EQUIPE 1. By Danile Bourdais, Sue Finnie and Anna Lise Gordon. Oxford University Press. Student's Book Pounds 7. Teacher's Book Pounds 22.50.
Equipe 1 is the first stage of a new three-part French course for key stage 3 designed for all but the least able pupils.
It aims to achieve more coherent progression than existing courses, incorporating grammar, pronunciation and skills development. The course consists of a student's book, teacher's book, four audiocassettes and more than 100 photocopiable sheets. Flashcards are also available. As a welcome addition, schools can also purchase a disk of 20 text files for use with Fun with Texts software. Some teachers will be sorry that there is no pupil's cassette for doing listening exercises at home.
quipe has some features that will attract departments looking for their next French course. The student's book is colourful without being too cluttered.
Its tone is friendly and lively, treating learners as adolescents rather than children, with units based on four young teenagers who live in Dieppe.It deals well with cultural awareness, making French life seem accessible but conveying differences clearly.
From the start, pupils are encouraged to enjoy trying to sound French when they speak. Another useful feature is the regular inclusion of an extra task for those who finish early.
The content is very familiar, the nine units covering the almost obligatory sequence of family, pets, school subjects and so on. There is a cartoon character, Charlie le chat, and some specially composed songs. French is used throughout, except in the grammar reference section. Each unit ends with a "chunky" project such as making a radio programme, and there are regular revision sections.
The course will provide sufficient challenge for able pupils; for example,by unit 7 pupils are expected to discuss healthy and unhealthy lifestyles.
The repromasters contain useful extension material covering all four skills, grammar and learning strategies, as well as assessment tests, clearly designed visuals and vocabulary lists. The teacher's book gives sensible suggestions for activities, and detailed advice on using IT. The tapes use real young French voices, and are clear without sounding too artificial.
While there is more emphasis on grammar than in some recent courses, the authors have shied away from giving it a really central role; objectives are still defined in terms of content, such as "say what your favourite hobby is".
The grammar explanations within the units are best when carefully sequenced over a whole page; some of the shorter ones are rather confusing.The extra exercises at the back are helpful, but the idea of providing the answers will irritate teachers who would like to set them for homework.
Overall, this course has an "in between" feel, perhaps leading towards a new generation of books which bring a grasp of structure right into the heart of the learning process.
Kathy Wicksteed is director of the International Centre, Campion School, Northamptonshire