Patricia Metham, Director of School Words Education Consultancy
The most conspicuous strength of this book is that it has clearly been created by an experienced, widely read and enthusiastic teacher. It will be seized upon -” should be seized upon -” by those teaching in Key Stage 2 who have little confidence in their effectiveness as teachers of English, not least because they recognise the limits of their reading and of their skills as literary critics. Bob Cox displays a canny sense of audience!

The range of poems and prose passages -” all but the H.G.Wells extracts being safely out of copyright -” provides a clearly-signposted guide to mainly nineteenth century writing. This will serve pupils well as they later embark upon the Key Stage 3 and GCSE curricula. In fact, the book may find a niche amongst Key Stage 3 resources in a good number of secondary schools. As well as very familiar pieces, such as the description of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations and lines from The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Bob Cox includes some interesting and less well-trawled poems and prose, such as The Call by Charlotte Mew, and The Pavilion on the Links by Robert Louis Stevenson.

For anyone struggling to plan a sequence of lessons built around a topic such as Border ballads, the journey from a more accessible ballad, The Inchcape Rock, towards traditional ballads such as Sir Patrick Spens is most helpfully and clearly mapped out: first readings; suggestions for initial questions and lines of enquiry (described by Cox as -˜white space thinking'); exploration of form and language; and extension work for the most able. Bob Cox's suggested activities have the great merit of being very practical and specific, and manageable in any classroom situation.

There are those -” and I am one -” who will be at best distracted and at worst irritated by the -˜Bob says' marginalia, put into a less formal font perhaps to suggest spontaneity. What was the rationale for this? Was it to make the commentary seem less academic and therefore more accessible? Some entries in the glossary raise similar questions -” those that read more like a further justification of an approach rather than an explanation of a term's meaning.

All in all, this is a combination of well-chosen pieces and authoritative and persuasive commentary that can be either lifeboat or launch pad for new, nervous or time-pressed teachers.
Guest | 16/10/2014 01:00
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