Crucial appeal

12th September 2003 at 01:00
Alison Thomas looks at courses for key stage 3 German

A new key stage 3 German course is a major investment. There are fewer options than in the past, but publishers have responded to teacher feedback and the revised national curriculum, and today's courses offer more breadth and depth. I have focused on those that are relatively new or have been recently updated. They are designed to be completed in three years and claim to cater for a wide range of ability. The exception is Klartext, an intensive course for students starting in Years 8 or 9, which I have considered separately. (Logo! also offers a fast-track route, not covered here.) My joint winners are Logo! and Klasse! Points to consider are:

Presentation

Motivation is crucial, so is the pupil's book attractive? Will it appeal to this age range? Is colour effectively used? Are the pages well designed? How are the different components organised and are they clearly labelled? How pupil-friendly are the reference sections? Is the photography good?

Resources

To sustain interest, resources must offer meaningful activities pitched at an appropriate level. How much is included in the pupil book and how vital are the extra resources? Do you want to buy the whole package or would you prefer to top up core material from elsewhere? If workbooks are an integral part of the course, can you afford to issue one to every student? How much listening material is provided and what does it consist of? Do the recordings sound natural and authentic? Is some of the language redundant? How imaginative are the accompanying activities? Is there any differentiation? Are flashcards and OHTs attractive and unambiguous? What provision is made for ICT and how does it reinforce learning?

Content

Students need to know what they are learning, why, and how to go about it.

Are learning objectives clear? How much new material is presented at a time? How easy is it to assimilate? Are there plenty of varied activities to consolidate new language and skills? Are key structures and expressions recycled in different contexts? Are students offered tips on learning strategies? Are they encouraged to use target language? How is grammar taught and is progression carefully structured? Will the course be easy to adapt to the KS3 framework? How does it cater for different learning preferences and abilities? Are the four attainment targets evenly covered? Are there any multi-skilled activities? How significant is the cultural component? Is it interesting?

Support

Students need structured support for independent learning. Teachers need to know how course components fit together and where they lead. Are self-access materials varied, stimulating and well thought out? Do they cater for the full ability range? Is there adequate reference material? Are assessment materials appropriate and do they help to give students a sense of progression? How informative is the teacher's book? Does it suggest teaching strategies? Is it easy to follow? Does it take the sting out of preparing schemes of work?

TITLE

LOGO!

Heinemann

Price: students' book (1, 2, 3) pound;9.75 each; teacher's guide (1, 2, 3) pound;33.99 each; cassette pack (1, 2, 3) pound;56.99 each plus VAT; audio CDs (1, 2, 3) pound;67.99 each plus VAT

www.heinemann.co.uk

Tel: 01865 888080

PRESENTATION

An attractive, colourful and clearly laid out resource, although some pages are a little cramped. Chapters are subdivided into distinctive double-page spreads, making it easy to follow what's going on. Activities are indicated by a colour-coded symbol denoting the attainment target. Illustrations consist of line drawings, cartoons and a few photos for authentic colour, although the latter are on the small side.

RESOURCES

The recordings are clear and the content is exploited in a variety of ways, including pronunciation practice. Pupil workbooks (pound;18.50 for eight) containing reading and writing exercises come in two differentiated versions. The Resource and Assessment File with CD-Rom (pound;99.99) provides assessment materials and worksheets focusing on vocabulary, skills and grammar. For books 1 and 2 there are single-sided Flashcards (pound;73.99) and ICT Activities for German (pound;179.99 plus VAT).

CONTENT

Logo! covers a lot of ground in a lively, accessible way and learning objectives are clear. Grammar is built up layer upon layer and is thoroughly practised and regularly recycled. Pair-work encourages students to ask as well as answer questions. For teacher-led activities, instructions are issued in German, and English translations appear only on exercises designed for independent study. Books 1 and 2 offer imaginative differentiated activities and book 3 splits into two parallel versions, "rot" and "gruen".

SUPPORT

The teacher's book gives a clear overview of the various course components and the CD-Rom allows you to customise work sheets. Support for students includes varied supplementary activities, comprehensive vocabulary lists and an attractively presented grammar section with exercises. Revision pages and mini tests encourage students to measure their own progress.

Formal assessment across the four skills is provided at the end of each chapter and book.

VERDICT

The combination of entertaining activities, a structured approach and lots of support for teachers makes this a winner. It also scores highly on ease of use and organisation.

TITLE

KLASSE!

