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Say yes to a clear approach

Nigel Norman looks at two German courses written to prepare students for the new-style GCSE. JA! By Chris Watson and Roy Dexter Student's book Pounds 7.99. Teacher's book Pounds 28.50 Copymasters Pounds 37.50 + VAT. Five cassettes Pounds 45 + VAT Longman

Ja! is a two-year German course in one volume, intended for students in the middle ability range (grades C - E), who have already been learning German at key stage 3.

It provides practice and revision of all the skills, grammar and vocabulary in an accessible and attractive format. Familiar topics are recycled in a more grown-up style, and, although there is a great deal of content it is presented in a straightforward, largely uncluttered way, which should avoid the overload and confusion that can befall students in this category. The Student's Book fulfils several valuable functions in one volume.

It contains abundant teaching material on nine topics that cover all five Areas of Experience. It is a grammar reference book, an examination advice manual, with particular emphasis on the speaking test, mini phrase-book and dictionary. The Teacher's Book shows clearly which Areas of Experience are covered, the relevant Attainment Target for each exercise, all transcripts of tape work, handy lists of vocabulary and structures for each sub-section of the unit. Copymasters provide extra support and differentiation, including more challenging extension work. Cassettes are clear and well-produced and give ample listening practice in a well-structured and user-friendly way.

Each unit comprises seven double-page sub-sections which practise reading, writing, speaking, listening in a manageable fashion with plenty of colourful photos and drawings. Rubrics are given in both target language and English, which will be particularly useful for pupils of middle ability. Grammar and vocabulary are presented in coloured boxes where needed, rather than at the end of the whole unit - another very supportive feature. Pupils are given a checklist of "can do" statements to complete each unit. The extensive grammar reference section provides clear examples and explanations in English, and represents a welcome response to the new syllabuses' demands for increased accuracy, so much forsaken in the old-style GCSE.

Although the range of topics is predictable, the inclusion of the environment marks a refreshing level of sophistication that will aid motivation. Equally, the advice on study skills and preparation for the speaking test will promote independence. The whole volume is easy to use and will provide a clear path towards the new exam.

Teachers too will appreciate the extremely helpful layout of the Teacher's Book. The title may be somewhat over concise, but will supply the verdict for many who are looking for an up-to-date course for middle ability pupils.

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

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