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Mind your language

Paradigm Schoolgrid's CR-ed francais is bringing languages into the real world. Eleanor Caldwell looks at the service and its teenager-friendly content

For pupils at Kingswood High in Hull, French has entered the real world. In a translated Match magazine interview with Arsenal winger Robert Pires, they can read the Frenchman's opinion of his compatriot manager. Ars ne Wenger, Pires says "donne confiance ... ses jouers et accentue leurs talents".

Not up for football? Summer 2002 fashion is in there too. "C'est le moment de flirter" with "un look relax". "Le jean delave" (washed out) and flowery Seventies blouses are back. Kylie and Emma Bunton advise against too much make-up. Star Wars fans are reassured that "la force est avec nous". In Attack of the Clones Anakin Skywalker has thankfully been"libere de l'esclavage".

This radical new approach to reading in French comes from CR-ed francais - an online magazine for key stages 3-4 and Scottish secondary years 2-4. The site gives a whole new take on five familiar topics: sport, nature, fashion, the French speaking world and cinema, television and music. Material taken from current English publications is translated by a team of course writers and native speakers. Updated on a two-weekly basis, it's topical and relieves teachers from keeping up with new bands, relegated football teams and movie reviews. On a practical level, all the texts are presented at three colour-coded levels of difficulty. Harder words and phrases are highlighted and a one-click glossary gives translations. There are also on-screen activities and a link to a full set of worksheets from the Nelson Thornes course Camarades.

At Kingswood High, head of department Ann Raynor puts her Year 9 class through its paces with a CR-ed-based lesson on holidays. Quick-fire French instructions lead the class rapidly to the site, topic, level and text for the day's lesson on colonies de vacances. Working in pairs, pupils have two minutes to read the French. Some use their own monitor, others focus on a digitally projected version at the front, followed by 10 minutes to use the online glossary to check new words. Few of them need more than five minutes to finish. "It's more efficient than a dictionary," one boy comments.

After a brief interlude, Raynor combines tried and tested methods with new age learning. Pupils match synonym phrases on flashcards with phrases from their on-screen work. Speed and enthusiasm is obvious throughout. Next up, pupils are told they have 10 minutes to write a 50-word resume of the text. There's little hesitation and, with a combination of lifting and manipulating language, most have produced between 6 and 12 lines of text to be word processed next lesson.

The on-screen language activities are not yet fully interactive. Multiple choice questions in both French and English offer immediate checks. However, written activities still have to be done on hard copy. Raynor looks forward to having a fully interactive version.

Languages at Kingswood are in a state of renaissance. Now coming out of special measures status, the school has 1,000 pupils and only two and a half language teachers. Languages for all is being re-established and Raynor is full of enthusiasm for CR-ed francais. "It's so easy, you don't need any special technical knowledge," she explains.

Recently appointed to the post, Raynor is building new schemes of work for all classes around the online resource. Up to half of pupils' class time is already timetabled for use of CR-ed. "It's really caught on. I've got a lunchtime club three times a week where they come and read what they like. They're not always impressed with what they read though - Jamie Theakston apparently shouldn't be described as 'un jeune degingande' (gangling youth)!" she explains.

Moving into the next stage of its development, Paradigm Schoolgrid is now introducing an audio facility to CR-ed francais. As Kingswood High pursues a Performing Arts College status, there will be much to be gained from an audio add-on. Ann Raynor already uses CR-ed material to stimulate fun speaking work. "I've had a class using a piece on The Simpsons to write and perform cartoon scripts," she says.

With staffing levels often in crisis, Raynor is very positive about the advantages of CR-ed. "It would be ideal for a cover or supply teacher to work with. The pupils know what they're doing and engage well with the work." As a Spanish teacher, she would like to see CR-ed espa$ol. For the time being though, German teachers will be pleased that CR-ed deutsch is currently on the production line.

In the meantime pupils will be pleased that French learning has come home. "Becks est amoureux fou de Victoria." "Robert Pires est tres heureux ... Arsenal" - This is what's important to Euro Youth 2002.


* Up to the minute, teen-friendly French reading material

* Updated twice monthly

* Three differentiated levels of same texts

* Material based on British and French teen culture

* Simple to use - Internet access and PC

* Simple glossary

* Text related activities - English and French

* School licence only - No additional individual licence fees

* Will be even better with: audio exercises, moving pictures, fully interactive activities, hyperlinks for teachers plus German and Spanish editions

Fact file

School licence: pound;350 pa

Other titles: CR-ed Plus - KS3 literacy; CR-ed Cymru - Welsh; CR-ed - KS2 Literacy and Numeracy

Paradigm Schoolgrid Ltd

Tel: 01482 679177

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