Extend and reinforce

16th June 2000 at 01:00

KEY STAGE 3 COURSE BOOKS. Formule X 1 course. By Martine Pillette. Collins. Pupils' book pound;8.99 Workbook (Cahier X)

pound;1.99 Teacher's Book pound;19.99 Resource and Assessment Pack pound;34.99

Pack of 8 boxed cassettes pound;64.61

Set of 95 Flashcards pound;59.99 AnneXe 1 pupils' reference booklet pound;1.99 (currently free with pupils' book)

FUSEE 1 COURSE. By Genevieve Talon and Alan Wesson. Hodder amp; Stoughton pupils' book pound;8.99 Teacher's Book pound;24.99Photocopy masters and Assessment Resource pound;65 Three unboxed audio cassettes pound;45 plus VAT Fusee 1 is currently offering discounts on student book adoptions

Formule X and Fusee are new wide-ability courses for key stage 3 French. Formule X level 1 consists of 14 units, each with three mini topics for new language, an eXpo section for reinforcement and extension and TeXto for "fun" reading and listening. Fusee 1 contains 10 units on double page spreads, an En plus section of differentiated activities for less and more able learners, two pages of Pages Lecture tasks, a "soap" cartoon story Frequence-Coll ge (also on cassette) and a Decouvertes page for self-study. Both include learning objectives. In Formule X grammar and learning strategies also appear at the top of each double page. In Fusee 1 objectives are stated at the beginning of each unit only, but each spread ends with a "now you know how to ." box, providing useful summing up.

Formule X integrates grammar in blue boxes entitled grammaire X, in a judicious mix of English and French. The starting point is the way in which English works, leading into the French grammar point. Comparisons are drawn between French and English usage and to errors typical of English learners. AnneXe 1, a handy reference booklet, complements the pupils' book with unit-by-unit word lists and two bi-lingual glossaries in separate columns to help learners revise, grammar summary and "can do" lists. Colour in AnneXe 1 would make points clearer, although pupils could do their own highlighting.

Overall, Fusee 1 is more traditional; colourful Comment ca marche boxes introduce points of grammar, cross-referenced with page numbers to more substantial English explanation in the 10-page grammar summary at the back of the pupils' book, with two extensive vocabulary lists. "Petit truc" transferable language oints encourage pupils to make links between pieces of language and differentiated activities on related copymasters help them practice grammar independently.

In Formule X, the target language rubrics have key words in colour in English first time round, or pictures to help pupils make out the meaning. After that, French predominates. In contrast, all the target language instructions in units 1-5 of Fusee 1 have a full translation beneath the French, and in units 6-10, English equivalents are given for tasks likely to be carried out independently. This supports learners but may make some lazy.

A brief rationale for activities in the compact Formule X teacher's book helps answer the question "why am I doing this?". "Express" ideas for learners with short concentration spans, differentiation suggestions, and learning strategies are also incorporated. The Fusee 1 teacher's book has helpful reduced facsimiles of the spread in the pupils' book, so that the latter is not needed when planning. It provides mapping grids for the national curriculum and QCA schemes of work, indicating ATs and level descriptors for all activities, not only for assessment tasks. In Formule X marks and levels for individual tasks are limited to the assessment sections of the teacher's book.

In Formule X establishing a sound-spelling link early on is stressed, and the cassettes, boxed for ease of storage, are a key resource in the development of good pronunciation. Recorded items, introduced clearly in French and then English on the Cahier X cassette for home practice, accompany the workbook and AnneXe 1. Fusee 1 is thorough and systematic, each unit adopts a similar format, appropriate for learners who appreciate a sense of security, especially as the location of recordings is in English.

Tasks in Formule X typically have a problem-solving, decision-making dimension. What is refreshing is the strategy training, via "message X" tips on how to work better, and "don't forget" reminders in English, together with "challenge X" tasks to be done "against the clock". Both pupils' books are eye-catching. Potentially appealing websites are listed in both courses, with associated copymasters in Fusee 1.

Cynthia Martin is a lecturer in modern foreign languages education at Reading University

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