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'What?', 'how?' and 'why?' strategies

Kate Sida reviews a KS3 assessment for learning series

EDGES. By Imelda Pilgrim, Marian Slee, Lindsay McNab, David Grant, Helen Lines and Cindy Torn. Student Book 1 pound;9.75, Teachers Handbook 1 pound;29.99, Assessment and Resources File 1 pound;120. Heinemann. www.heinemann.co.uk

Encouraging key stage 3 students to take greater ownership of their learning is one of the aims of the Assessment for Learning strategy, which sounds good but can be difficult to put into practice. However, resources such as the Edges series help make the job easier.

The material for Year 7 is clearly mapped to the KS3 English framework objectives and the principles of Assessment for Learning. There are six units covering reading and writing fiction, using language, exploring poetry, looking at recount texts, and writing advice. I like the way each unit ends with a different type of assessment task, developing writing, oral or ICT skills.

The student book is attractively laid out and appeals to the reader as it uses colour to good effect in key words as well as headings. At the beginning of each unit in the textbook "The Bigger Picture" is outlined for students in colour, explaining what they will learn by using the questions "what?", "how?" and "why?" The "why?" points are the most successful as they help focus students' attention on the relevance of the skills they are learning.

The language in the teacher's handbook is accessible and varied. In some cases the authors state that it's "essential" that teachers complete a task in a certain way and at other times they state that teachers "could" attempt it in a different style from the student textbook. They also suggest alternatives for the less able and extension tasks.

There are the traditional suggestions for starter and homework activities, but for a change these do not take much space. Instead, there is an emphasis on strategies that will promote discussion, independent thinking, modelling, questioning and checking students' progress.

There is also an assessment and resource file which can be purchased with a CD-Rom that makes it easier to adapt and produce worksheets for students.

If your department is looking for ideas about how to adapt the Assessment for Learning strategy to your Year 7 lessons then, as a classroom teacher, I would recommend you give the Edges series a close look.

* Materials for Years 8 and 9 follow this summer

Kate Sida is a KS3 teacher at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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