Steps connected in the tracks of time

5th July 1996 at 01:00
Pictures of the Past series:The Egyptians, The Greeks, The Romans, The Vikings, By Denise Allard, Zo Books Pounds 7.50 each. Age range 5 - 7. History Starters series:Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, By Kath Davies,Zo Books Pounds 7.99 each. Age range 7 - 11

Both these series have many excellent qualities. Drawings show artefacts being made, used and traded. Text and questions make links with children's lives and there are constant opportunities to move backwards and forwards between writing and pictures.

But the really innovative aspect is the carefully constructed development between the series which makes it possible to plan for clear progression in thinking and content across (or within) key stages. The cover picture on each key stage 2 History Starter book is an illustration from the key stage 1 Pictures from the Past series which children will recognise and so be implicitly aware of the continuity.

There is also progression in the second series in the quantity of information given in the text, in the variety of sources shown and in the degree of detail in the illustrations. For example, the corner of a room in a Greek house in the key stage 1 book is part of a cross-section of the whole house at key stage 2. Developing research skills are encouraged by a larger index and table of contents, and a glossary and time line are added.

More sophisticated questions require cross-referencing: "Look at pages 16, 17 and 18. What other things have archaeologists found out about Viking settlers?" Vocabulary is more demanding: merchants, cargo, utensils.Specialised concepts are used: basilica, amphitheatre, aqueduct.

Both series reflect the national curriculum programmes of study - at key stage 1, "aspects of the way of life of people in Britain beyond living memory", and Study Units 1, 4 and 6 at key stage 2. But it is a pity that the content is not more closely related to national curriculum requirements. For example, the key stage 2 book only refers incidentally to Housesteads and Bath.

There is no reference to the "Roman Conquest and its impact on Britain", to everyday life in Britain, or to evidence of "the legacy of Rome in Britain. "

If only the sections on Vikings' settlements, or on Roman roads had referred to places we know, so that children might imagine, with a frisson of excitement, as AE Housman did, that: 'twas before my time, the Roman At yonder heaving hill would stare . . .

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