BOOK REVIEWS

Contents 

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

Creating a Learning Schoolby David Middlewood, Richard Parker and Jackie Beere -  Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Empathy - Promoting resilience and emotional intelligence for young people aged 7 to 11  by Bob Bellhouse, Glenda Johnson and Andrew Fuller - Reviewer Penelope Waite

What can I do to help? by Deborah Hutton - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Cancer Etiquette by Rosanne Kalick - Reviewer Joe Sinclair

Higher Order Thinking by David Lazear - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Visual Thinking by Nancy Marguiles and Christine Valenza - Reviewer Mark Edwards

Cardit! by Gerry Cartwright and Noel Walsh - Reviewer Mark Edwards.

 


 

Creating a Learning School. by David Midfdlewood, Richard Parker and Jackie Beere OBE, May 2005.  Sage Publications (Paul Chapman Publishing) 208 pages.   ISBN: 1-4129-1042-0.  Paperback 19.99  

Receiving a review copy of this book was a happy reminder of the years when I edited the magazine New Learning (the journal of the NLP-Education Network) and one of the articles I was privileged to publish in the summer 2001 issue was What is the Learning School by Jackie Beere.  At that time she was leading a project to develop the Learning School culture at Campion School in Northamptonshire.

Her article began: Educationalists are noticing that the vast amount of knowledge with which we are expected to fill our students' heads by the age of sixteen is not as useful to them as an ability to understand their individual learning styles and apply them to life experience, thereby discovering that the true joy of living is in fact learning.

This book, whose authors include David Middlewood, a research associate of the University of Lincoln and Richard Parker, Principal of Beauchamp College, Leicestershire, as well as Jackie Beere who is now (I'm not sure if she was in 2001) Headteacher at Campion School, reveals just how far the concept of the Learning School has developed since Jackie wrote her article.

The book is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to understand the principles upon which the learning school is based, and is a veritable treasure-house of case studies supporting the long-established precept of "don't tell them, show them".

It will be equally valuable and enjoyable reading for both those who are already convinced that how students learn if more important than what they learn, and for those who still remain to be convinced . . . hopefully a decreasing number.  In a true learning school the principle of becoming lifetime learners "who can thrive in the fast-moving information-rich 21st century"{1}  needs to be the norm, rather than the ability to pass examinations.

I leave the final word of this review to Jackie Beere with the concluding paragraph of her 2001 article: "There is a groundswell of feeling that maybe we are not serving our youngsters well if we focus too firmly on academic success and failure.  Schools need to build on the principle that all learning builds confidence and self-awareness.  We need to understand more and more about the way we learn so that teachers and students create that love of learning that is for life and not just for league tables."

Well, this book certainly does that.

Joe Sinclair

 


[1] New Learning, Summer 2001, Jackie Beere.


 

 

 

Empathy - Promoting resilience and emotional intelligence for young people aged 7 to 11 by Bob Bellhouse, Glenda Johnson and Andrew Fuller.  Published by Sage Publications (Lucky Duck Imprint).  Paperback.  64 pages.  18.99. June  2005.  ISBN 1-4129-1159-1      

Empathy is the ability to identify with another person's feelings.  The facility to see and feel things as others see and feel them is a cardinal requirement of successful social relationships at any age.

Educationalists have for many years recognised that much of the success of learners comes from their ability to view themselves and the world through the eyes of others.  The ability to share beliefs and experiences with compassion can enrich students lives immeasurably.

The intention behind the fostering of empathy in children is to enable them to bond - initially with their parents and subsequently with other people and animate things.  It is also intended to teach respect and consideration for others through the demonstration of esteem; and it aims to help children begin to understand their feelings.

It is, say the authors, inversely related to aggression, against which it is a protective factor.  Thus empathy becomes a preventive strategy against anti-social behaviours like bullying and violence.

But the book is not intended  to be a theoretical description of empathy and its acquisition; it is, in fact, a workshop manual filled with exercises, worksheets and experiential activities.  It is acquisition by experience and experimentation.  And to achieve this aim even more usefully there is included a CD-Rom.  This is, to my mind, the main benefit of the book, since it provides the ability to print off and then photocopy all the exercises and classroom activities, with the full permission of the authors.

