Winner by a nose in the Tudor stakes

17th May 1996 at 01:00
TUDOR MONARCHS PHOTOPACK, By Steve Harrison, Folens Pounds 11.99.

TUDORS RESOURCE PACK, By Sallie Purkis, BBC Education Pounds 9.99. Age range 7 - 11

These two packs reflect the leaner, thinner, fitter, notional-45-hour-per-annum Dearing revision. They also reflect recent research which suggests that if children learn the thinking process of historical enquiry through discussion of carefully selected key sources they will be able to transfer these processes to new sources when the scaffolding of adult support has been removed, so avoiding "mental overload".

Both packs include well-produced photographs of contemporary paintings, a poster and a teacher's book to support the key stage 2 study unit, Life in Tudor Times (the Tudors Resource Pack extends the work of the BBC Landmarks programme on the Tudors). They use similar key paintings, which do not embrace all the required content in this programme of study: Portraits of Tudor Monarchs, the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Hampton Court and the Armada.

In the Tudor Monarchs teacher's book there are suggestions for helping children to look closely at details, in, for example, the design of a canopy or a carpet; to interpret symbols; to list activities; to hypothesise about a water source for the Field of the Cloth of Gold or to infer the personality of Mary I.

The children are encouraged to make comparisons between portraits; to consider interpretations of events, for instance in a Victorian painting of Mary I, and to relate these interpretations to their own experiences, of formal and informal family photographs, for example.

There are also fact files on each monarch, giving dates, parents, marriages and children, followed by a frighteningly complex family tree and a final "Who am l?" quiz: "My brother died before my father and I reigned for six years, who am 1?"

The danger of a Sellar and Yeatman approach, ("Edward VI and Bloody Mary were two small Tudors who came in between two big ones"), lingers on. Indeed there are echoes of the Royal Genealogical Pastimes of the Sovereigns of England, an educational game published in 1791.

The scaffolding for the Tudors Resource Pack is far more robust. The links between the national curriculum content and key elements, the activities suggested for interpreting the paintings, integral assessment opportunities and cross-curricular links are clearly set out and developed in detail. Activities are varied and interesting: make up a play about the closure of a monastery; ask adults what impressions they have of Henry VIII; choose to be a person in the painting of the Field of Cloth of Gold and write a diary describing your journey to France; play "The Hunt is Up" on your recorder, then make a painting or describe a hunt with the King.

In the King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I Chase there are two serious contenders; Tudors Resource Pack wins by a nose - or even by a short head, but then, it comes from a far bigger stable.

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