Across the great divide;Reviews;Modern languages

18th June 1999 at 01:00
OBJECTIF BAC 1. By Martine Pillette and Brigitte Clarke. Collins. Student's book pound;14.99. Teacher's resource book pound;29.99. Set of 3. cassettes pound;49.99 + VAT

Nigel Norman on a text that bridges the gap between GCSE and post-16 studies

Objectif Bac 1 is the first part of a two-stage course leading to A-level or equivalent in French. It aims to "address the very real problems that today's students encounter in their post-16 studies" and claims to "pay far more than lip-service to 'bridging the gap'". In addressing the requirements of the new, post-Dearing AAS criteria for modern foreign languages, the authors have developed a refreshing approach to contemporary topics that firmly integrates grammar, communicative skills and an innovative and welcome training in learning strategies ("techniques de travail").

The choice of topics is unsurprising, but the teaching and learning procedure helps considerably in the development of autonomous study skills and analysis of language. Four introductory copymasters establish the pattern of carefully structured guidance on how students can derive the maximum benefit from the coursebook, develop their listening skills at home and evaluate their own progress.

Each of the 11 units contains up to four sub-topics, several language points, including pronunciation, communicative tasks across the four skills, learning strategies and a summary of objectives, as well as remedial measures and evaluation tasks ("bilan"). Icebreakers or brainstorming activities that start from students' existing knowledge ensure active participation from the outset.

Thereafter the range of tasks is carefully structured to build up vocabulary, opinions and grammar, while simultaneously encouraging a questioning, often collaborative, but certainly less teacher-dependent method of working.

Mindful of the forbidding nature of textual work at this level, the authors have assembled short, accessible passages with ample, attractive visual support that reflect GCSE-style materials, thus easing the transition. Topics include, for example, the family, personal characteristics and appearance, tourism, health, the environment, education and jobs.

Analysis and application of the grammatical structures by means of short target language explanation within the unit and English in the end-of-book summary lead to re-use of the given models in several practical formats, for example oral exposes, note-taking, drafting and re-drafting, reporting for a newspaper.

Listening material is clear, spoken at natural speed by native speakers, and without background interference. The worksheet "Travail d'ecoute a la maison" contains excellent advice on improving listening techniques. There is ample and welcome practice too in that bugbear of listening tasks - figures and statistics.

As an introduction to post-16 studies this resource commends itself, particularly by its encouragement of autonomous study skills, effective integration and recycling of grammar and its thorough analytical approach to language. No more need for crash grammar courses post-GCSE, for here the gap has been bridged.

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

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