On your marks for art

Jonathan Rooke

READY, SET, GO Age group: 5-7. Channel 4, Mondays, 9.45-10.00am. Repeated 9.45-10.00am. Teachers' guide, Pounds 3.95. Activity pack, Pounds 4.95. Educational Television Company, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ

One only has to scratch the surface of this well-structured series to see that it comfortably satisfies its stated aims of developing young children's knowledge of art skills, concepts and techniques and offering starting points for work in language, drama, music and movement.

The first episode, "Celebrations", begins with children eagerly decorating cakes with icing sugar, an activity that the programme soon makes clear can be a rich, densely-packed literary event.

The children explain their choices of decorations, explore the significance of colours and symbols, describe how they celebrate different occasions and relate their own memories of such events all exercises that put their experiences in a wider context.

Taking its lead from its title, the series is divided into three parts, with the second section of each episode, "Set", showing the theory being developed into practice. As an example of a celebration, the children prepare for the Chinese festival of Dragon Day.

They paint and print fireworks, draw Catherine wheels, make firework hats and dragon masks, with all these activities offering plenty of scope to experiment with texture, form and colour.

The children are totally absorbed, and the editing and the pace of the programme help to communicate the children's growing enthusiasm.

In the third element of the programme, "Go", the presenter reads the story of how fireworks came to be used on the first ever Dragon Day, while Snorly, a dragon puppet, is positioned in the role of listening child. Between them they demonstrate good reading behaviour Snorly interrupts to relate the story to personal experiences and the presenter welcomes these opportunities to discuss the text.

There are four topic-based programmes in the series: "Celebrations", "Fairy Tales", "The Four Seasons" and "Mini-Beasts". A fifth programme, "Pizzas", deals with pattern making and design.

Informing these programmes is the understanding that specific teaching activities with rigidly defined learning outcomes will not serve infants nearly so well as carefully-constructed learning situations where all the disciplines merge. Here, guided by the appropriate interventions of the teacher, children can construct and develop their own understandings.

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Jonathan Rooke

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