Gear up for German

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Andrea Osborne looks at two new courses

Echo 1.

By Jeannie McNeill and Steve Williams.

Pupil Book pound;10.50; Teacher's Guide with CD-Rom pound;39.99 plus VAT; Audio CDs (pack of three) pound;83 plus VAT Echo Elektro Pupil Activity Package.

By Harriet Lanzer.

Prices by school size, plus VAT; Flashcards (pack of 96) pound;83 plus VAT; Workbooks (pack of eight) A and B pound;19.50 each pack.

Echo Express 1.

By Jeannie McNeill and Steve Williams.

Pupil Book pound;10.75; Teacher's Guide with CD-Rom pound;39.99 plus VAT; Audio CDs (pack of three) pound;87; Resource and Assessment File with cassette and CD-Rom pound;99 plus VAT; Workbooks (pack of eight) A (reinforcement) and B (extension) pound;19.50 each Heinemann.

Echo is a three-year German language course, with Rot (Red) and Gruen (Green) differentiated books in Year 9; and Echo Express is designed for Year 8 beginners in one version throughout. However, all schools should consider Echo Express, as it covers largely the same material at key stage 3 in only two volumes. Both have a scheme of work (CD-Rom in the teacher's guide) linked to the MFL framework and national curriculum. Year 1 materials are available now and the complete courses are being published over this year and in 2006.

The teacher's guide helps you find things quickly and contains plenty of starter and plenary ideas, many of which are transferable. All lesson activities are cross-referenced, encouraging departmental personalisation of the framework. Mini-tests are a sensible inclusion. Assessment for Learning is flagged up, but doesn't reflect recent developments in this area, such as exemplifying expected outcomes to pupils and giving written feedback. However, the structure provided by checklists and reflection opportunities encourages a "now and next" mentality. Similarly, ICT guidance could have encouraged links to the KS3 ICT framework and how to reinforce pupils' skills through foreign languages.

The pupils' book is slim but comprehensive. Pupils find it user-friendly and welcome the two-way vocabulary. Activities at a range of levels ensure differentiation, alongside sections providing extended reading and writing.

Cartoons outnumber photos, which will prolong Echo's shelf-life, though some pupils might find the appearance childish. The workbooks are well-laid out and differentiated, and contain a wide variety of activities. English instructions and clear examples assist pupils working at home.

The resource and assessment file is indispensable and customisable, using the CD-Rom. For non-Echo departments these would provide valuable extra evidence for assessing pupils' progress over KS3. Good extras include a series of learning skills sheets and helpful strategies boxes on the pupils' word lists for each chapter. Probably the best inclusion is a set of marking grids for speaking and writing, which provide real guidance for teachers about performance at different levels.

Sets of 32 colour OHTs handsomely support presentation, grammar, pronunciation and thinking skills, with notes giving frameworkcurriculum matches and copious classroom ideas. Non-Echo schools would find these an invaluable extra.

Echo Elektro, the ICT component, covers both versions of Echo and is available on 60-day trial. With eight or nine activities in each chapter, the sequence of activities is customisable and levels can be displayed or hidden. Excellent vocabulary sections include clear recordings of all words, including noun plurals. Some activities link to very succinct, printable grammar explanations.

I've visited several departments adopting Echo, often after positive experiences with Expo, and it is already a resounding success (pardon the pun). There are also rich pickings in the peripherals for departments following rival course books. Echo and Echo Express are well worth a closer look.

Andrea Osborne is KS3 foundation subjects consultant with Essex County Council and a languages teacher

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