SOS Deutsch, By Richard Wall, Pupil's book Pounds 7.99, Teacher's book Pounds 8.99, Cassettes (3) Pounds 45 plus VAT, Mary Glasgow Publications, Age range 14-16
The publication of SOS Deutsch coincides with the issue of the new GCSE syllabuses and teachers are therefore in the happy but rare position of being able to evaluate a course book with all the relevant information in front of them. Too many of us over the past few years have bought expensive courses in haste and subsequently regretted the investment.
The pupil's book is divided into 24 completely self-contained units. Between them, the units cover, albeit superficially, the national curriculum areas of experience but in a way that leaves the teacher the flexibility to work through the book in a linear progression, or to group chapters together as they see fit, for instance, to tie in with a particular examination syllabus.
Each unit gives four pages of work for the pupil, with activities clearly signalled in simple German and in symbols. There is a summary box of vocabulary at the end of each unit so that pupils have a point of reference. A list of instructions used throughout is given at the back of the book.
Richard Wall does his best to ensure that the learner can be as independent of the teacher as possible. The exercises in the book are simply presented and the tape work clear with no background noise. This makes the materials accessible to even the weakest pupils.
Most chapters have extension materials as an extra section. These are designed to extend pupils, but they do so largely through providing extra content rather than complexity of language.
The teacher's book is a slim volume, which succinctly sets out the aims of the course, provides a complete transcript of the tape work and invaluable answers to all the exercises which can easily be photocopied for pupils to use. These answers appear to be mercifully free of mistakes.
SOS Deutsch is a complementary text to Hilfe. It primarily serves the needs of the slow learner in key stage 4, but does not contain sufficient content or depth to claim to be a complete course of study. Its potential, as it claims, as revision materials for an able student or its suitability for an adult learner is somewhat limited, as the material is extremely basic.
None the less, it skilfully introduces some complex topics such as future jobs, advertising, celebrations, in a simple way, allowing teachers to supplement the course with their own, usually more complex materials.
In all respects SOS Deutsch lives up to its name: a godsend for teachers facing groups of slow learners and a relief for pupils who need to regain confidence in their ability to learn a language.