Stuff doesn't have to happen

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
MAKING A SPECTACLE OF BULLYING: an assembly performance with follow-up activities for Citizenship, PSHE and Literacy. By Kate Baker and Bridget Smith. Paul Chapman Publishing pound;18.99

JUST NOW STORIES: exploring social justice in the literacy hour. By Julia Ipgrave. RE Today Services pound;29.50

The subtitle of Making A Spectacle of Bullying is an accurate description of what you get between the covers.

The playscript can be performed by a small ensemble of eight character actors but, to take full advantage of the materials in this book, it is envisaged that an entire class of 30 will be involved, to include groups of dancers, choral speakers and musicians.

The gist of the play is this. Jessica would like to work with animals, if not as a vet then at least as a veterinary nurse. She has been told that in order to realise her ambition she needs to raise her marks in reading and spelling.

So she has taken to burying her nose in a book (the latest Harry Potter) instead of playing with her mates. As a result, she is called a "geek" and other names.

The name-calling and victimisation become the focus of the play, which will take between 10 and 20 minutes to perform, depending on whether music and dance are included.

This is a highly practical resource. The script is annotated with stage directions in such a way that groups of older children should be able to direct themselves, and the sections on dance and movement are fully choreographed.

There is a rehearsal plan and timetable, activities to keep idle minds busy during preparation, and follow-up activities for each primary age group, so that the whole school can take the theme forward after the assembly performance.

Tucked in the back is a CD-Rom. This is something of a let-down, however, as it contains only 5Mb of material (a full CD-Rom will normally contain more than 500Mb) - half-a-dozen pdf files, allowing for print-outs of the script and musical scores for recorder.

However, it's more than you get with Just Now Stories, which lacks any digital resource. This is a shame, because it will make people less inclined to invest in this otherwise very useful collection of activities.

What you do get for your money is an A4 ringbinder, crammed with photocopiable activities for Year 1 through to Year 6.

The material is sold as: "a week's programme for the literacy hour in primary schools, combining citizenship and RE themes of social justice and ethnic diversity" - indicating that the resource is best deployed when the school decides to have a week-long focus on issues of social justice.

But it need not be used this way; the principal author writes in her introduction: "The aim of this educational pack is to use the 'literacy hour' to introduce primary age pupils to issues of justice."

In Year 6 the focus is on slavery, in Year 5 on racism. For younger children the themes start closer to home. Year 3's theme is "being left out", but by the end of the week they are reading about Rosa Parks and the civil rights bus boycott.

It's precisely because this resource is linked to the literacy hour that the absence of digital files will reduce its appeal. The days of photocopying onto acetate for use on an OHP are gone.

What teachers want and, indeed, demand now are network-friendly support materials that can be called up on their interactive whiteboards at the click of a button.

What Just Now Stories should come with is a CD replete with pdf versions of the activities. Indeed, if I were a budget-holder for RE or PSHE, I think I'd be cheeky and phone the publisher to make just such a request.

Michael Thorn is deputy headteacher, Hawkes Farm Primary School, Hailsham

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