Unlocking words

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Turnstones 2: an English course for Scotland. by Brian Fitzpatrick et al. Hodder and Stoughton, pound;8.99

Turnstones 1 CD-Rom. by Jenny Allan et al. Hodder and Stoughton, pound;36.41

Turnstones 2 is a follow-up to the prize-winning Turnstones 1. Although it is suggested that the volume can be used independently of the first book, it is clearly intended to be used after it as an S2 resource, with some reinforcement of earlier work and new skills being developed.

The writers have again drawn heavily on Scottish writing - though not exclusively - and this with the sections on Scots language strongly supports the book's claim to be "an English course for Scotland".

A useful 5-14 curriculum mapping guide for teachers has been provided, which also covers Turnstones 1, and there has been a welcome improvement in illustrations.

There are 13 sections in the book (25 chapters). The first two, "Unlocking the text" and "Language as communication", need to be tackled as an introduction but the others can then be used in any order the teacher wishes. For example, chapters 23 and 24 are good, sound units covering basic "knowledge about language" which could easily be used at any point in S1 or S2.

A particularly strong section is "Unlocking your imagination", which looks at storylines, characterisation and other features of a good story. It finishes with students being asked to write their own story. It looks like an excellent compact and focused unit.

There is also a good section examining mass media, which has a contemporary feel to it. For example, it uses posters from the film Gladiator. Pupils should find this unit particularly interesting.

The book is peppered with references to appropriate websites and has a very good unit on research skills, "Treasure chest", which highlights the strengths and dangers of Internet resources.

Three sections are headed "Fun challenge": these are "Found poems", "Neologisms" and "Unlocking signs". Their inclusion perhaps reflects the authors' intent to produce a user-friendly text that grabs the interest of students while addressing all the necessary skills development.

The two Turnstones volumes do have a different feel. While Turnstones 1 targets writing skills in a fairly comprehensive manner, Turnstones 2 is perhaps a bit more eclectic (although functional writing is prominent) and teachers may be more likely to dip into units. However it is used, they will find high quality materials relevant to Scottish schools.

The Turnstones 1 book now has an excellent companion CD-Rom. Full of varied, interesting material, it will undoubtedly appeal to computer literate pupils in a way that text sometimes struggles to.

While the content is linked in various ways to the textbook, it is sufficiently independent to avoid overkill in any one topic. It also allows challenging and stimulating extension work.

It contains material at all ability levels and can be used with individuals or whole classes, although pairs and small groups seem to fit most activities best.

The resources are split into teacher's resources and classroom resources.

Of particular interest in the teacher section is a file detailing and justifying the rationale behind the approach adopted by the writers of the textbook and CD-Rom. This is an informative (and enjoyable) section. Its inclusion highlights the capacity of information and communications technology to present a wealth of material without detracting from the main thrust of the programme.

The 50 website links given also exploit well the potential of ICT and allow active learning by students.

The classroom resources file includes all the passages which appear in Turnstones 1, allowing the teacher to print off hard copies or to adapt them for use in DARTs (directed activities related to text), a full explanation of these is provided on the CD-Rom.

One clear benefit of CD-Roms is the inclusion of sound and images. This one has audio workpoints, with five recordings provided along with suggested activities. It also has 20 visual workpoints, covering an eclectic array of images - ranging from Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart to a North Sea oil rig - each supported by a suggested set of activities of varying degrees of difficulty. I found myself accessing some of the Internet links simply to find out more about the images and I feel sure that pupils will be motivated by the materials too.

The disc is simple to navigate and can be used alone or on a network of computers. The system requirements are basic and most of the material is downloadable.

Overall, this is an excellent resource that expands the horizons of the original textbook.

Larry Flanagan is principal teacher of English at Hillhead High, Glasgow

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