(Click on the title to be taken to the review, or reviewer's name for biodata, or simply scroll down the page)

Joint Attention: Communication and other minds  Edited by Naomi Eilan, Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Johannes Roessler  -  Reviewer Joe Sinclair

The Trainer's Toolkit  by Kimberley Hare and Larry Reynolds - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Bright Ideas for Managing the Positive Classroom by Peter Clutterbuck - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Common-Sense  Classroom Management by Jill A. Lindberg et al - Reviewer Tom Maguire

Looking Forward to Monday Morning by Diane Hodges - Reviewer Rosie Harrison

Brief Counselling That Works by Gerald B. Sklare - Reviewer Sam Jackson

Problem Postcards by Janine Koeries, Brian Marris and Tina Rae - Reviewer Sam Jackson




Joint Attention: Communication and other minds.   Edited by Naomi Eilan, Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Johannes Roessler.   2005.   344 pp  Oxford University Press.  Paperback.  ISBN: 0-19-924563-0.   19.99  

Joint attention, in the sense in which it is used in this book, is not a new concept.  Its focus and development in a social cognitive sense, however, has received serious study only during the past two or three decades.  It refers simply to the use of eye contact and pointing, particularly in children, whereby the sharing of experiences is developed with others essentially parents and other caregivers or caretakers [the designations are indiscriminately used by contributors in the book].

The appearance of joint attention typically begins between the ages of nine and twelve months.  Here is  a diagram [Development of infant's joint attention]  taken from a publication issued by the Graduate School of Engineering of the University of Osaka, Japan. [1]

In the first stage (a), an infant has a tendency to respond to an interesting object regardless of the attention of the caregiver.  At stage (b) the infant will react to a caregiver's attention to an object, although typically only when the object is within its field of vision.  Finally, at stage (c), the infant is able to turn around and devote attention to an object even if it is outside the infant's immediate view.

Thus joint attention is the use of eye contact and pointing for the social purpose of sharing experiences with others, and results from studies of this process have been applied in such areas as robotics and autism.  Indeed, the University of Hertfordshire's AuRoRa Project [2] studies how and if robots might serve an educational or therapeutic role for children with autism. 

This, then, is both a fascinating and a useful area of exploration and the OUP have done well to publish a work which brings together an international team of psychologists and philosophers to describe current research into the cognitive phenomenon of joint attention.  Sadly I found no reference to its application to the field of robotics, but there is considerable discussion of "attentional disturbances in children with autism".

What is particularly relevant to the articles in this book is that they demonstrate admirably how valuable is the collaboration between the psychologist and the philosopher in such a fundamental area.  There is much still to be learned about the application of joint attention theory and this book makes a very useful contribution.

Joe Sinclair



The Trainers Toolkit = bringing brain-friendly learning to life  by Kimberley Hare and Larry Reynolds.  Published by Crown House Publishing Ltd.  Paperback.  200 pages.  24.99.  2004.  ISBN 19044 2423-6.  (Originally published in 2002 as 51 Tools for Transforming Your Training)

Several years ago a high profile learning styles trainer told me that in the near future a plethora of trainings would appear based on the concept of what was then called whole-brain learning.  She further said that many of them would be superficially attractive and gimmicky with the aim of grabbing attention and promising transformative, quick-fix approaches to training and learning.

Well, she was right. At that time, Alistair Smith was one of the few UK trainers delivering Accelerated Learning courses; certainly published resources were thin on the ground. However, more material is emerging and as it does, it becomes trickier for the customer to sort the chaff from the wheat.

Happily, this book falls into the latter category and indeed identifies the same problem that I have outlined above ; the authors state on page 3 Since writing this book, weve noticed a kind of bandwagon effect going on amongst facilitatorsput some Mozart on the music system, and throw a koosh ball around and voila! you have accelerated learning. I have observed this process going on in schools the book describes it as manicuring a corpse!

