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Time savers

Literacy Play for the Early Years. By Colette Drift. Learning through fiction. Learning through non-fiction. Learning through poetry. Learning through phonics. David Fulton, pound;12 each (pound;14 for Phonics which includes a CD-Rom).

This series saves planning time while supporting quality teaching and dovetailing the foundation stage with the National Literacy Strategy.

The approach is methodical and based on excellent texts, most of which will already be found in early years settings.

Each chapter is effectively a lesson plan, cross-referenced to the early learning goals and the NLS. Resources, preparation, how to introduce the text, focused activities (including games, role play, music, etc) and extension play activities are all set out. The short section on observation and assessment is a practical checklist for teachers and assistants and the photocopiable sheets include materials for games.

While the ideas here are not necessarily new, they are excellent examples of good practice, which new teachers may not know and which more experienced teachers may have forgotten. Highly recommended.

Spark IslandEarly years, key stages 1 and 2

CD-Roms Collins pound;46.99 each

Originally an online service, Spark Island is now available as three CD-Roms. The disks are easy to use and referenced to the NLS and early learning goals. The voices are clear and warm with a mix of RP and estuary English accents.

Screens are clutter free and easy to follow. Graphics are clear and appealing. There are useful teaching suggestions for each activity. For example, making new words from a root word and suffix is designed as a fruit machine. Unfortunately, the voiceover says "Well done - is a real word" without actually pronouncing the new word. Likewise, if you get only the first word incorrect in sorting out an alphabetical list, it is possible to have the whole list rejected. As with many CD-Roms, the problem of responding diagnostically to incorrect answers is still to be resolved.

In its favour Spark Island has humour, a good tracking system and some good motivational activities.

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