De luxe French kit
Michael Grenfell on a grammar-based course for key stage 3. Encore Tricolore 3 completes a trio of books leading to national curriculum key stage 3. Like its predecessors, it is based on Tricolore: a name synonymous with new-style language teaching. Of course, Tricolore was developed pre-GCSE:before the four skills, the sympathetic native speaker, and pupil as host or tourist. The authors have rewritten and revised much of their material in line with the national curriculum and its new assessment rubric.
Encore Tricolore 3 reflects the themes and pattern of the original less closely than stages 1 and 2. Travel, holidays and youth culture form the topic content of the book, through which is woven material of genuine cultural interest: impressionist painting, poetry and environmental issues.
The authors clearly see pupils gearing themselves up for French visits and exchanges, and engaging in a range information technology: electronic mail, data bases and the like. Graphics are state-of-the-art, with a variety of illustrations and colour formats. The book could not be more appealing: but what of the actual language?
Tricolore was developed when situational dialogues and pattern practice were the height of language teaching fashion. Encore Tricolore 3 continues in the mould; it must be said that alternatives have yet to prove themselves. Despite its pop photography, language exercises are mainly based on reproducing dialogues and text analysis. This is serious language learning, and there is no doubt that someone following this course will gain a comprehensive knowledge of French. It will appeal to teachers looking for a well-structured, grammar-based course book.
The approach is also transactional. Repromasters engage learners in a range of individual and pair-work activities. Simple codings are included to make areas of experiences and level descriptors explicitly clear to both teachers and pupils. There should be no doubt about the levels at which individual pupils are working.
Much support is given. There are colour-coded grammar reminders and verb tables, vocabulary lists and idiom explanations. These are included throughout chapters and in a comprehensive summary at the back of the book. By this stage, pupils are expected to be revising and extending the perfect, imperfect and future tenses, including irregular forms, and are assumed to be able to cope with the technical talk about language. Despite nods in the direction of differentiation, autonomy and the low-achiever, this is the deluxe route to language learning for well-motivated above-average pupils.
Encore Tricolore 3 comes with the full assessment kit: cassettes, copymasters and teacher's notes. As this stage represents the end of key stage 3, assessing pupils' levels of attainment is all important. The devised tests are thorough but not exhausting, and there is plenty of help for teachers in the form of transcripts, cross-referencing and test solutions. There is opportunity for summative, formative and self assessment. All the tape recordings are clear and to the point rather than "authentic", although a good range of voice accents - age, gender, region - is employed. Advice is given to teachers on conducting the tests, as well as organising and publishing results.
Tricolore has always been the course in the right place at the right time. With the latest "back-to-grammar" movement, Encore Tricolore could well repeat this. It represents the best in "honest", if rather traditional language learning. Its down-to-earth approach and revamped format will be welcomed by Tricolore devotees. It may well even tempt back those who have had bad experiences with the language teaching avant-garde.