Instead, the process should be about bringing the corpse of tired, unmotivated training and learning back to life. It follows hot on the heels of The Teachers Toolkit and is as I have suggested  based on the principles of Accelerated Learning. It is divided into three sections an introductory section outlining the principles of brain-friendly learning, an overview of the five principles of design a training session, and a large third section of tools for facilitating creativity, honouring uniqueness, making training rich and multi-sensory and managing state. The material draws heavily on techniques used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and presents them in a user-friendly way. I particularly liked the summary at the end of each chapter which demand a reader response basically a short test to check whether the material has penetrated, but done in a creative and fun way which personalises what has been learned for the reader.

The book is aimed at trainers new to brain-friendly learning and the authors use a variety of methods to present their approach and involve the reader throughout. It reads at times like a book about child-centred teaching and this is not surprising as it puts the learner at the heart of the process. The third section lists a plethora of ideas, grouped into categories such as developing your own intelligences and dressing the learning environment for what to do, so many that at times I began to feel a little overwhelmed. The authors enthusiasm and experience clearly shines through here and the book is such a rich resource that even trainers who are familiar with brain-friendly learning will find much to harvest.

Mark Edwards


Bright Ideas for Managing the Positive Classroom by Peter Clutterbuck. Crown House Publishing Ltd, 2005. Paperback. ISBN: 1904424511.  128pages. 16.99

It was a nostalgic experience for me, reading this book. I found myself saying I used to do that! on more than one occasion and also what a great idea! Peter Clutterbuck has not felt it necessary to refer to truckloads of research or quote from highly respected educational gurus, because it is self-evident that the ideas presented are not only educationally sound but engaging and motivating at a deep level. They are reminiscent of the sort of primary school activities that used to be a regular feature of good child-centred practice before the advent of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority Schemes of Work. In that respect it is encouraging to see a book like this because it suggests that the pendulum is swinging again, back toward a more varied curriculum ; there is a whole section on growing plants, for example.

Imaginative, yet seemingly simple ideas are sprinkled liberally throughout the book for example, Word Relays, in which the class is divided into teams which race to complete letter blends on the whiteboard. Clutterbuck has even thought of ways of managing different year groups; if you ever come across a school assembly with all the children doing the Hokey Cokey, it may be as a result of this book.

The book is divided into sections Getting to know You; The Attentive Classroom Ten Tips to Encourage Student Participation and several more. There is also one on starting the day excellent for settling the class down and getting them into a state of readiness for learning. A substantial part of the book is geared toward social and emotional developmental activities, something that is identified by the Government (Department of Health) as needing increasing attention in our society. Education can of course play a major role in this and this book gives educators the tools to do it. At the end is a section on physical activities and these could be used by anyone working with children, school-based or not.

The format is very easy to access; in fact one could pick up the book, open it at a random page and find an activity that will inspire and engage; this is because of the open-ended nature of most of the ideas. There are on average three or four ideas per page, enlivened with cartoon illustrations. There is also some more general advice about class management and handling individual students ; the importance of careful planning in the longer term to ensure that learning is a positive experience.

A recommended addition to any staffroom, but buy several copies because it wont stay long on the shelf!

Mark Edwards



Common-Sense  Classroom Management for Middle and High School Teachers  by Jill A. Lindberg, Dianne Evans Kelley, April M. Swick .  Published by Sage Publications (Corwin Press).  Paperback.  109 pages.  ISBN 0-7619 3160 0.  25.00


This is a reference manual for teachers. That is, it is not necessary to read it through from cover to cover , but rather it is useful for consulting when you come up against a management problem. 


The authors approach is practical. However, it seems to me to be rather superficial giving priority to the accumulation of small bits of information, categorization, labelling and time rather than people management. I found myself wondering why relationships and attitude werent analysed instead of the dots and commas of micromanagement.


Another part which I found unusual was that of the supposed classroom environment. Instead of being based on relationships it was concerned with seating and classroom decoration. The idea of free gifts handed out by the teacher such as raffle tickets, edibles and pencils struck me as out of place in my secondary setting. How can you instil internal values of autonomy if you base these on consumer perks?


