There's that church, Miss!
Finding the right materials to introduce secondary pupils to France and French culture can be a problem. It is easy to find books for younger children, but the text is unsuitable for older students. Some of the most useful resources are now out of date or fail to use the target language.
At first glance the Flip Poster series looks promising, if somewhat ambitious. The pupils' book has full colour illustrations and photographs and lots of activities based on authentic material. The text, entirely in French, is divided into 30 sections covering such topics as French geography, history and culture with sections on politics, sport, the French revolution, education, cafes and restaurants, food, regions of France and festivals.
Teachers organising trips to Paris and looking for pre-trip activities would find the first 10 sections on the capital of special interest. Unfortunately, the pupils' book is not geared to the British market and the level of language required for most of the activities is well beyond GCSE. However, most sections do contain some simpler tasks - such as locating places on a map, gap filling or fitting captions to pictures.
Discussion questions such as: "La Seine semble avoir une ame, elle est presque personnifiee. Expliquez comment" are distinctly off-putting. Nor would I want to embark on an analysis of the geographical features of various mountain ranges or compare the British and French national anthems, although identifying French presidents or labelling the architectural features of Notre Dame might be feasible with some groups.
The photos and authentic material are attractive, though again the extracts from Le Figaro magazine or literary sources such as Maupassant or Camus would be most useful with more advanced students.
The main element is the series of large format full-colour posters (100 x 70cm) which in theory can be used at any level and in any context.
Although I should have preferred a slide set rather than a package resembling a cumbersome calendar that is in danger of collapsing under its own weight, our 14-year-olds were delighted with the photographs ("There's that church with the golden dome, Miss"). The posters also come in A3 format which might be more convenient to use and store. A cassette tape is also available.
The teacher's book (in French) provides essential factual information. Materials like these have their place, but in this format will probably be sampled for ideas rather than purchased in quantity.
Philippa Davidson teaches languages in Edmonton in London