Mais oui? Yes, we may

13th July 2007 at 01:00
Struggling with your pas de deux and paella? Wendy Adeniji discovers practical ways to teach French and Spanish

Sonica Spanish

Sonica site licence plus dance mat: pound;299 (online pound;284.05)

The Catherine Cheater Scheme of Work for French: Year 5

Year 5 scheme of work pound;200; set of 10 storybooks and music CDs sold separately

Maths a la Carte

BEAM (Be a Mathematician)

pound;24.50 per book plus CD for Years 1-2, Years 3-4 and Years 5-6; set of three pound;64.50

Materials to help non-specialists teach languages in primary schools are now catering for a range of learning styles.

Sonica, commissioned by the DfES (now the Department for Children, Schools and Families) to cater for primary schools teaching Spanish, uses activities ranging from hangman games to karaoke and dance and comes with a dance mat.

There are 240 15-minute activities, split into 12 units, based on the old QCA scheme of work for primary languages. These start with the introduction of vocabulary, followed by practice and review using a variety of games.

There is a range of presentation and practice methods, and the graphics are colourful and appealing. In the vocabulary presentation for parts of the body and face, a large person or face appears on screen. When different parts are pressed they move or "wiggle" and the word is seen and heard in Spanish visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles all addressed at once.

The assessment activities that occur throughout the programme are in the form of an adventure game based in a castle, in which pupils complete five exercises that do not seem at all like tests.

The course is linked to a recognition scheme, the Languages Ladder, with pupils' activity scores represented as Languages Ladder grades.

Support for the non-specialist teacher includes suggestions for preparing lessons, ICT "know-hows" (such as how to use the interactive whiteboard), case studies and teacher tips, as well as email access to a Spanish specialist. The support notes for each activity can be printed. An audio-visual dictionary helps to develop confidence in using the language.

This package is easy to use, supportive, has appealing graphics and is pedagogically sound. A non Spanish-speaking teacher should be able to use it confidently and see their language skills, as well as their pupils', improve dramatically. Used correctly, this package should fulfil its aim to help children develop a love of languages as early as possible.

The Year 5 Catherine Cheater Scheme of Work for French, part three of a four part series, is

just out. For teachers familiar with the Year 3 and Year 4 schemes, this represents a significant step up in terms of the skills pupils are expected to master. There are 30 complete lessons to cover the school year, as well as suggested daily five-minute "parcels" to build on the learning in the main lesson. The scheme is clear to read and contains a wide range of activities.

In each lesson, children do a short starter activity, listen to and read from a text about the Universe, learn some new vocabulary such as numbers, practise their reading skills and develop grammatical awareness, listen to a song, perform a dance routine and listen to a story. There is nice cross-curricular work, developing the theme of the planets from the Year 5 science curriculum. However, pupils might get tired of the l'Univers PowerPoint, which is used in all 30 lessons.

A major feature is the use of a French reading scheme (which schools have to buy separately at www.eurobooks. to develop children's reading skills: choose from Le Manuel Phonique (pound;19.95) or Pas a Pas (pound;69.50), similar to the Jolly Phonics reading scheme.

Children hear and pronounce each phoneme as a PowerPoint presentation takes them through the scheme. The ambitious plan is that children will cover half the reading scheme in Year 5 and half in Year 6; this may suit the more able children, although the less able will struggle.

Dance activities are suggested to go with the France Gall CD of songs (sold separately). The delivery of the songs is slow enough for children to be able to read and listen to the lyrics. A series of simple aerobic movements are suggested, or use the dance aerobics exercise package included in the scheme, which has been choreographed by Lynne Wright, a dance teacher.

To enhance the cultural aspect, children are encouraged to sample French produce including crudites, which links with the healthy schools initiative. This scheme has some innovative ideas and the cross-curricular links are one of its strengths, although teachers may struggle to fit everything into the allotted lesson time.

More cross-curricular links are in the witty and fun Maths a la Carte series. Each of the three books (Years 1-2, Years 3-4 and Years 5-6), contains 99 maths questions about France and the French. The questions are mainly in English and graded easy, medium and hard.

The few questions in French might benefit from a French-English glossary of commonly used terms. Each book comes with a CD of the problems to use on a whiteboard

Wendy Adeniji is a primary modern languages teacher and trainer

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