There are quite a few gems hidden within this text, though. Focusing pupils through the non-verbal communication of positioning, eye contact, gestures and postures is certainly an innovative approach. Having positive expectations and expressing them appropriately is another excellent and workable idea. To have clear outcomes for your class so as to manage better is also an obvious but excellent tip. In general the positive, upbeat approach of the authors is highly commendable as something which works, not only in primary but also in secondary schools.


The philosophy of human behaviour behind the boom seems to me to lean towards Skinner and Pavlov (quoted on page 64) rather than towards cognitive psychology. Do secondary students really mature when enticed only by a bureaucratic points system, coupons for good behaviour or eating out with the teacher? The fact that fast food outlets, which might appeal to teenagers, may not appeal to their parents as places teachers should take them is not discussed, but taken for granted. In Europe some parents would certainly object to this treat. I am sure this is the case in the US as well .


The section dealing with challenging students is possibly of most interest, especially to high school teachers. The technique of the five Wh-s on page 91 concerning how to deal with troublesome students is very clear and helpful. Less valuable are exhortations to write daily reports on disruptive students, constantly update their families and generally gather data on these pupils. If you are the only teacher needing help with a student then you should seek help. Most troublesome students have problems with more than one teacher and indeed their family background is often an eye-opener on the reasons for their behaviour. You need to talk with other staff members and the students tutor about indiscipline rather than spend time writing reports.


The section on bullying, a common complaint in our societies, is very practical. It includes 4 clear signals for busy teachers. This is worth a ton of theory on the root causes and psychology of the bully and is to be applauded.


The authors advise at the outset that this is a reference manual. This is true. I would add that it is more useful for primary than secondary teachers.

Tom Maguire  

Looking Forward to Monday Morning by Diane Hodges.  Sage Publishing (Corwin Press). 2005.  Paperback.  ISBN 1-4129-1338-1.  196 pages.  Price 25.00.

How do you reward good performance?

Just think for a second about going to the theatre or the opera or a film.

If you like the performance you applaud, shout 'bravo' or otherwise show your appreciation.

Now think about your workplace - do you ever reward good performance? And if so how?  How do you demonstrate your appreciation of the effort and skill that someone shows? 

Diane Hodges reminds us that there is a vast difference between compensation (the money) and recognition.  At the theatre you don't say 'it's their job - they're getting paid';  but for some reason we often use this excuse at work. And the result is that many talented people leave good jobs and good money simply because they do not feel appreciated or valued as people. 

Hodges' work is for those amongst us who need to show appreciation but need a helping hand with the practicalities. 

It has dozens of ideas for activities and rewards and covers a range of settings from formal and informal to days out and celebrations.   There is something for everyone from teachers and bosses to friends and lovers - although you will have to use your imagination to make it applicable to your own circumstances.

Just don't get carried away and remember that rewards must be of value to the recipient - not what you think the recipient wants! And above all, they  must be sincere - nothing devalues any reward system faster than cynicism. 

And the easiest tip from the book is to remember that one of the most powerful ways of showing appreciation is promptly and sincerely saying so! And by being specific about what it is that you like so much. 

Buy the book, read the examples but even more important follow through. Go on,  show someone you appreciate them!. You know it is the right thing to do.

Rosie Harrison

Brief Counselling That Works: A Solution Focused Approach for School Counselors and Administrators by Gerald B Sklare.  Sage Publishing (Corwin Press).  2005.  P/B 170 pages.  ISBN 1-4129-0458-7.  22.00   

Problem Postcards : Social Emotional and Behavioural Skills training for Disaffected and Difficult Children aged 7-11 by Janine Koeries, Brian Marris and Tina Rae Sage Publishing (Paul Chapman).    006.  Paperback 100 pages.  ISBN 1-4129-1074-9. 

Brief Counseling That Works is an introduction to Solution Focused Brief Counselling (SFBT) and is aimed at educators, counsellors and mental health professionals working with young people. This is the second edition of a book which first saw light of day seven years ago, and its re-emergence may reflect the growing interest in SFBT on this side of the Atlantic (note the US spelling of the title). It is a highly readable book and its greatest strength is that it provides practical examples of how the techniques work, using real-life case studies. In fact, appendix one is entirely devoted to this.