Oxford University Press

Price: students' book (1, 2) pound;9.50 each; teacher's book (1, 2) pound;31.50 each; packs of CDs or cassettes (1, 2) pound;63 each plus VAT

www.oup.co.uk

Tel: 01536 741171

PRESENTATION

Bright, uncluttered pages, attractive drawings and evocative photography make for truly Klasse! presentation. Each chapter is broken down into a series of double-page spreads on a different but related theme. Activities and help boxes are clearly defined and colour coding is used to reinforce syntax.

RESOURCES

The listening material is lively and the recordings are clear. The workbooks (pound;2 each) are designed to consolidate all four skills and include self-assessment check lists, which encourage students to track their own progress. Klasse! Informatik (pound;25 plus VAT from Camsoft) offers text manipulation files. A website (www.oup.comukklasse) with interactive activities goes live in October. Copymasters (Klasse! 2: Copymasters, pound;42) contain visual stimuli, graded activities, vocabulary lists and assessment materials. The Coursemaster CD-Rom (pound;21 plus VAT) offers comprehensive administrative support. Attractive colour OHTs (Klasse! 1 - OHT File Euro Edition, pound;63 per pack) are available.

CONTENT

The objectives are explicit and the activities are purposeful and imaginative. Differentiation is provided through the "Extra!" and "Noch mal!" pages, graded copymasters and project work. Target language is actively promoted, pronunciation regularly practised and the mysteries of German handwriting decoded. German rubrics are supported by a glossary.

Grammar is introduced systematically and reinforced through stepped exercises, where support is progressively withdrawn. A strong cultural element conveys a real flavour of life in German-speaking countries.

SUPPORT

The teacher's book is comprehensive and there is a KS3 Framework pack for book 1, with book 2 following next year. Student workbooks offer lots of varied activities supplemented by copymasters, covering the four skills, grammar and learning strategies. The frequent "Grammatik im Fokus" and "Hilfe" boxes are well designed and the grammar reference section includes exercises. Revision activities after every third chapter consolidate learning prior to assessment.

VERDICT

Carefully structured activities give students a sense of progression, while the authentic backdrop sets language in a meaningful context. Altogether a stylish and exciting resource.

TITLE

GUTE REISE! NEU

Nelson Thornes

Price: students' book (1, 2) pound;11 each; teacher's book 1, pound;32; book 2 available free online; cassette pack (1,2) pound;74.50 each plus VAT

www.nelsonthornes.com

Tel: 01242 267100

PRESENTATION

Book 1 is well set out with a colourful mix of drawings, cartoons and authentic photos. This clarity disappears in book 2, which has overloaded pages and fussy cartoons that tire the eyes. The 30 short chapters of book 1 collapse into 20 longer units, although these are still manageable. Both books provide clear objectives for each chapter, an attractively presented grammar section and consistent use of symbols.

RESOURCES

Listening material is varied and recordings are clear. Flashcards are available on CD-Rom (pound;120 plus VAT) and online repromasters (pound;120 plus VAT) offer a range of differentiated activities together with vocabulary sheets.

CONTENT

Language is presented through dialogues, which follow a continuous story line. Objectives are identified in English and each chapter concludes with a "Du kannst" check list. Activities come in a range of styles but some of the worksheets are repetitive and uninspiring. There is specific grammatical content but progression could be more carefully planned. There are frequent cultural references, target language is encouraged and German rubrics are supported by a glossary.

SUPPORT

There are no formal assessment tests but the teacher's book links every activity to attainment target levels and suggests that any of these could be used for this purpose. Some repromasters are specifically designed to support weaker students; others to challenge the more able. Open-ended productive tasks allow students to work at their own level, although a more structured framework would be helpful.

VERDICT

This resource is not as well thought through as Klasse! or Logo! and teacher support doesn't compare. On the plus side, it offers abundant reinforcement activities catering for a wide ability range.

TITLE

ANSTO'

Hodder Murray

Price: students' book (1, 2) pound;9.50 each; teacher's resource file (1, 2) pound;55 each; cassette pack (1, 2) pound;52 each plus VAT

www.madaboutbooks.com

Tel: 020 7873 6000

PRESENTATION

Cartoon-style illustrations are intended to be upbeat and modern but might date quickly. Photos add an authentic touch but a few more would be welcome, especially in book 1. Page layout is generally good, with only an occasional information overload. Symbols are consistent and include nice touches, such as top hats and caps to distinguish "Sie" from "duihr". Both books have eight chapters broken down into smaller units.