Many good things come in little packages, they say. This book demonstrates the adage well, with the wealth of useful and accessible material compressed into its 50-odd pages.. 

The introduction sets the tone and establishes the aim of the book's programme quite neatly.  "Good relationships are not about finding the right person, but about being the right person. . .   For children empathy and compassion are habits they can develop like any other skill."

I recall, incidentally, that a similarly organised book by the same authors, Coping Strategies for Secondary Students, was reviewed in an earlier online issue of this magazine.  That dealt with the emotional issues of 12 to 16 year olds.  Tt is devoutly to be wished (if you will permit me the cliche)  that the instilling of empathy and compassion propounded in the current work will be so successful as to render many of the subsequent strategies irrelevant. 

Penelope Waite  

 

What can I do to help by Deborah Hutton.  Published by Short Books, London, 2005.  251 pages.  ISBN No. 1-904977-39-1.  Paperback.  Price 7.99.

I find myself at somewhat of a loss as to the best way  to review this book.  It's an excellent book.  It's a book that was sorely needed.  It's a book that will serve a wonderful purpose.

My problem is that I would like simply to reproduce much of the book in the review.  The quotations, the tips and the suggestions are all begging to be inserted here.  And that is hardly practicable. 

A second problem is that I find myself wanting to write about the writer herself, having learned two days after receiving the review copy of the book, which I had requested from the publishers after seeing Deborah Hutton interviewed on the Richard and Judy Show on Channel 4 TV, that she had finally succumbed to her cancer on the very day that the book had been slipped through my letterbox.

So I'll adopt the somewhat unusual strategy of producing an obituary notice for Deborah Hutton in the Main Theme section of Nurturing Potential, and simply here urge you to buy this book.  Buy several copies!!  Give them to your friends and family.  There is hardly a person in Britain today who is not, or has not been, touched by the scourge of cancer directly or indirectly.  All will benefit from the advice given in this book.  And the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity will also benefit as all of the author's royalties are being donated to it.

The book itself has a wealth of small contributions from such public figures as Maureen Lipman, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, the Bishop of London, Tony Benn, Joanne Lumley, Ruby Wax, Clive Anderson, and many, many more.  Despite what I said above, here are a few tips that I simply cannot resist quoting:

TIPS:

Helpful : (a) trivia, gossip and jokes; (b) not minding when I fail to make contact; (c) understanding when I can' t talk; (d) having time when illness is not the subject; (e) listening and not judging when I go on ceaselessly about symptoms, even though you've heard it before; (f) restoring a sense of normality.

Unhelpful: (a) making assumptions about how I'm feeling; (b) telling me about what will make me feel better, and not listening to my opinions about what makes me feel better; (c) asking "how are you?" in that oh-so-sepulchral, chapel-of-rest voice; (d)demanding the nitty-gritty of the diagnosis or treatment . . . when children may be in earshot; (e) bossiness, especially telling me what I should be doing to make myself better and why I got cancer in the first place; (f) tears, grief, panic.

Joe Sinclair

 

Cancer Etiquette by Rosanne Kalick.  Published by Bookmasters Inc.  2005.  160 pages.  ISBN: 0-87460-450-8.  Price: US$19.95

It's quite a coincidence that this book and Deborah Hutton's reviewed above should have been published within two months of each other on opposite sides of the Atlantic.  Both are written by people with cancer, and both offer helpful advice on how to interact with people suffering that condition.

It is so easy to hurt someone by the wrong actions or comments, no matter how well-intentioned they may be.  And Rosanne Kalick does not hesitate from including medical practitioners in her list of those capable of heedless or harmful remarks or behaviour.

Her advice is offered from the background of her own experience of suffering cancer on two separate occasions.

The book is a very useful guide for friends and relations who want to be helpful, but also want to be sure that the help they are offering will not add, inadvertently, to the suffering of their loved one.  Indeed it suggests that  it is frequently more important to listen to what is being said than to offer advice or words of comfort.

I unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, for nowadays it is impossible to avoid contact with those who suffer this awful disease or are close to others who are afflicted with the condition.

At the time of writing this review, I believe that Rosanne Kalick, unlike Deborah Hutton, has actually recovered and is a "survivor".  Further comments about her (as well as the obituary of  Deborah Hutton) will be found in the Main Theme section of this issue.

Joe Sinclair

 

Higher Order Thinking - The Multiple Intelligences Way by David Lazear.  Published by Crown House Publishing.  2005.  Paperback.  128 pages.  ISBN: 190442483X.  Price: 19.99

Higher Order Thinking is a very readable and well thought out publication . David Lazear has taken Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligences theory and cross-fertilized it with Blooms Taxonomy to create a very practical and useful resource for teachers who want to develop thinking skills/learning styles approaches in the classroom. He has divided Gardners eight intelligences into three groups : object related, object-free and personal. Blooms taxonomy comprises three stages : gathering knowledge, information analysis and processing, and higher order thinking and reasoning. Lazear applies these methodically to each of the intelligences and provides a summary chart at the end of each section  He gives detailed examples of learning activities that might arise from this, in different subject areas.

I was involved in developing a learning style curriculum planning a number of years ago and this book reminded very much of this. It seems common sense to build on students particular abilities, learning preferences and skills and if this is done, learning should be highly motivating. There is, in the UK, a recognition at long last that all is not well in the school curriculum with rising numbers of disaffected students and teachers. My main concern with this book is its relationship with the straitjacket of the National Curriculum, but enterprising teachers may well find the space to begin introducing this approach into their planning. Lets hope so; this book is a very useful holistic planning tool.

Mark Edwards

 

Visual Thinking by Nancy Marguiles and Christine Valenza.  Published by Crown House Publishing.  2005.  Paperback.  176 pages.  ISBN: 1904424562.  Price: 14.99

I have to confess that when I picked up Visual Thinking my first thought was oh no yet another variation of mind-mapping Ive seen it all before! In fact, I was guilty of making the sort of assumption described in the latter stages of the book The Ladder of Assumption is one of the many Mindscape templates that comprise this publication. It didnt help that early on  the authors took a mild swipe at Tony Buzan, the man who devised mindmapping, but the book is a refreshing development of the concept of using visual images to represent thinking and the first chapter enlarges on this. The section on how to draw was very interesting and could serve as a basic art teaching module in itself. Then there is a lengthy chapter on how to draw symbols an alphabet of images with accompanying suggestions of what they could represent. The final part of the book begins to delve into the area of self awareness, to the point where I began to feel that this was venturing beyond  classroom territory; it could be used by someone working with troubled individuals. I will in fact be using some of this material therapeutically with young people and as such I felt it was unfortunate that the title might limit its potential audience. Good stuff.

Mark Edwards

 

Cardit! IT software resource by Gerry Cartwright and Noel Walsh.  CD Rom. Published by Crown House Publishing.   ISBN: 1904424198.   Price 35.00

I have to confess that I found CardIt! difficult to review. This is because it the sort of resource which requires several hours of application to learn how to use. I have scrolled through the introduction several times now and my impression is that it is potentially an excellent resource, but one that really needs a days training. This is not a criticism; having worked with IT resources for many years I can testify that the investment of time in getting to know a new resource can  pay dividends. CardIt! Is basically a system of folders which allows the user to create texts which are printed onto card to be used in whatever way the teacher wishes. It appears to support a creative approach to teaching in that the cards can be used for games, puzzles or quizzes and as such can be highly recommended. However the busy classroom teacher may be put off from the start by the amount of time needed to access the disc. Perhaps it should be targeted toward IT technicians who can then use it to create resources as specified by the teacher. 

Mark Edwards

 


 

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  http://www.conts.com

Penelope Waite retired from full-time teaching some years ago.  She now divides her time between her homes in Brittany, France and south-west England.  She continues to be interested in developments in education, particularly in special needs, and does some EFL tutoring in France.  Her interest in psychotherapy is academic rather than professional.

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.