Choices, By Gordon Aspland, Wire-bound book, (64 pages), Southgate Pounds 7.95. Junior Dilemmas, By Laura Turnbull Photocopiable pack, (60 pages) Daniels Pounds 45, Age range 8 plus
One of the most difficult lessons which children have to learn is that the things they do affect other people. Can school help with this? Teachers certainly believe so, and each of these resources aims in its own way to support them.
Gordon Aspland goes for the more straightforward approach and gives us 19 message-bearing short stories intended for either the assembly hall or classroom. The stories all feature children from the same fictitious primary class, and each puts a moral issue into a familiar context. Thus "Left Out" tells the story of a bully who gets his come-uppance when the other pupils tacitly agree to leave him out of a football game. "The New Pair of Shoes" deals with how peer group pressure affects a girl's feelings about her new school shoes.
Each story is supported by discussion points. There is a prayer (or reflection) at the end of each one, and some suggested "Religious Links" which mainly consist of bible references.
The stories will have a familiar ring for primary children, and this is their strength. They are, though, rather bland there is little danger, for example, that the story of Mark losing his beloved grandad will bring the reader to a tearful halt. ("Mark felt gutted" it says, incongruously, at one point. ) Nevertheless, this is a useful and inexpensive resource in an area where a school can hardly have too many.
Junior Dilemmas, on the other hand, costs more serious money, and contains a board game, discussion cards, suggestions for further work and self-assessment. In the words of the introduction, "Junior Dilemmas offers the child the opportunity to reason through dilemma situations, rather than having a set of moral values imposed upon himher". (Though why the unfortunate teacher deserves to have such ill-constructed sentences imposed on himher is not at all clear).
Unlike Choices, which could at a pinch be used at short notice, Junior Dilemmas calls for thought and preparatory work. There is, for example, much cutting out and sticking to be done. It will, however, repay the effort. The board game is filled with hard and sometimes startling choices "you are playing at your best friend's house. His mum hits him very hard and makes his nose bleed. Do you tell your parents about it when you get home?" Similarly, the 60 or so "discussion cards" contain just the sort of deceptively simple prompts that will start primary children talking. "A boy sitting next to you copies your work. What do you do?" These apparently obvious dilemmas are hard to think of on the hoof, and teachers will value having so many on tap, well printed and presented, and accompanied by instructions and suggestions for further work. The self-assessment forms, too, will work well in the kind of primary classroom where children are given some responsibility for their own learning.
Given time for cutting, mounting and laminating the cards, and setting up a system to make sure they are not lost, this would be a cost-effective and valuable help to the busy primary teacher.
Gerald Haigh is editor of Primary Assembly File (Primary File Publishing)