Skip to main content

Review of AQA French for A-level from OUP


I recently wrote a pretty glowing review of Hodder's offering for the AQA French A-level and now OUP have been kind enough to send me a copy of their new book, also approved by AQA, and written by Rob Pike, Colin Povey and Paul Shannon. Rather than produce an all-in-one book for the full A-level, Oxford have decided to publish two books, this first one being for either AS-level or the first year of a full A-level course. Either approach seems sound, but you might want to consider the financial implications of buying one big book compared with two slimmer volumes. The 2-year Hodder book is nearly £30 before discount, the two OUP books come to £44 before discount. That is a significant difference if you have quite a few students. This may be a good point to make when haggling with the rep!

AQA French (what happened to those snazzy old titles like Au Point, Tout Droit, Vécu and Objectif Bac?) looks like another very worthy contender for your capitation budget. The content is similar to the Hodder book and ticks all your new specification boxes: lots of texts awash with cultural information, translation both ways, appropriate listening and reading comprehension tasks, research tasks, summary tasks, oral activities and a grammatical progression (of sorts) and dedicated chapters about literature and film. Each unit (which the authors say can be done in any order) comes with a vocab list at the end, as well as lists of key expressions. I imagine most teachers will start from the beginning with the family sub-theme.

There really is a lot of reading material in this book, although it would be nice to see a bit more detailed exploitation of some of the texts. The format seems to be: text, comprehension exercise, "translate the first two paragraphs", then move on to listening, summary and translation into French. I'd like to see more thorough grammatical practice and lexical work, but space probably does not allow for it. Teachers will need to add this extra level of exploitation. I do like the inclusion of a résumé section at the end of each unit.

The texts are interesting and informative, but can present a bit of a challenge when it comes to using them for communicative work. (This is inherent in the subject content provided by the DfE - the new emphasis on cultural knowledge imposes certain limits on the amount of personalised discussion you might want students to engage in.) If I were still teaching I would build this into lessons anyway, whilst ensuring students have enough knowledge to use when it comes to exam time.

I have not heard the listening tracks so cannot vouch for their quality - there seems to be plenty of material, though, with familiar exercise types. The experience of the writers comes across in the well-chosen oral tasks and well-pitched translation sentences. I would say that the oral tasks are a bit on the general and demanding side.

Just a word about that grammatical progression. If you take the chapters in order, you get: imperfect, perfect, past historic, infinitive constructions, object pronouns, present tense, conditional, future, adjectives, the subjunctive, then re-visits of some of these. Some teachers might feel this is more haphazard than the approach taken with the Hodder book. Others teachers may not be overly concerned with that kind of traditional progression from easier to more complex.

The inclusion of a separate short chapter on essay writing is welcome, although I am not sure whether students need to be too worried about the traditional structure of intro/key points/conclusion since the new mark schemes give no marks for structure or cohesion.

The example material in the sections on film and literature come from what will no doubt be two popular choices from the prescribed lists: La Haine and L'Etranger.

Overall, then, you have another more than acceptable resource here for you and your students. The authors have done a super job. The bar has been raised a good deal with these latest books. The AQA A-level French from Hodder may have the edge (because of its grammatical progression, better value and slightly greater "wow" factor), but some teachers may prefer to get two separate books, especially if they have a significant number of students doing only a one-year course.

I would get copies of both courses and weigh up their relative merits very carefully with your department. In the recent past I would not have bought a textbook at all for A-level, but these new ones will perform a very good role indeed. They are both very usable, which is slightly bad news for frenchteacher.net. More work for me then!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

Three AQA A-level courses compared

I've put together my three reviews of worthy A-level courses which you might be considering for next September. They are all very useful courses, but with significant differences. The traditional Hodder and OUP book-based courses differ in that the former comes in one chunky two year book, whilst OUP's comes in two parts, the first for AS or the first year of an A-level course. The Attitudes16 course by Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri is based on an online platform from which you would download worksheets and share a logon with studenst who would do the interactive parts (Textivate and video work). The two text books are supported by interactive material (Kerboodle) or an e-text book.

Attitudes16





An excellent resource which should be competing for your attention at the moment is the Attitudes16 course which writers Steve Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri have been working on for some time. You can find it here at dolanguages.com, along with his excellent resources for film and li…

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’(http://pdcinmfl.com). The point i…