meat for pupils is in the copymasters, 268 for Year 7 alone. They include experiment sheets and a wide range of "paper-based learning activities".

These consumable sheets give pupils a good written record, with written responses concentrated on developing understanding. The worksheets are interesting, well presented in a variety of styles, and with clear explanations. Revision sheets and tests for each topic have answers in the Teacher's Guide with useful target level descriptors.

The textbook has only one or two pages per lesson. Its purpose is not to direct the lesson, but to provide support and focus. Various formats reduce the risk of boredom, common features being clear objectives, large relevant colour illustrations, brief accessible text and comprehension questions.

Unfortunately, a few drawings in chapter 1 look childish, creating a poor first impression. The glossary is useful - with page numbers added it could become the missing index.

Go for Science is a high-quality course deserving serious consideration. It requires a heavy initial investment in photocopying and time for familiarisation - there is no short cut by dipping in and pillaging, or flicking through the pupil's book. The outlay will be repaid with interest when teaching starts, in the wealth of resource sheets, hours already put into lesson preparation, and benefits to pupil motivation and achievement that come from using carefully structured materials.

Starting Science and New Understanding Science are established key stage 3 courses for the full ability range, with large resource packs and texts containing core and extension work. Coverage has been completed with the copymasters narrowly targeted on students with special educational needs. These complement rather than repeat existing resource sheets, and concentrate on basic core content.

The Starting Science Special Needs Copymasters have a similar format to sheets in the main resource pack, and could lead seamlessly on to them. They could also stand alone, or support other courses, being independent of the textbook. Well-structured sheets have clear sequencing of basic steps. Simple, direct language and good diagrams ensure accessibility. A broad range of activities includes cut-and-stick diagrams, structured questions with words provided, word puzzles and lots of practical work. Writing is minimal - fill in the gaps, or one-line answers. Some tests include questions not covered in the copymasters. Sheets are consumable, and with only 176 for Years 7 to 9, photocopying costs will be reasonable.

The New Understanding Science 2 Special Needs Support Material, for Year 8, does not stand alone. The first instruction is often "read the textbook", posing an immediate problem for this audience. Large print and lots of white space give a very different appearance from the main resource pack. Diagrams are good, but photographs from the textbook have not copied well.

There are word puzzles, dict-ionary pages, tests, experiment sheets and various question types, often with words and initials given, and none requiring extended writing.

These 169 copymasters cover the core material from the Year 8 textbook, sometimes using identical text with gaps for students to copy in the words. The copymaster could be used in mainstream classes by English as a second language or individual support teachers, who could help mediate the content for the student.

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