DIY self-development

11th October 1996 at 01:00
CLASSROOM RESOURCES SERIES GERMAN HOMEWORK ACTIVITIES By Harriette Lanzer FRENCH READING ACTIVITIES By Anna Lise Gordon Association for Language Ledarning Pounds 30 each

INSET RESOURCES FOR MODERN LANGUAGES SERIES REVIEWING TEACHING AT KEY STAGE 4 By R White EXAM SUCCESS AT KEY STAGE 4 By Kate Corney Association for Language Learning Pounds 20 Available from 150 Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HN

Michael Grenfell on new class resources plus INSET support. Teachers have long been familiar with the Association for Language Learning's INSET activities, reviews, journals and newsletters. Its Language World conference is an annual celebration. ALL has now produced two major resource series.

The Classroom Resources series is designed to make new ideas and materials quickly and easily available in the modern languages classroom. Each pack comes as a series of activity sheets, which teachers can photocopy. The watchword is flexibility. None of the activities is explicitly linked to any course, so teachers are free to adapt and apply the materials for a range of classes and levels of attainment. The intention is also to respond to the resource needs of teachers other than French.

The first pack in the series works to this plan and provides German Homework Activities for learners at key stage 3S1-2. The style is big, bold and straightforward: very much the antithesis of the latter-day glossy course book. Areas A, B and C of the national curriculum are covered in the topic content. The activities are familiar - puzzles, word-searches, crosswords - but offer genuine variety and a choice to pupils in their homework.

Each sheet comes with two or three major exercises, which vary in difficulty, but differentiation is treated loosely. There are no complicated coding schemes. Teacher guidance is kept to a minimum, and is restricted mainly to providing solutions to the activities.

French Reading Activities adopts a similar approach. Each of the 50 cards comes with a reading text for pupils at key stage 4S2-4. The higher level of work is reflected in the topic content, now covering all five areas of experience, and in the sophistication of the language and activities used. Here, there is a more structured form of differentiation: the 10 sheets in each area become progressively more challenging. Various types of texts have been chosen - newspapers, poems, letters, diaries - and a range of styles is adopted, including fiction and non-fiction at different levels of formality. Some effort is made to go beyond straight comprehension testing and include more creative exercises. Both packs will complement resources, enhance autonomy and provide extra revision.

The Inset Resources for Modern Languages series offers do-it-yourself professional development. Each pack is a self-contained Inset course divided into six sessions. Session guidance is given, with overhead transparency masters, tasks, prompt sheets and handouts. There is also homework.

The Reviewing Teaching and Learning at Key Stage 4 pack is designed to help departments focus on national curriculum requirements at this stage. A range of related issues is offered for consideration; such as target language, the lower end of the attainment range, grammar and assessment.

Exam Success at Key Stage 4 complements this pack. Here, the emphasis is on grade criteria and how teachers may enhance performance through systematic revision and "the power of grammar".

Both packs will be popular with heads of department and give them ample material to work with. However, both take a narrow view of professional development. Office for Standards in Education statements and national curriculumGCSE criteria of achievement are taken uncritically, and it is assumed that the measured examination success of their pupils is the only preoccupation of teachers. Perhaps future packs will take a less instrumental view of pedagogic competence and provide opportunities for a more personal, enquiry-based approach to developing as a modern language teacher.

Nevertheless, busy teachers will welcome both series.

Michael Grenfell is a lecturer in modern languages at the Centre for Language Education at Southampton University

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