Going on vocation
Gone are the days when only high-flyers were entered for exams in modern languages. Now, accreditation at key stage 4 is within reach of all pupils thanks to the new, easier alternatives to GCSE. Entre Nous aims to cover the requirements of the low-ability key stage 4 courses from the Certificate of Achievement and foundation GCSE to GNVQ language units.
Resources for less able students face the difficult task of presenting well-worn material such as how to introduce oneself, give directions, get around town and so on, in a refreshing way while maintaining language and structures at around national curriculum level 3.
Entre Nous has a vocational bias, with many of the topics such as booking rooms at a hotel, illness or making arrangements put in the context of a work experience placement in France. Each of the 10 units begins with a picture story to catch the student's interest. References to the Internet, for example, give a modern slant to familiar topics such as giving your name and age. The fact that the target readers will probably never find themselves working abroad doesn't matter; their own work experience should provide sufficient motivation.
The activities in the coursebook cover the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Tasks include matching sentences, putting sentences in order, "true or false", and other activities that students at this level will find within their reach.
Key vocabulary is presented in mots-cles sections. Listening tests are sensible and easy to administer. Having struggled recently to get low-ability students to design posters on pollution and world events (tasks set by the WJEC for its Certificate of Educational Achievement), I welcome pages on these two topics.
The inclusion of entreprises individuelles will be useful to students following vocational courses. The mini tests at the end of each unit are selective, but more comprehensive tests are to be found in the teacher's resource book. The latter also contains answers to theexercises, a tape script, and presentation visuals.
In spite of its attempt to introduce activities for more able students, Entre Nous probably would not prepare students adequately for a foundation GCSE. It would be most useful for vocational courses for which there is a shortage of material at the appropriate level.
Philippa Davidson teaches French at a special school in Enfield, north London