Packs that tackle new tests

AUTOFRENCH. CD-Rom GCSE support materials

Baker Heath Associates Tel: 0116 239 3235. Pounds 59 (schools) Pounds 29 (students),network price negotiable.

GCSE EXAM PRACTICE IN FRENCH - Listening and Speaking. By David Brown, Dave Carter and Mary Culpan. Collins Pounds 49.99 + VAT.

HANDS ON GCSE SPANISH - Reading and Responding. By Ascension Mesa Lopez. Bermes Language Resources. Tel: 0181 582 0085. Pounds 24. German Reading Activities for key stage 4. By Ann Clark.

SPANISH WRITING ACTIVITIES FOR KEY STAGE 4. By Mike Calvert, Anna Lise Gordon and Ann Swarbrick. Association for Language Learning. Tel: 01788 546 443. Pounds 30 + Pounds 2 postage each.

Philip Hood looks at materials geared towards next year's revised GCSE exam.

The new GCSE examinations have brought tiering, use of dictionaries and different approaches to each of the four skills of reading, writing, listening and responding. Teachers have been prepared for the changes, but until candidates sit down in front of real papers, many will understandably be apprehensive. The resources reviewed here attempt to ease some of the worries by addressing tasks that should be reflected in the real thing next May.

The AutoFrench CD-Rom is a support and revision system for French GCSE. Although some tasks involve too much English for the 1998 specifications, the CD offers a broad range of approaches. Topics are clear and a full French-EnglishEnglish-French glossary is provided for each video and audio item. More than 70 practice worksheets test the four skills and allow pupils to check answers. There is also question-and-answer practice as well as a speaking test.

Teachers and students will welcome this compact resource. If the English response forms are replaced with French ones, they will continue to do so.

The useful Listening and Speaking photocopiable pack from Collins is organised for listening on the basis of areas of experience and foundation and higher question types, also identifying questions that overlap both tiers. For speaking, the pack uses role-plays that match all major exam boards' syllabus specifications. The accomp-anying tape is clear and features a range of natural voices.

Some questions are in English for early foundation and late higher tasks. The remainder are in French in a variety of styles, which reflect the short course approach from 1997. These include selection, grid-ticking or gap-filling, true false, questions in French, corrections of details, definitions and explanations.

The role-plays offer teacher hints, and there are conversation topic question prompts. The pack includes clear teacher notes and full transcripts.

Reading is a key area in the new GCSE, not just because the test itself has changed but because so much will have to be carefully read and fully understood. Many support materials in the past have educated learners into reading for key information, using the skills of skimming and scanning. We now need to focus on closer reading, and new materials will be welcome if they encourage this.

Hands on GCSE Spanish - Reading and Responding starts to do this with some of its gap-filling tasks. It is a clearly constructed pack with 15 topics that relate to the five areas of experience, and three tiered worksheets for each topic. The material is all in Spanish, apart from some questions in English to higher texts. Otherwise the tasks consist of the expected grid-filling, sequencing, cloze, matching, true-false exercises, and questions in Spanish. Much of the textual material is authentic, although obviously less so at foundation level.

The pack also sets out the topics clearly to help teachers plan, and there is an answers section, a progress-profile sheet and a 500-word Spanish-English glossary.

The Association for Language Learning pack, German Reading Activities for Key Stage 4, is also organised by area of experience, with 10 progressive sheets for each area. There are some interesting themes, particularly at higher levels within the topics, with sheets on chewing gum, less usual sports, endangered species, poems on world problems, and alcohol. There is a certain amount of pre-reading dictionary work on some sheets and all offer a follow-up production activity.

The tasks are varied and some will help students to read carefully, even at lower levels, which is welcome. The interest value of texts cannot be overestimated as a motivational factor and this pack attempts to move beyond the predictable.

The organisation of the useful Spanish Writing Activities pack for Key Stage 4 is similar. There is progression within the areas of experience sections, for example, from list writing to open-ended articleessay writing. Each page develops preparation tasks into a writing activity and most have a small writing tip. Many of these refer to exam practice - about dictionary use, answering all questions or adapting material from stimuli, for example.

All of the sheets are clearly structured, and some teach reading skills through using the stimulus to start forming possible answers - identifying important points, useful phrases and so on. Some of the sheets could also provide useful practice in preparing for coursework writing.

Philip Hood is a lecturer in the school of education at the University of Nottingham

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