Star struck

2nd December 1994 at 00:00
Eleanor Caldwell welcomes the third instalment of an excellent French pack. Etoiles 3,By Gillian Taylor and David Edwards Material for Year 9S3 French. Student's book Pounds 6.25; Memo Pounds 3.25; Extra! (set of 30 reading cards) Pounds 27.50 + VAT; Teacher's and Assessment File Pounds 29.50.

Departmental Resource File (worksheet photocopy masters) Pounds 69.50 + VAT; Cassettes (set of 7) Pounds 49.50 + VAT; Cafe des Reves Bande Dessine book Pounds 3.50 (pack of 6 Pounds 15); Cafe des Reves video (available only from the BBC) Pounds 37.75 each. BBC Education Information, 201 Wood Lane, White City, London W12 . Evaluation Pack Pounds 125 + Pounds 16.95 VAT. Longman Education, Longman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex CM20 2JE. Two years on from its introduction, one of the first of the new generation of vibrant language courses, Etoiles, is coming of age. With the publication of Etoiles 3, an entire cohort of pupils now aiming for GCSE and Standard Grade has become used to the racy style of the course and would undoubtedly be dissatisfied with any less dynamic approach to language learning.

It's fair to say that Etoiles always has been just that little bit different. Language for language's sake has never been on the agenda and the authors have turned teaching through the medium of French into something of an art form.

With Etoiles 3, pupils across a wide ability range should find something of interest. The range of subject matter is staggering and the quantity and quality of subject research alone can only be admired. Taking the "Areas of Experience: The World Around Us", "The International World" and "The World of Imagination and Creativity" extremely seriously, Etoiles 3 delves into accessible and interesting studies of world religions, natural disasters and the ever-present need for everyday ecoawareness with fullyillustrated reports and interviews in a student's book, backed-up on cassette for independent work.

It is easy for material of this type to be heavy-going and linguistically difficult. However, the lively presentation and realistic exercises make these sections both interesting and informative.

An exploration of the "World of Imagination and Creativity" is also well provided for by a continuation of the Radio Active listening material. There is, in Etoiles 3, an even broader range of features on each of the Radio Active programmes, from interviews and reports to the teen magazine-style story "Le Monde de Sandrine" (practising specific grammar points). One huge advantage of the recorded material is that copyright allows for cassettes to be copied by schools for their own use an ideal opportunity for aural homework and independent study.

But what of differentiation? Etoiles 3 provides not only an astonishing breadth of material for across the ability range, but also a superbly cross-referenced teachers' file. In this respect, the two new components of the course, Memo and Extra! (departmental funding permitting), are invaluable. Memo revises basic language taught in Etoiles 1 and 2, taking a more low-key approach, while Extra! offers a complete range of self-accessing reading cards, covering a wide range of topics. End-of-unit goals with group and class-based topics replace the simulations of Etoiles 1 and grammar is faced head-on in end-of-unit sections.

Assessment in Etoiles 3 is integrated into the course as a whole with opportunities in each unit for assessment in all skill areas. It's at this point that a serious note of caution must be sounded to the authors: assessment guidelines give full details of national curriculum attainment targets, making absolutely no mention of the 5-14Standard Grade system in Scotland. When I spoke to one teacher recently about her reaction to the Etoiles course as a whole, she described it enthusiastically as "just brilliant". The only reservation? Assessment. The lady teaches in Scotland. It would be great to see an excellent course made even better with fully national guidelines.

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