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Turning over an old leaf

Science World 2 Series, Editor John Holman, Students' Book 2 Pounds 7. 25. 0 17 438417 3 Teacher's Resource Book 2 Pounds 29.99. 0 17 438416 5

Old-fashioned science textbooks, which require pupils simply to read, are now so rarely encountered at key stage 3 that they might be considered an endangered species. It was therefore surprising to come across Students' Book 2 of the Science World series.

Its appearance is deceptive. It looks like any other lower school science text, with double-page spreads and lots of colour illustrations. The difference lies in the text style: whole paragraphs of continuous prose, giving descriptions and explanations with never a hint of a students' experiment or other activity requiring laboratory resources.

Even definitions are thin on the ground, although new words are in bold type. Each spread carries three or four structured questions. These often require extended written answers, but students do not have to conduct surveys, make posters, design leaflets or do role-play exercises.

Each chapter ends with a double-page "Activity" spread, often a longer data-handling type exercise.

Science World is a three-part series for key stage 3 and part 2 is designed for Year 8. The Students' Book comprises six chapters, two for each of attainment targets 2, 3 and 4. (Published early in 1994, all references are to the national curriculum as it was then, not the Dearing revision.) It covers levels 3 to 7, concentrating mainly on level 5 and above. Given this, the text style and the rather high language level, it would be suitable for more able students who could use it, at home perhaps, to back up or prepare for the lesson.

The spiral-bound Teacher's Resource Book contains 62 photocopiable activities, most of which are standard laboratory practicals. Some are investigations which could be used for assessment on AT1 and, unusually, there are precise guidelines for marking corresponding to specific levels.

Even where practicals are not "complete" investigations, there is still detailed guidance on how to place students at the appropriate level. There are brief teachers' notes on the activities, and apparatus lists. The resource book includes test questions for each chapter and mark schemes, also related to levels in the attainment targets.

These materials could be used to support an existing course or as a basis from which to develop a new course, leaving teachers free to devise their own lesson plans, set the contexts, and impose their favoured learning theories and teaching style.

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