Two new packages will bring French to life, if they can be fitted into the curriculum. The Jeune Journaliste and Maurice - Ile Francophone are two publications which provide good examples of imaginative materials for teaching foreign languages in secondary schools.
Based on worksheets, they are concerned primarily with developing comprehension and writing skills, and both were produced locally, but as the result of wide cooperation. As well as being available for use in the classroom, the packs suggest avenues schools might explore when designing similar materials for themselves.
Jeune Journaliste grew out of an initiative by the Bolton Education Business Partnership (which aims to help teachers improve their management skills) and the Newspaper in Education Project. One beneficiary was Jenny Statham, a languages teacher at Canon Slade School, who in September 1994 was given a one-week placement at the newspaper Le Maine Libre, in Bolton's twin town, Le Mans.
On her return, she got together with six teachers from schools in Bolton, one of whom, Jackie Thompson, was already considering a suggestion from her head of technology to get pupils to produce a newspaper. Over the next six months, in collaboration with the Bolton Evening News, they worked on the materials Jenny Statham had brought back to produce a professionally-designed publication, intended to help pupils produce their own newspaper in French.
The spiral-bound workbook starts with advice on producing a newspaper, followed by worksheets on news reports, weather, TV, games, cookery and problem pages, sport and so on.
Jackie Thompson, head of modern languages at Westhoughton High, emphasises the need for time and professional help in developing a project of this sort and found "it was really enjoyable to produce something together as a group". Although she does not intend to begin a full project until July, when she will involve 11 to 15 year olds, members of her department have already used some of the worksheets separately, notably from the section called "Poesie" ("the pupils loved that one").
The project has strengthened the link between Bolton and Le Mans, and has prompted schools to look at further developments for other languages and curriculum areas.
Maurice - Ile Francophone is in many ways a similar publication, but the agenda is slightly different. It was produced by Mundi (Mobile Unit for Development Issues), an education centre at the University of Nottingham School of Education, which is funded by Oxfam, Unicef and Christian Aid. This project also had a small grant from the European Union, but much of the work that went into it was voluntary.
The aim is to increase pupils' knowledge and awareness of North-South issues, explains Lis Martin, of Mundi: "Modern languages are to do with learning about different cultures, and therefore a natural area for studying this kind of thing."
The workbook is a collection of materials, mainly for years 9 and 10, about the island of Mauritius, which was chosen as "a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation . . . a model for British society . . ." which has historic links to Britain and France. The materials explore these links, look at the everyday life of Mauritians, touch on the history of racism, colonialism and slavery, and give lots of work for pupils, some of which is aimed at those with special needs. Even so, some of the texts and activities are quite demanding for pupils at this level.
The main difficulty for teachers, however, could be that of integrating Jeune Journaliste and Maurice - Ile Francophone into an existing course. Providing that can be done, these attractive packages will offer useful practice in the main language-learning skills, as well as suggesting sources of funding and other practical help in producing similar resource material.
Jeune Journaliste, Pounds 19.95 (including postage and packing), from Ann Maria Costello, Bolton Evening News, Churchgate, Bolton BL1 1DE. Maurice - Ile Francophone is published by MUNDI, School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD. Pounds 20 with unlaminated photocollages, Pounds 25 laminated.