Wide angle on local life

17th November 1995 at 00:00
CONTEXTS Edited by Vincent Bunce Student's Book Pounds 6.99 - 0582 27552 0 Teacher's Book Pounds 36.99 + VAT - 0582 27545 8 Longman

OXFORD GEOGRAPHY PROGRAMME By Michael Day, Rosemary Grenyer and Simon Chapman Oxford Book 1 Pounds 8. - 0 19 833455 9 Book 2. Pounds 8. - 0 19 833456 7 Age range 11-14

Paul Guinness reviews textbooks which use both close focus and broad concepts for lower secondary pupils

Contexts is the first of four books in a new integrated course for key stage 3S1 and S2 designed to meet the requirements of the revised national curriculum and the 5-14 Environmental Studies Guidelines. The course consists of three core student books: Choice, Change, and Challenge plus an additional places book, Contexts, each accompanied by a teacher's book. The three core books with teacher's companions are due for publication next year.

Contexts provides an in-depth look at four countries, Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Kenya, and then sets them within a global context to introduce the broader concepts of uneven development and interdependence.

The double-page spreads are grouped into six sections and there is very good use of colour throughout, the maps being particularly impressive, combined with imaginative variation in page design. Data is presented using the full range of techniques applicable to the target group. The illustrations and font size are slightly larger than usual and generally work well. In terms of the text there is roughly a 5050 balance between content and activities.

Each country is introduced in turn by way of comparison with the UK, with key development data presented in tabular and graphical form. However, in all four comparisons no particular year is cited for the data selected. In addition the gross national product data quoted is relative and not absolute as the titles and scales of the particular graphs suggest.

The studies of the four nations are all equally good with a careful balance between human and physicalenvironmental elements and the inter-relationships between the two. The themes of development and regional contrasts are strong throughout.

The teacher's book includes (for each unit) a national curriculum matching grid, word list, spread-by-spread commentary and a range of student activity sheets which are photocopiable. Some of the activity sheets are designed to support weaker students while others will extend the more able.

This really is an excellent product full of lively, well-balanced and up-to-date place-specific material. If the core books are as good as this then Longman are on to a winner.

The Oxford Geography Programme is a three-book course which also covers the revised national curriculum at key stage 3. Books 1 and 2 are available now. Book 3 and a single book of photocopiable resources for the whole course will be ready before the end of the year.

Book 1 is mostly concerned with how geographical principles and systems interact to give places at the scale of locality their essential character. The overall objective of Book 2 is to consolidate these ideas and guide pupils progressively into a more broadly-based and deeper understanding of the geography of wider areas. The forthcoming Book 3 aims to challenge pupils to use their geography and consider some important management issues which face the modern world.

The format is one of double-page spreads grouped into chapters. The attractive and variable spread design is highlighted by numerous good quality photographs and clearly labelled, unambiguous diagrams with a level of language accessible to the full ability range.

Book 1 covers key aspects of geographical skills, settlements, industrial location, climatology and meteorology, weathering and soil, rivers and river processes, earthquakes and volcanoes, tourism, agriculture, and population. In Book 2 the urban spotlight falls on Bedford, St Albans, Central London, Merry Hill, Paris and Tokyo. Europe in general and the Ruhr in particular, along with Japan, are used to investigate agricultural issues. This is followed by an excellent 20-page section on Italy which examines physical, agricultural, urban, industrial and regional development patterns, culminating in an analysis of Italy's place in the European Union.

The final three sections deal with water systems, the use and abuse of water and coastlines. Here the examples are taken mainly from the UK.

The two books published to date have much to commend them and they will be particularly welcomed by colleagues favouring a strong enquiry approach.

However, it must be said that because of the prominence given to activities and questions, the information base in some spreads is very limited and often insufficient if you want to depart from relying on the tasks set.

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