RESOURCES

Recordings are clear and new language is set in a meaningful context. Raps and songs are designed to revise key structures, but some of these are not very engaging. Photocopiable worksheets and assessment materials are included with the course notes in the teacher's resource file, which is available from October. There are internet-based activities to accompany every unit and these are available by visiting www.anstoss.co.uk

CONTENT

Objectives are clear and core vocabulary is introduced through the adventures of the Ansto' band. There is explicit grammatical content, but it rattles along at quite a pace. Activities are varied and good strategies are deployed, such as prediction, hypothesis and guesswork. Cultural information is conveyed through the story and in separate "Kulturtipp" boxes. High-achievers will find plenty to challenge them, but weaker students might be overwhelmed.

SUPPORT

The teacher's resource file contains a national curriculum mapping grid and the new revised version offers KS3 Framework guidelines with sample lessons. From October, a downloadable scheme of work will be available on the website. Comprehensive grammar and vocabulary pages at the end of each chapter provide detailed reference material for students' independent work.

Photocopiable worksheets include extension activities.

VERDICT

There are some attractive features and able students may respond well.

Whether it caters for the full ability range is open to question.

TITLE

ZICKZACK NEU

Nelson Thornes

Price: students' book (1, 2, 3) pound;11.25 each; online teacher's material (1, 2, 3) pound;16.75 each plus VAT; cassette pack (1 pack pound;42 plus VAT; 2 and 3 pound;63 plus VAT)

www.nelsonthornes.com

Tel: 01242 267100

PRESENTATION

A pot pourri of drawings, cartoons and photos makes a colourful combination verging on the gaudy and some pages are decidedly busy. Books 1 and 2 comprise 10 chapters divided into double-page "Lernziele". Book 3 (eight chapters) follows the same format with longer subsections. Activities are not numbered and symbols are used only to denote listening and speaking.

RESOURCES

Recordings are clear and the speed of delivery is appropriate. Each book has an Assessment Support Pack (pound;60.30) and a host of supplementary materials. The Photocopiable Resource Book (pound;39.75 and pound;36.75, Books 1 and 2 respectively) and the Copymasters (pound;65.25) contain a wide-ranging collection of worksheets covering the four skills. The Activity Box (pound;82.50 plus VAT) adds to the variety. The Zickzack neu website is no longer active.

CONTENT

Language learning revolves around topics and graded supplementary activities allow for differentiation at three levels ("goldschwarzrot").

Rubrics are in German and the course's communicative approach is intended to promote target language use. Although the pupil's book contains tables of key expressions and a grammar reference section, a shortage of exercises designed to clarify and reinforce syntax deprives students of the tools they need to manipulate language.

SUPPORT

The teacher's material is not very helpful when you are compiling schemes of work and is available only online, which could prove frustrating. The differentiated "Selbstbedienung" pages, copymasters, Fun With Texts software and activities box support independent learning, but it's all a bit of a muddle. Formal assessment materials covering the four skills are provided for each chapter.

VERDICT

The 2001 edition brought the spelling up to date but little else has changed. With its topic-based approach and failure to provide grammatical structure, Zickzack neu is beginning to look rather "alt"!

TITLE

Fast track

KLARTEXT

Hodder Murray

Price: students' book 1, pound;12.99; teacher's resource book, photocopiable, including disk, pound;55 plus VAT; pack of cassettes or CDs, pound;50 plus VAT

www.madaboutbooks.com

Tel: 020 7873 6000

PRESENTATION

The page layout is attractive and the use of colour is effective.

Illustration comprises a mix of drawings, cartoons and authentic photos.

Blue "Grammatik" and "Hilfe" (vocabulary) boxes are easy to spot.

Activities are clearly numbered and consistent symbols identify attainment targets. The course is divided into 12 chapters but no attempt is made to break these down into clearly defined subsections.

RESOURCES

Varied listening material includes dialogues and songs, and recordings are fast but clear. The teacher's resource book contains black and white OHT masters and photocopiable worksheets, together with assessment materials.

The CD provides desktop publishing, text manipulation and database tasks.

CONTENT

Language is introduced in a narrative context and there is significant cultural input. Most tasks are in the target language and consistent German rubrics are supported by a glossary. Objectives are not flagged up at the start of each chapter, although a check list of new topics and structures appears at the end. There is a strong emphasis on grammar, which is introduced methodically but in such hefty portions that some students may suffer from indigestion.

SUPPORT

The teacher's book is helpful and includes useful advice on exploiting the ICT activities on the accompanying disk. Each chapter concludes with an assessment test covering the four skills. From unit 7 onwards these and the photocopiable worksheets are differentiated. The absence of a discreet reference section summarising key grammar is a serious weakness. Instead, an index at the back of the book sends students to the relevant pages.

VERDICT

Compressing five years' study into four or less, without overload, is not easy. This course is an attractive proposition for high achievers, but weaker students will struggle.

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