Early advantage

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Joanne Jones explores resources for primary foreign languages

PETIT PONT. Teacher's Guide plus copy masterflashcards, CD-Rom and audio CD pound;50. Pupils' books (15 or 30) plus VR Interactive CD-Rom, single-user pound;15, whiteboard-user pound;45, network multi-user pound;175. Glove puppet pound;9.99 Items available separately Eclipse Books www.petitpont.com

HOW DO I SAY THAT? series. By Sue Wise. French Spanish German Pangolin Books pound;7.99 each Chameleon series By Laura Hambleton One English and 13 bilingual editions are available Milet Publishing pound;5.99 each www.milet.com

Petit Pont is a delightful medieval French town and the basis for a colourful and imaginative new primary teaching resource, intended to be used for teaching French over a period of two or more years. Designed for use with the non-specialist in mind, it comprises a teacher resource book, along with pupil books, audio CD and CD-Roms with copy masters, flashcards and a motivating and stimulating virtual reality world. It also comes with an engaging Dalmatian puppet, Domino, who provides a reason for the common practice of asking children the questions that the teacher already knows the answer to.

The teacher's resource book is full of ideas, transcripts from the audio CD and a flexible sequence of activities which takes account of differing circumstances and teacher experience found in teaching a foreign language in British primary schools today.

The focus is on listening and speaking, with reading and writing activities designed to support these activities, and is fully compatible with the Modern Languages 5-14 Guidelines. Each unit ends with a story recorded by a native speaker, which helps develop the child's experience of language in context and these texts become longer as the course progresses. Language introduced in earlier units is continually recycled and the songs and rhymes help rehearse and practise both the structure and the pronunciation of the language.

The pupils' book is colourful (although expensive at pound;3.50) and extra customisable worksheets and copy masters can be printed. The CD-Rom contains lively and motivating activities that the children can use in the classroom and which would be particularly effective used in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard.

Once the children have worked through various activities they are able to access a stimulating and exciting adventure game. With this in mind, it is recommended that children have their own copy of the CD-Rom to work through at home to build their confidence further. The website has links and tips for parents to involve them in their children's language learning, too.

I found the whole course stimulating and effective and was particularly taken with the virtual reality world, as was the nine-year-old I tested it with. She had to be dragged away from the computer after more than an hour, and begged for her own copy as soon as possible.

How do I say that? is a series of books in French, German and Spanish, which has labelled double-page spreads of different environments, giving vocabulary associated with each picture. Each object is labelled in the focus language, the English translation and a phonetic transcription of how to pronounce the words in the foreign tongue. Following each picture page is a list of sentences that could be used about each subject.

I am not sure of the value of the phonetic guide. Although a child might sound fairly competent reading it, he or she would not be reading the actual words at that point. The books could form a useful dictionary type of reference, however, and would appeal as a "dip in" type of book to pick up at odd moments.

Chameleon board books are available in English and bilingual editions and are colourful short stories about Chameleon and his friends. The board book format suggests a younger target age group, but the language used is quite complicated and may lack appeal to a child of this age. The books would be best used for sharing with an adult, rather than as an independent read.

Joanne Jones teaches at Gipsey Bridge School, Lincolnshire, and is literacy co-ordinator

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