Write from the start

Kevin Harcombe

Grammar for Literacy

Years 3 to 6 By David Orme, Evans, pound;15 each

David Orme has entertained children and teachers for years with his writing and personal appearances. The same light but sure touch is apparent in these four books to complement the DfES grammar for writing programme.

Each book contains 15 "topics" (eg, setting out dialogue, note-taking) and provides notes for three teaching sessions per topic. Each topic is exemplified through short photocopiable texts, usually purpose-written by Orme. This means that grammar is taught in a meaningful context.

The gobbets of text are short, complete in themselves, well-written and enjoyable to read. The activities have high but realistic expectations of their target groups and are suitable for use with whole class, groups or individuals.

This is a practical and easy to understand guide that avoids dumbing down.

Improving Literacy: Creative Approaches

Two books: Improving Story Writing at key stage 1 and 2 and Word Games for KS2

By Alan Peat

Nash Pollock pound;12.99 each

Improving Story Writing is a dense book in two senses: first, there is a lot of useful advice and second, it is presented in an overly wordy way. Is it essential to know, for example, that the technical term for beginning a narrative in the heart of the action is "in medias res"?

The activities themselves are sound enough and span the whole primary age range from foundation stage to Year 6. The examples of children's own writing are well chosen and I have used many of the techniques recommended to good effect. For example, showing feelings rather than stating them, or going "on location" to make observations to transform into fiction.

Word Games aims to put the fun back into literacy teaching. A stimulating variety of games is included, from the 11 syllable challenge (hendecasyllabics, to you), through Haikusation - telling the story of Cinderella in one haiku - to old favourites like palendromes and the rebus game.

Key to Writing

By Christine Moorcroft and Les Ray

Letts, three teacher's books pound;15 each, six pupil books, pound;4 each This course is supposed to help children improve their writing skills by modelling them on the work of real writers - R L Stevenson, Roald Dahl and David McKee among them.

The teacher's lesson notes are adequate and the photocopiable activity sheets are no worse than many others on the market, but they do not inspire (what worksheet does?). Some of the writing frames are acceptable but the guidance in the pupil books ("check your paragraphs", "use a computer") is often banal. This key is unlikely to unlock writing for many children.

Write Away!

By Huw Jones and Adelaide Kelly

Channel 4 CD-Rom pound;25 + VAT

10-user licence pound;20 + VAT

School site licence pound;100 + VAT

See the poor Isles of Write! It used to be such a happy place, but now there is no poetry or story writing because the writers have no time. They are being worked too hard by nasty Mr Monotone who is also polluting the waters around the islands.

You can help. Guided by a talking mouse (furry variety) and a talking computer you can help find out what Mr Monotone is up to and deliver the island from his evil rule.

First, you have to persuade the turtle boatman to row you there and he's a cantankerous, whingeing old cynic. What's more you have to persuade him in a letter.

The process is carefully modelled by the mouse and talking PC to help you scaffold your letter and there are helpful verbal prompts along the way, including cheers each time you get something right. There are comprehensive word and phrase banks for each section. Work can be saved, edited, printed and returned and the teacher can access all the pupils' efforts and store their assessments.

Based on the Channel 4 schools programme, the graphics are low tech but the program is fun and detailed enough to make the activities purposeful.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands Primary School, Fareham, Hampshire

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