Secondary;Reviews;Modern languages;Books

8th October 1999 at 01:00
PLAIN SAILING IN FRENCH. French Grammar in Context. By Caroline Terre. Folens pound;17.95 each , or pound;149 for a set of nine.

This set of nine photocopiable booklets seems to capture the mood of the moment. In many ways it provides nothing that language teachers have not been making for themselves for years - worksheets containing grammar drills and exercises to practise particular points.

The difference is that we felt guilty about it in the past and made sure the inspector never saw us using such unashamedly forthright methods. Now, with the emphasis moving away from "fun" and in the direction of "challenge", teachers are growing in confidence and admitting openly that a grammatical grounding may actually be a good thing. Books like these reinforce that view.

The exercises are graded at three levels of difficulty and contain a wide variety of tasks. The emphasis is on a "puzzles and brain teasers" approach, which will appeal to the type of pupil who enjoys word games and buys puzzle books for long journeys. Answers can be photocopied so pupils can work through tasks on their own.

Each set of three starts with an information page outlining the material to be drilled on the following sheets. Sometimes this page simply provides word lists in English and French, sometimes it explains a grammatical point. Explanations are clear and uncluttered and English is used unashamedly to elucidate points concisely. Teachers may find copying and giving out these pages for revision useful, even if pupils do not use the subsequent exercises.

There's nothing terribly exciting about these materials. All the expected topic areas are here: "Moi', "Les Loisirs", "En Voyage", and so on.

Pupils who demand an all-singing, all dancing, multimedia, multi-sensory, approach to their learning will be disappointed. Those who need to build their confidence, and have the motivation to practise, to persevere "until the task is thoroughly mastered" will find much they can use.

Richard Marsden is a writer and languages consultant

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