INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Language, Mathematics and Science
KS1
CDROM for Windows and Mac

A Whale of a Tale Series ? Set 1
published in 1998 by Ransom Publishing (www.ransom.co.uk)
24.99

A Whale of a Tale

The package comprises 3 CDROMs: "Leap into Language", "Dive into Maths", and "Surf into Science". The character of "Little Blue" Whale and his assorted undersea friends teach basic concepts in Maths, Language and Science in a variety of formats, for instance "pelmanism" games, matching activities and quizzes. The children can "divert" if they wish, in order to play games unrelated to the activity they are currently engaged in, or to learn facts about blue whales.

The characters are drawn in the "Disney" style, and the children found the animation and backgrounds colourful and uncluttered. The sound effects and general appearance of the programs are probably not as sophisticated as others, for instance "Mia ? the Search for Grandma's Remedy". The instructor and story readers are very clear and precise, and there are plenty of opportunities to repeat instructions and to complete activities at the children's own pace.

The children are able to exercise very basic computer skills, especially clicking on the 'forward' and 'backward' buttons, and selecting from a menu. Explanations as to the functions of the various buttons are clear and precise. The children are also practising mouse control skills at a level which gave them confidence.

I used the programs with a small group of year 2 children, of mixed ability. These children who had already considerable experience of computers did not find the computer skills required of them challenging. They liked the colourful animation and the characters. All three programs enabled the children to work individually or in pairs, and they were able to achieve a high level of independence. The children enjoyed the games, which could be altered to "level A" or "B" depending on whether they wanted an "easy" or more difficult version of the game. Children were also able to support each other with both the computer skills required of them, and the tasks. In general, the children showed enthusiasm for the games.

These programs would most benefit year 2 children, although the most able children would probably not find them challenging enough, and some year 1 children. The wide variety of games and tasks, operates at two levels catering for differing abilities. The programs encourage independence, either by one child working alone or by two children supporting each other. In this respect, the programs could be used during the literacy or numeracy hours at appropriate time, as one of the independent activities. All three programs are National Curriculum/Literacy hour compatible. There are plenty of opportunities for follow up or preparatory work. I would therefore use these programs in class time.

The children who 'tested' these programs were enthusiastic and enjoyed most of the games. They encourage independent and co?operative working, due to the basic level of computer skills required. For the most part, the children did not need the program explaining to them, as this was done very clearly by the instructor. The programs would therefore be useful in promoting independent work within the classroom, and in reinforcing and supporting certain literacy, science and numeracy concepts.

P Emery
Poulton Primary School, Wirral