The funny thing about being a wordsmith is you don’t need to be able to cite grammatical rules to know how to write. It’s a bit like riding a bike – once the stabilizers are off, they’re off for good. Anyway, that’s my excuse for being bamboozled by lessons designed for 10-year-olds – and I’m sticking to it. At least it wasn’t just me. The entire Macworld office queued up to tackle tests on transitive verbs, passive verbs and past participles – and not one of us got 100 per cent. At least we know the written language is in safe hands.
The four-CD Literacy Bank series dovetails with the government’s Literacy Hour scheme – which dictates that all pupils have to spend one hour every day working on literacy skills. The series has been crafted by Sherston Software in conjunction with the National Literacy Association (NLA), the body that helped the government form its Literacy Hour policy. It is designed to provide a resource for use in the 20 minutes of “independent learning” within the Literacy Hour.
The interface is simplicity itself, which is no less than one would expect from a series pitched at children as young as seven. All lessons are “overseen” by a talking head, the appearance of which teachers can select in preferences (robots for the youngsters, young boy or girl for older pupils). This character guides the child through lessons, albeit patronizingly (“Hey, you’re really clever”).
The software is carved in two, with one half for use by pupils and the other by teachers. Lessons can be tailored on a pupil-by-pupil basis, with individual pupils’ performances logged by the software, so allowing progress to be monitored. Teachers can also use it to write literacy reports, and lessons can be printed off as formatted worksheets for use away from a computer. Templated certificates upon completion of all lessons can also be printed out.
The lessons themselves are structured so that a pupil can work through lessons from the first CD to the last, as he or she progresses through school. The one thing I can remember of grammar lessons is that the only thing drier or dustier was the blackboard. I’m sure I’d have absorbed and retained more using a tool such as Literacy Bank.
For pupils and teachers alike, Literacy Bank makes perfect sense. It fits perfectly with the government’s policy on ICT (Information Communication Technology), because of the comprehensive input from the NLA. Lessons are involving as well as being informative, and also offer teachers worthwhile help on lesson planning.