‘English Made Easy Ages 9-10 (Key Stage 2) is aimed at pupils in Year 5 at primary schools in England and Wales, and according to its front cover it ‘supports curriculum teaching in the UK and Ireland’. Its thirty-two pages manage to cover diverse aspects of English language and literature, from exercises based on extracts from Charles Dickens’ novels to persuasive writing, prefixes, poetry, prepositions and punctuation.
It is interesting that, on the first two pages, children are expected to complete rules given at the outset concerning plurals and word-building. Most workbooks of this type state the rules and then offer practice on them. Here, it is assumed that children have been taught these rules previously and they can therefore think and supply them themselves. For example, in the case of plurals, they have to complete a sentence such as ‘For most nouns ending with an -f, change the f to …….. , and then add …….. .’ For word-building, they should be familiar with the rules for words ending in silent -e, which is dropped before adding -ing but kept when adding -ly or -ful. Other work concentrating on words includes onomatopoeia, shortened words and homophones. Word origins gives a list of words commonly used in English that originate from other languages: there are the obvious ones such as koala. beret and spaghetti, but I have to admit I did not know that ketchup came from Chinese.
The next few pages feature both an Aboriginal myth and a story from India written by Madhur Jaffrey entitled ‘The Mango Tree’. As well as the usual comprehension questions, children are invited to retell ‘The Mango Tree’ from the point of view of a different character in the story. There are also exercises on apostrophes and clauses based on ‘The Mango Tree’, so grammar and punctuation are seen in context rather than being presented separately in a way that might not seem particularly relevant to a child of this age.
Following these is a section on the environment and conservation, presented through a combination of poetry, informative and persuasive writing, a letter of complaint and a poster for a public meeting about a local park. Once again, it makes sense to link different types of texts and writing by a common theme rather than presenting a disjointed series of passages or exercises.
Towards the end of the workbook we have first an extract from Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’ and then one from ‘David Copperfield’. These are not particularly easy passages and would require a good level of confidence in reading. One is a description of factory work, and the second focuses on Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse neither are exactly cheerful! From the ‘Hard Times’ extract, children are asked to find examples of a metaphor and a simile as well as listing adjectives that describe colours, sounds and smells. Vocabulary is a focus in the questions on both passages.
The final page of the workbook is a ‘word factory’ examining the addition of -ing to certain verbs, some of which have to be adapted by dropping the final silent -e. This rule had been dealt with earlier and it seemed as though perhaps something slightly different could have been introduced here.
As with all the books in this series, there is a detachable eight-page section in the centre that provides answers as well as advice to parents and notes on how the content relates to the National Literacy Strategy. There is a page of gold stars more than enough to stick on the inside front cover and the top of each page as it is completed. The pages of the workbook are in black and white with a blue border, but they do feature a few illustrations for those who appreciate a visual stimulus. Many workbooks aimed at this age group are much more colourful, but their content is not more valuable, some times less so.
I have used this workbook several times for private tuition and found it extremely useful, although
the extracts from Dickens would be challenging for many children aged nine to ten. ‘The Mango Tree’, although quite long, is easier to deal with and focuses on an interesting idea. I do feel that a good deal of thought has gone into the overall content of this workbook, with texts rooted in other cultures as well as examples of English fiction and poetry, plus work centring on different types of non-fiction writing and grammatical or spelling rules.
I would certainly recommend this workbook to parents wishing to work with their children further at home and to anyone home-schooling a child aged nine to ten. It might also prove useful for a particularly bright eight-year-old who is not being sufficiently challenged at school, or to an eleven-year-old who is struggling with Year 6 work. I have said before that I have tried out other workbooks of this type, but I always seem to come back to this series and snap it up whenever it’s available.
Carol Vorderman’s English Made Easy Ages 9-10 Key Stage 2
Author: John Hesk
Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd (2 Jun 2005)