Exchange and pass

14th November 1997, 12:00am
Nigel Norman


Exchange and pass
Nigel Norman looks at two GCSE modern language courses for pupils with special needs

TREFFPUNKT. Anneli McLachlan and Rosi McNab Heinemann. Student Modules 1-4 Pounds 33. 95 (packs of 6) Module 5 Pounds 22.95. Teacher's Resource and Assessment File Pounds 52.50. Five Cassettes Pounds 13.50 each + VAT. Complete cassette pack Pounds 64 + VAT.

EXAMEN EXTRA. Lawrence Briggs Nelson. Teacher's Pack (Photocopiable Resource Book, copymasters and duplicating master cassette) Pounds 52.50 + VAT.

The new GCSE syllabuses in French and German bring new demands. Teachers preparing their students for the foundation tier will find many of the existing coursebooks and exam practice materials are either inappropriate or inaccessible. Here are two resources that will spare the endless adaptation and provide a way in for the many lower-ability candidates facing a more exacting examination.

The Key Stage 4 German course, Treffpunkt, is designed for the 20 per cent of lower achieving pupils who will not attain GCSE. Core work supports those on full or short courses, but there are also extension materials for those taking Foundation GCSE grades F and G.

Topics covered are familiar enough: exchanging personal information with a German native-speaker, visiting Germany, holidays and travel, young people and society. But these are presented in attractive module booklets, sub-divided into double-page units that practise the four skills in a carefully-stepped sequence of six to eight exercises. This ensures easy access and the motivation of short-term, attainable goals. One or two-line instructions are given in German and English, and are always linked to a simple, colourful visual.

The tasks generally involve matching, joining up and choosing from lists. At the end of each unit there is a reference box (Schluesselworter) of key structures, usually questions and answers. At the end of the book corresponding Vokabeln provide complete glossaries of the unit content. Pupils complete a "can do" progress sheet which the teacher countersigns.

After minimal input from the teacher, pupils can work at their own pace, individually or in pairs. Listening tasks also lend themselves to the autonomous approach - the cassettes are clear and measured in speed, without background sound effects.

Module 4 (Unsere Welt) is a good example of material that is both up-to-date and relevant for the age range. It includes part-time jobs, future plans, the environment, computers and personal relationships.

More demanding work in the Extra! sections allows for differentiation at the top of this ability range.

Treffpunkt is highly appropriate for low achievers and special needs pupils. It has a winning formula: simple, attainable tasks in short, accessible modules. Success is guaranteed, because otherwise tedious repetition of all-too commonplace topics is replaced by manageable, untechnical activities. The price may put it beyond some departments, but here is a course that will answer the prayers of many German teachers.

Examen Extra provides differentiated support for lower-ability pupils preparing for Foundation Level GCSE or Standard Grade French. It will make the tasks in Route Nationale Stage 4 or other coursebooks more accessible. Teacher's notes explain whether the activity is a simplified version of an existing one in the main coursebook or whether it offers additional support.

Detailed lesson hints, transcripts and solutions to exercises allow the teacher to use the material flexibly for self-study, homework and revision.Solutions provided on separate copymasters underline the self-access nature of the materials, while the copymasters themselves are eminently user-friendly, clearly set out with target language rubrics, simple instructions and suitable, unambiguous illustration. Examples show pupils clearly how to do the work.

The real advantage of the materials lies in their careful structuring, leading pupils from heavily-directed copying, gap-filling, pronunciation and repetition to writing letters or postcards based on a model, supported pairwork, surveys and expressing opinions.

The cassette will develop speaking and listening skills and allow individuals the freedom to play and replay at their own pace. Perhaps some of the exercises (repeating models, for example) could have included longer spaces on the tape. But sound quality is excellent, with no off-putting background noise.

As the title suggests, there are specific examination-style features: reading tasks, with suitable exploitation, letters (from Montreal) that provide models for pupils to follow, a "J'ai compris" section, which summarises the core language of the unit in examination-format, questions and tasks. There is also a "A mon avis" section, which stimulates self-evaluation and provides a record of work done.

There are a few errors, but Examen Extra will prove invaluable for its highly supportive, differentiated pathway into GCSE and may well establish a foothold beyond its target audience.

Nigel Norman is lecturer in education at the University of Wales, Swansea

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