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Changing topics for A-level French

It's instructive to compare the topics covered in some popular Lower Sixth A-level text books over the years. So we are talking about what we now call the AS level year.

1976 Actualités Françaises (Hodder and Stoughton) - the first "modern" course

Education, young people in society, leisure and sport, transport, housing, industry and automation, women at work and in society.

1979 Au Courant (Longman)

"Foreigners", at home, transport, consumer society, relationships, road accidents, advertising, work, urban life, holidays

1986 Signes du temps: Vécu (Hodder and Stoughton)

Forests, superstitions, solitude, Mesrine, "la pluie et le beau temps", news, family life, relationships, work and careers, free time, holidays

2009 French for AQA

Media (TV, advertising, communication technology),popular culture (cinema, music, fashion/trends), healthy living/lifestyle (sport, health/well-being, holidays) and family/relationships (relationships in the family, friendships and marriage/partnerships)

You might conclude that the topics have become more student-friendly, a little more warm and fuzzy. You may also conclude that the heavier subjects are now reserved for A2 level and that the latest topics may be more appealing to a wider range of potential students.

Transport has lost its appeal, whilst relationships and holidays seem to be valeurs sûres.

The Vécu course, which I once helped pilot with some colleagues back in Kingston-upon-Thames, was the quirkiest in some ways with its forest fires, Mesrine and superstitions, but it was a creative course with plenty of good teaching ideas. In my view the latest course from Nelson-Thornes, now tied with the AQA board, has decent topics, but very little creativity. In fact, it looks rather thrown together and rushed to me, as does, to some extent, the Kerboodle online resource which accompanies it. I have to force myself to use it occasionally. (At least they could have got rid of the errors.)

I rather liked Martine Pillette's Objectif Bac (Collins Educational, 1999) because it offered some creative ideas and tried hard to "bridge the gap" between GCSE and A-level.

So, I would suggest that the current crop of text books are not terribly exciting, but that the latest topics are not a bad bunch.


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