Saturday, 9 May 2015

Book reviews: Stone Age schooling

Stone Age books
more ave than Stone age but first ideas from a group looking at ancient life

Hands-on History: Stone Age, Charlotte Hurdman, Armadillo, 2014 978-1-84322-974-2
Stone Age, Bone Age! Mick Manning and Brita Granström, Franklin Watts, 978-1-4451-2892-4

O, if only! 
No, two books about the Stone Age - specifically about teaching "the Stone Ages" to children

Hands-on History is great: a rewarding mix of factual information and activities to try. The information is well presented and could be used by a teacher to get a bit of background or be given to confident KS2 readers for their own information. It is with the activities, however, where this book really scores. Most chapters have an activity associated with its content and while some are familiar - paint sprays to get hand prints - others are delightfully new and inventive. I really liked the mammoth bone house and the model canoe.
There is a bit of a dependance upon air-drying clay which might start pushing costs up if you were doing these activities with a class (substitute card?*). I like clay as a paper replacement: it offers a different texture and a sense of the issues of working on a different surface. Using clay to make model axes and fire-drills is fine but most children I work with would instantly want to try their new tool out and I don't think these would stand up to much heavy wood-cutting or fire-starting!

I love the generous confidence that assumes we all know what shape and size to make our model mammoth bones, and that we are all happy about instantly drawing cave pictures. A bit of guidance in these cases might have helped: maybe a quick column on looking at animals and finding simple shapes to build the main picture from?

The activity side of Hands-on is its greatest asset and is sadly lacking in Stone Age, Bone Age! Here a cheerful, almost rhyming, narrative bounces our young adventurers (KS1) through Stone Age life. Good bright pictures accompany a simple text where key points are supported by some background information. But I wanted some action: some definite suggestions for things to do….we could fill in the gaps ourselves but I think the book would have been more complete if it had had some sections on, perhaps,  "looking for tracks in mud, sand and snow", exploring colours in nature, maybe even lighting a fire and cooking…activities to take the reader beyond the book itself.

Two useful additions to the library shelf.

a moment of prehistoric domesticity

 * I have certainly used mounting board scraps from the local picture framers for good solid bases for "cave painting" and big sheets of black sugar paper for even quicker ones

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