As is stated in the introduction, SFBT was developed by Steve Deshazer in the mid-eighties and is clearly aligned to Cognitive Behavioural psychology.  NLP Practitioners will also recognise many of the questioning techniques. I found myself reacting rather cynically to some of the earlier parts of the book, which seem on first encounter to be somewhat simplistic. However, this was displaced as I read on by a feeling of hmm, this just might work. This was aided by a realisation that here are an impressive range of interventions which skilfully employed will challenge young people to think differently about their perceptions. Though Sklare is quite clear on the bottom line here; as in all forms of counselling, if the client doth resist too much, then they must be shown the door : If the student responds that he or she isnt interested in the offer, indicate to the student other options that are warranted for the situation, which may include suspension of other established penalties.

A healthy dose of realism and one that places responsibility where it should lie -  with the client. The techniques described seem disarmingly simple the Miracle Question for example - but they are very powerful and underpinned with a belief that the client has the solutions for their difficulties within them, a belief that accords with a number of other counselling theories. They are also clearly defined with labels such as mindmapping, cheerleading, scaling (rate your difficulty on a scale of 0-10) detailing specific behaviours and these are all identified in the case studies. The latter is particularly effective in developing a clients self-awareness, in terms of behaviour,  and sensory acuity.

Although Sklare acknowledges that SFBT is not for all students I did find the references to conventional therapies a little irritating. There is an implicit suggestion that psychodynamic or person-centred counselling approaches are a little old-fashioned; rather, there are a number of counselling traditions one of which SFBT is a recent development.

However this is not a criticism of the book as such which serves as an excellent introduction to a highly effective counselling approach.

Problem Postards is a programme aimed at developing childrens social, emotional and behavioural skills. Its theoretical base is the recognition that managing one's own emotions is key to developing mental health. The book refers to the work of Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence), and interestingly, in light of the above, to SFBT :In supporting pupils, facilitators and parents in their wish to change what is happening, we have found no model of approaching behavioural difficulties more useful than solution focused thinking. (Rhodes and Ajmal). The programme outlined by the authors is highly structured : fifteen sessions, each lasting up to an hour, with titles such as Feeling Angry and Sad Feeling Stressed Getting Motivated and Coping with Change. Each session itself is structured with a Circle Warm up, Circle time questions, a Problem Postcard, the Problem Solving Format, Worksheet Activity and Closing Compliments. The book then outlines each session in detail, with a focus on suggesting solutions for the problem postcard using the problem solving format.

An important part of this programme is the initial one to one interview  with programme participants based on solution focused techniques. There is strong emphasis on the Miracle Day question if when you went to sleep tonight a miracle happened and all your difficulties went away, so that tomorrow was a perfect day, what would that day be like?

There is a wealth of supporting resources in the form of suggested warm up activities and the specifics are the problem solving format as applied to different situations. The accompanying CD contains A4 copies of all worksheets, which are accessible, eye-catching and should appeal to the target age group (7-11).  

These two publications make excellent companions and should be read and used - by everyone working with troubled or disaffected young people.  

Sam Jackson


[1] Available in pdf form on the Internet at the following location: 




Reviewers' Biodata

Joe Sinclair is a writer, editor, publisher, and non-executive director of a shipping line - amongst other activities - one of which is the publishing of Nurturing Potential. His several websites may be accessed via

Mark Edwards was a head teacher, who still teaches part-time but combines this with writing articles, educational consultancy and entertaining people who like to hear badly performed rock, pop and music hall classics.

Tom Maguire has a BA (English), M-s-Lettres (French) and Philology degree (Spain). He has 27 years experience in TEFL in France and Spain. At present he teaches EFL in a Spanish State high school near Barcelona.

Rosie Harrison is an ex Systems Analyst, Strategic Risk Manager and trainer, and corporate business manager.   Currently she is working as a life coach, mentor and professional kinesiologist. She is also in training as a Tai Chi teacher.  Her website will be found at

Sam Jackson has followed a similar path to another of our reviewers, Mark Edwards (by whom he was introduced to us), moving from an academic teaching career to that of NLP-based counselling.  We hope to get a more detailed "bio" for a future issue.