Something for everyone

9th October 1998 at 01:00
ESPANOL A LA VISTA By Isabel Alonso de Sudea
Oxford University Press
Student's book #163;10,
Teacher's Book #163;20, Cassette Pack #163;58.75.

By Ken Hall and Steve Haworth
Student's Book #163;10.99.
Teacher's Resource Pack #163;79.99.
Cassette Pack 1 #163;59.99.

ENCUENTRO. By Anneli McLachlan and Rosi McNab
Student Book #163;8.99
Teacher's Resource and Assessment Pack #163;42.50
3 Cassettes pack #163;49.99.

Until a few years ago, AVaya! was the only available choice of Spanish textbook for mainstream GCSE candidates. Now you can take your pick from a range of two-part to four-part coursebooks, plus a selection for weaker pupils and short course students. No one will object, however, to the still wider choice provided by these three new publications.

Espanol a la vista is intended to prepare students in Years 10 and 11 for all GCSE or equivalent syllabuses, but is particularly suitable for the Southern Examining Group modular syllabus, as it follows the same contextual framework and topic areas. What is not clear is whether absolute beginners could use this book - judging by the early exercises and grammar items it may not be appropriate.

The Student's Book is divided into four colour-coded modules (etapas) of eight units (pasos). These are well organised and clearly presented, with full colour on every page. Preguntas claves boxes indicate the key oral questions for a given topic, while Extra pages provide tips on vocabulary learning, study skills and dictionary use; all these appear within each module. The incorporation of dictionary skills into the main body of the coursebook is a huge advantage.

At the end of the book there is a thorough grammar section with an index and a lengthy Spanish-English vocabulary list, among other valuable items. The Hojas extras (photocopiable) provide extension and assessment materials in all four skills, and worksheets aimed at boosting vocabulary and practising grammar and role-plays.

The Gu!a del profesor is a thorough and comprehensive guide to exploiting all the material in each unit, with a wealth of suggestions to encourage a varied teaching approach. It also gives carefully-written guidance for speaking and writing assessment.

This is an excellent course, albeit for experienced teachers with able students. It assumes a high degree of commitment and effort on the part of the pupils as there is no help given in English through the units, and they would need to make careful notes on all new vocabulary and grammar. Similarly, the sample cassette while using native speakers of an appropriate age, who speak clearly, showed a pace which demanded intelligent concentration.

With Pronto, no prior knowledge of Spanish is assumed. It is a two-book course leading to GCSE and Standard Grade over two to three years. Book 1, available now, teaches the requirements of the short course syllabus, and, together with Book 2, it will prepare students for the full course.

The Student's Book follows the now old-fashioned practice of separating grammar study from normal lessons with a 23-page section at the end. Each grammatical item is clearly tagged with the page reference and activity number to which it refers. Thus the progression of grammar is based on the sequence of elements used in the body of the book rather than by working logically through parts of speech.

As regards presentation, the sheer quantity of material on some pages is a little overwhelming and can give a cluttered appearance. However, there is a pleasing range of excellent photographs and some of the illustrations are outstanding. The overall impression is of variety and colour.

Cassette Pack 1 provides plenty of clear, well-paced material. The Teacher's Pack is now available.

Encuentro is a course in one book aimed at lower attainers. Core activities are pitched below GCSE and extension worksheets at grades F and G. It is in line with national curriculum requirements and supports a wide range of full or short courses including Certificates of Achievement.

The 63 units can be used in any order and are presented within the four broad topic areas adopted by the SEG modular syllabus: En casa, Vamos a Espana, Las vacaciones, Nuestro mundo. Key vocabulary is listed by unit at the end of the book. The layout is clear and the use of colour helps rather than overwhelms the student. However, some of the set tasks are above grade F standard (for instance, Unit 34, El ao pasado), while at times the speed of delivery on the tapes is excessive.

The Teacher's Resource and Assessment Pack is thorough. In addition to the tape transcripts and teaching notes there are numerous worksheets and PictureWordsheets (for use with overhead projectors), excellent for presenting and practising new vocabulary in a fun way.

What all three courses have in common is a full commitment to Spanish, shown in their top grade colour printing, high quality sound recordings, and a wide range of photocopiable extension material.

Where they differ is in the intended target group of students; if you teach high-flyers, foundation tier students or find yourself with only two years to prepare from scratch to GCSE, then one of these may well be for you.

Peter Bull is head of Spanish at William Hulme's grammar school, Manchester

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