InfoFrance, By Graham Bishop, John Murray Pounds 29.99
InfoFrance is a photocopiable file of reading resource material based on the French daily newspaper InfoMatin. I was sorry to hear that this paper, which provided an excellent source of easily digestible, clearly presented news, ceased publication earlier this year. Nevertheless, InfoFrance remains a valuable selection of topical reading material which should help to bridge the gap between GCSE and A-level.
In his introduction, Graham Bishop suggests that the material is suitable for level 6 upwards, with an age-range of 14-18. I fear that even the most able GCSE students would find many of the extracts difficult and some of the exercises near impossible: Ecrivez une lettre a un(e) ami(e) ou vous expliquez que vous avez decide de devenir vegetarien(ne). That's fine, but is followed by this task: Donnez vos raisons ethiques et ideologues, which many Year 12 A-level students would find daunting.
As a resource for encouraging more advanced manipulation of the language, however, InfoFrance is excellent. The introduction includes useful tips for students on how to approach the articles and develop reading skills; a section which would make a good basis for a lesson early in the A-level course.
All the articles are grouped into topic areas and the difficulty of the accompanying exercises is indicated by one, two or three stars. Those with one or two can be self-corrected - a useful resource in itself.
All rubrics are in French and the exercises include gap-filling, "odd one out" and comprehension. Those more specifically on vocabulary encourage the student to be aware of equivalences and definitions. The more difficult exercises extend ideas from the passage read in both written and oral tasks.
There is quite a long section on using dictionary skills, described as a key feature of the file. Students are told how to identify the "head word" in a passage, which leads on to associated words and expressions. They then move on to synonyms and to the difficulties of choosing the right word for the context.
There are exercises to show how to check spellings, gender, plurals and accents. Graham Bishop also explores common pitfalls in looking up verbs and other parts of speech, as well as common abbreviations. This is certainly a very useful appendix and could profitably be used in class alongside the introduction on reading skills.
With the Pathfinder Making effective use of a dictionary, (reviewed on this page) there is now some very helpful material in this much neglected area of essential skills for advanced students. As a resource for raising awareness of language in Year 12 and encouraging more advanced manipulation of words and expressions, InfoFrance can be highly recommended. I was already planning my next lesson as I read it for review!