Success breeds success

30th January 1998 at 00:00
ENGLISH PLUS. Malcolm J White and Malcolm Seccombe. Collins. Student book Pounds 7.99. Teacher's file Pounds 39.99.

English Plus is a one-book course designed for low- ability students working for the Certificate of Achievement, while also furnishing links with GCSE and covering national curriculum requirements at key stage 4. Both its authors are practising teachers, involved in moderating and developing the Northen Examinations and Assessment Board Certificate of Achievement.

The student book is underpinned by the principle of "success breeding success", via short-term manageable goals. To that end, students will find its eight units organised on reassuringly similar lines. Each uses colour-coded boxes - "task", "how", "tips for success", "research" - arising from the stimulus material, with built-in differentiation. Their information and advice is in clear, non-patronising language, complemented by imaginative page design.

Indeed, the presentation is motivational - it "merchandises the product". Each unit's starter-page frames its objectives within a montage of eye-catching images (book covers in Story Telling) to foster early discussion. Thereafter, copious colour photos and illustrations maintain the visual zap.

Form, however, must also marry content. This kind of book lives through the interest generated by its texts, with relevance to the fore. Thus, in one instance, the Media unit considers how the Sun and the Mirror tackle the same love story, through reproductions of the original reports in 1997. Elsewhere, this unit compares the drugs LSD and speed, in a poster and article respectively.

If relevance is all, its downside can be curricular overkill. The topic of advertising is in obvious danger. Similarly, the section on work placement, though careers staff should welcome its excellence. In any case, curricular overlap and cohesion are matters for individual schools, not textbook writers.

Although the student book is self-standing, the teacher's file offers supplementary ideas and resources: teaching methods, achievement review sheets and student certificates among them. Photocopiable opportunities abound. Likewise positive reinforcement and commendation, which is also my feeling about this course.

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