Advanced survivors

15th June 2001 at 01:00
AU POINT. Nouvelle Edition. By Elaine Armstrong, Michele Deane, Bob Powell and Lawrence Briggs. Student's book pound;18 Teacher's resource book (with copymasters) pound;35.95. Self-study booklet pound;6.25 Cassette pack pound;61.75 + VAT. Bridging resource pound;49.95. Examination listening pack: Student workbook pound;4.50. Teacher's pack pound;51.95. Nelson Thornes. Available from TES Direct

DROIT AU BUT! Deuxieme Edition. By Rod Hares and David Mort. Student's book pound;12.99. Teacher's resourcebook pound;40. Cassette pack pound;50 + VAT. John Murray. Available from TES Direct pound;11.99, pound;36 and pound;45

BRENNPUNKT NEUE AUSGABE. By Claire Sandry, Judy Somerville, Peter Morris, and Helen Aberdeen. Student's book pound;20 Teacher's resource pound;37.95. Self-study booklet pound;6.95. Cassette pack pound;61.75 + VAT. Bridging resource book pound;52. Examination listening pack: student's workbook pound;4.50 . Teacher's pack pound;56.99. Nelson Thornes. Available from TES Direct

ZEITGEIST 1. By Christiane Hermann, Morag McCrone and Dagmar Sauer. Student's book pound;13, Teacher's book pound;30. Grammar workbook pound;3.50. Cassette set pound;47.50 + VAT, CDs pound;47.50 + VAT. Oxford University Press. Available from TES Direct

The new AS and A2 specifications confront staff with inevitable changes in their teaching and the search for materials. The revised editions of such well-established course books as Au point, Droit au but!, Brennpunkt and the new AS German course, Zeitgeist, will ease the transition. Au point and Brennpunkt cover AS and A2 in the one volume, whereas Droit au but! covers A2 and Zeitgeist 1 the AS year.

Au point contains an impressive array of components, including a Bridging Resource Pack for the transition period from GCSE, a self-study booklet and an exam listening pack (particularly valuable in the absence of past papers). The first eight chapters cover AS topics and all 15 chapters cover A2. The first page of each chapter sets out the key learning objectives: topics, communicative and grammatical objectives and exam practice.

Topics presented through photographs, texts, cartoons, statistics and diagrams are linked to a range of exercise types: synonyms, gap-filling, truefalse, matching (for example text to pictures), pair work, translation, summary, "word families" (vocabulary building) and internet research.

The pages are attractive, with articles on France and French-speaking countries and an emphasis on contemporary society, cultural background and heritage that is such a strong feature of the new specifications. This is all enhanced by the website (www.aupoint.nelson.co.uk).

Oral skills and the language of opinion are built up by means of "Pour communiquer" boxes. Equally, "Point de grammaire" boxes systematically provide explanations and practice in French of new grammatical items. This is supported by the faithful grammar reference section, which gives detailed analysis in English.

"Au fait" boxes provide background information. Perhaps most useful are the sections "Destination epreuves", which provide vital exam practice, with a further block on all 15 chapters at the end of the book. This will relieve hard-pressed teachers searching for material of exam standard. Extracts from literature occur within the topics, but there are also two sections of "Lectures" that provide additional reading from a variet of fascinating sources at both AS and A2 level.

If the motto for new-generation course books were "Adapt or die!" Au point would be a sturdy survivor Droit au but! is another well-respected course that is surviving the transition well. Topics and tasks are similar to those in Au point, with units on family life, drugs, environment, multicultural France, cinema, world of work, crime and punishment. Stimulus material is rich and varied and includes an innovative dossier unit on the French-speaking world, as well as a section on study skills. Boxes build up vocabulary and opinions, grammar, pronunciation and factual background information.

The teacher's book contains a photocopiable assessment unit, and a supplementary unit on "Interpreting English documents", to prepare for those tasks and tests based on English that occur in the new exam. This is both novel and welcome. Nevertheless, the practice in specific examination activities is not as extensive as in Au point.

Brennpunkt is the German companion volume to Au point, and so again covers AS topics in the first eight chapters and the full A-level in all 15 chapters. The sequence of topics is naturally different in German, but layout and learning support features are the same. Thus there are boxes to help with phrases and grammar, plus the extended grammar reference section in English at the back of the book. "Wussten Sie schon...?" gives snippets of useful information, and exam practice comes in the form of "Pruefungstraining" within the chapters and at the end of the book. As if learners of German needed reminding of the more complex nature of the language there are additional "Achtung!" and "Lerntipp" spots that underline tricky points or rules.

There is an astonishing wealth of source material here to make the learning process more amenable and, by virtue of being exactly matched to the new specifications, of more direct practical relevance.

The self-study booklet and linked website will also enhance independent learning and coursework.

The new kid on the block is Zeitgeist. As the first stage of a two-part German course leading to A-level, Zeitgeist 1 is exactly sequenced to resource the AQA AS specifications, although it will naturally suit other specifications, too.

After an orientation unit, six units cover "Young people today" and five "Aspects of society". In spite of similar texts and tasks, development of skills and learning support, this book looks and feels different from its stablemates. Colourful and thought-provoking stimulus material is here, but there is also more text, more English (in the grammar explanations and the "Tipp" hints on learning strategies) and a disappointingly traditional grammar reference section. But there is full exam practice, with revision every two units. The approach is simpler, catering for a wider ability range than the other course books.

All the courses have strengths and weaknesses but they represent imaginative responses to new circumstances. Au Point and Brennpunkt are difficult to beat for comprehensiveness, but teachers will be well served by any of these books, and the future for AS and A2 language teaching looks exciting indeed.

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


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