French friends for all;Secondary;Reviews;Modern Languages;Books

19th June 1998 at 01:00
CAMARADES 2. Pupil's Book, pound;7. Teacher's Book, pound;20. Resource File, pound;50. Cassettes, pound;58. Flashcards, pound;48.

CAMARADES 3. Orange (basic) and Turquoise (upper) Pupil's Book, pound;8. Teacher's book, pound;20. Resource File, pound;55 (pound;50 Turquoise). Cassettes pound;62. Stanley Thornes.

Camarades, the four-stage French course for key stages 3 and 4 was launched last year with Books 1 and 4 (reviewed in The TES, March 7 1997) to show where the course was leading.

Now books 2 and 3 have been published to complete the series.

Camarades 2, for pupils in their second year of French, covers work to approximately national curriculum level 5. It follows Stage 1 closely in style and format. There are six unites to last the year, and visits, shopping, school and hobbies are the order of the day. Attention has been given to provide a range of graphic styles and to integrate these with photos of real life. The book is visually attractive and appealing.

The major feature of Camarades is its approach to differentiation. Books 1 and 2 come with two distinct levels of activity coded for higher and lower levels. In some cases in book 2, this differentiation amounts to little more than more of the same. In other cases, there is a genuine effort to extend responses in a more linguistically sophisticated fashion.

Book 3 offers a bridge to key stage 4 and, like the final stage, comes in two separate formats: Orange and Turquoise. Camarades Turquoise will be suitable for most pupils, while the twin Orange is written for those needing special support at basic level. Here, input is simpler and responses less demanding. Nevertheless, much of the actual topic material, and indeed graphics and language, are identical. In theory, at least, this format means that pupils can cross levels without losing continuity of progression.

Most unites start with cassette dialogues. The authors have chosen a clear methodological approach to conversations based on familiar voices. The resource pack and teacher's books provide many activities to present and extend these, as well as extensive cross-referencing to help the teacher navigate through teaching and assessment.

Camarades will be a major investment for any school department. Its appearance after the latest curriculum reform means that it is up to date and builds on the pioneering work of other flagship courses. Its weaknesses are probably those of the national curriculum itself. As it stands, Camarades does about as much as can be done within the statutory requirements in a down-to-earth way. Compromises have been made in the name of appropriate rather than optimal methodology, but this course will appeal to teachers looking for something fresh.

* Michael Grenfell is a lecturer in modern languages at the University of Southampton.

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