Words made fresh

6th December 1996 at 00:00
CHARIS FRANCAIS CHARIS DEUTSCH Book and cassette Pounds 24.70 each

Charis Francais and Charis Deutsch are five-unit packs with back-up cassettes and lots of teacher guidance. Introductory notes set out the moral and spiritual aims of each unit and possible links with GCSE in terms of areas of experience, topics, linguistic structures and possible coursework tasks. All of the materials are photocopiable and are intended as overhead projector masters for class discussion or as individualgroup worksheets. There is also a full set of exercise solutions and helpful vocabulary cards to provide support for pupils.

The French units cover such topics as the symbolism of bread, the Arche community for the mentally handicapped and Martin of Tours. The German pack deals with youth resistance against Hitler, the various meanings of a kiss and considers the life of a Ukrainian emigre.

Each book concludes with an exploration of the nature of belief and truth - and includes materials to develop an appreciation of the beauty of nature. These topics deal with specific historical facts as well as abstract concepts, and pupils are invited to work on them from a variety of perspectives.

Complementary materials are always difficult to integrate with main course books. The authors have this in mind, making some useful suggestions about possible links. The materials are differentiated into three levels - foundation, intermediate and higher - which allow for maximum flexibility.

Modern language teachers are often acutely aware of how little they talk about mature subjects with their pupils, compared to colleagues in other curriculum areas. These materials will allow them to do just that; although, in many cases, extended discussion will have to be in English and taken up outside the languages classroom. There is an explicit religious element in most of the units but the emphasis given to this is variable. Teachers will need to decide how far to go with sensitive issues.

Much of GCSE can be considered to be very materialistic and consumer-based: meals, shopping, travel, holidays, and so on.

These units make a welcome change and provide serious topics on which pupils and teachers can work together. Genuine meaning in learning is the holy grail of contemporary modern language teaching - both these books go a long way towards providing it.

Michael Grenfell is a lecturer at the Centre for Languages in Education, Southampton University

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