Standards raiser

20th June 1997 at 01:00
LERNPUNKT DEUTSCH 1 AND 2. By Peter Morris and Alan Wesson. Nelson. Student's Book (1 and 2) Pounds 8.99 each.

Teacher's Book (1 and 2) Pounds 20.99 each. Copymasters (1) Pounds 42 + VAT, (2) Pounds 42.50 + VAT Set of 4 cassettes including self-study cassette (1and 2) Pounds 52.50 + VAT each. Flashcards (1) Pounds 45

Nigel Norman says a three-part course should be the flagship for German teaching

Lernpunkt Deutsch is a three-stage course for learners of German as a second foreign language. It reflects changes in teaching and learning styles accompanying the revised national curriculum orders and the new GCSE in 1988. As a result, it is taught entirely in the target language, there is increased emphasis on grammar, creativity, autonomy, reading for enjoyment, fully-integrated revision and differentiation of learning activities and assessment.

Stage 1 has 12 chapters, each sub-divided into three or four topics or grammar points that conveniently cover a double-page spread of the Student's Book. Aims for each chapter are clearly stated and learners are progress carefully from the receptive listening and reading activities, linked to photographs or simple and attractive coloured drawings, to productive speaking and writing, or multi-skill activities.

Each point of structure is marked by a Lerntip, also summarised at the end of the chapter (Zusammenfassung) together with a checklist of what has been covered (Jetzt kannst du . . .). A page of independent learning activities (Du hast die Wahl) allows for individual differentiation through open-ended creative writing and listening exercises linked to a self-study cassette. This also includes pronunciation practice and listening for pleasure (Klassenkampf - a soap opera).

Reading for pleasure in seven Lesepausen throughout the book provides cultural background, murder mystery, boy-meets-girl strip comic and a highly informative lesson on cloud types, which brings a welcome touch of sophistication to the hackneyed weather topic.

The most interesting features of this course are the inductive approaches to grammar and vocabulary acquisition. The learner is not spoon-fed, but challenged to think about and discover the language, moving from receptive practice with no explanation (the Lerntip), to interactive problem-solving using carefully-designed copymaster worksheets. These build up a personalised record of grammar, that can be cross-checked against the full reference summary (Grammatik) at the end of the book.

Necessary terminology is introduced gradually and the use of English confined to explanations and grammar practice. This enhanced grammatical understanding will increase children's confidence in man-ipulating the language, as well as helping them to develop valuable habits of cognitive independence.

A similarly innovative approach to vocabulary work uses copymaster exercises (Grundwortschatz) that involve answering questions and solving puzzles, rather than learning pre-determined lists. Again, once completed, the copymaster can be cut out and filed to form an invaluable cumulative dossier of vocabulary learned. Differentiation for the more able exists in a further worksheet (Erweiterter Wortschatz). Indeed the large amount of differentiated material on copymasters allows considerable flexibility.

The increasing maturity of content in stage 2 represents a long-overdue break with some of the excesses of the transactional GCSE syllabus, while aiming for a blend of fun and typical teenage topics (money and part-time jobs, future plans, clothes, parties) with the serious and topical (reading newspapers, talking about foreigners, cliches about Germany.) The accompanying flash cards and cassettes are clear and colourful. The decision to opt for uncluttered, studio-quality listening material as against "raw" authenticity must be due to practical considerations of time and ease of comprehension during a shorter course.

There are a few minor errors, but Lernpunkt Deutsch excels by virtue of its innovative pedagogy - by developing autonomy, creativity, and target language it not only fulfils national curriculum criteria, but refreshingly re-establishes the status of grammar in a firm but unthreatening way. The course should become the flagship for German teaching over the next decade.

Nigel Norman is lecturer in education at the University of Wales, Swansea

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