Philippa Davidson looks at material aimed at the new GCSEs
Spare a thought for the harassed language teacher. As well as battling with changes to the GCSE, short courses and languages for all, we are also having to grope our way towards the first examinations in 1998 using old-style textbooks and without the help of past papers.
Luckily, new wave courses are starting to appear, one of the first being Rendez-vous, from Heinemann. This is aimed at Foundation level students, those following short courses as well as non examination students. There are four stages, divided into A and B modules, designed to cover either a two-year GCSE course or a one-year short course, in which case only A modules will be needed (A modules cover areas of experience B, D and E, B modules A and C).
The books contain nine to 12 topics, each including speaking, listening reading and writing activities. Key words and phrases (mots cles) are also highlighted and there is a French-English vocabulary at the end of each book. Further work (for more able pupils) is contained in the Extra sections, while for less able pupils there are less demanding activities in the Reinforcement sections in the Teacher's File. This also has progress sheets and extension worksheets for testing purposes. There are handy grids and picture reference sheets suitable for the less able students.
Book 1A contains material on families, hobbies and interests, birthdays, jobs and professions, while 1B covers daily routine, school, home and local area.
Book 2A covers booking a hotel room, the tourist office, making arrangements, while 2B covers asking the way, shopping, eating out (it is refreshing to find McDonald's included) and transport. Stages 3 and 4 (not seen) cover topics such as holidays, hotels and camping, telephoning, future plans, describing yourself, the weather and discussing opinions about diet, TV, money, school uniform.
This course has much to recommend it: colourful, easy to-follow format, and rubrics in French and English. My low-ability GCSE group found the mots cles a good prop as they struggled to build their own sentences. Formal grammar does not appear, but the main tenses needed for exams (present, perfect, future, conditional) are superficially covered. The writing activities in Stages 1 and 2 are purposely less demanding and often involve tasks such as re-ordering sentences and writing lists, although some letter writing is included.
I have my doubts about whether this course goes far enough down the road of preparing pupils for the new GCSE exams, and rivals on the market cater specifically for the new SEG modular, and the NEAB Certificate of Achievement. The Welsh Board Certificate of Achievement has its own booklets, but Rendez-vous could be useful for preparatory work. However, this new Heinemann course should be looked at by anyone in search of material for less able groups at key stage 4.
Philippa Davidson teaches in a special school in north London