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ALF by Steve Glover (2)

In my last post I reviewed a unit from the A*ttitudes online AS French course by Steve Glover. Today I'm going to review one of his A2 film packs designed to support the work of teachers and students studying A-level cultural topics.

I've chosen to look at La nuit américaine, one of my favourite Truffaut films and one which I taught a couple of years ago alongside three other Truffaut pictures.

The first resource is a lengthy plot summary of the film with verbs in brackets to put in the present tense. The grammar task is easy for A2 level, but probably worthwhile in as much as it gets students to read the summary very carefully. These summaries are very useful for a medium where it is difficult, unlike with a novel, to situate events easily.

There is then a clever exercise aimed at building skill with adjectives when drawing up character descriptions. This suits a film with very distinct and interesting characters very well. I liked the matching task where students have to match an adjective with a character and grade on a 1-4 scale how powerfully the character matches the chosen trait. From this students can build sentences and short paragraphs, develop their analysis further and do translation practice.

The prose translation sentences Steve provides are appropriate to A2 level and include the subjunctive. They would support the sentence translation section of the AQA paper, for example.

Steve then provides his "tensinator" (nice!). Students have to translate from French paragraphs displaying the full range of A2 tenses. They are then asked to make up their own paragraphs to show tense skill. The level of challenge is quite appropriate. There then follows some good comprehension material (matching) and an effective, quite "old school" task to transform direct statements into indirect speech.

The pack also includes clear, ungimmicky powerpoints on the subjunctive and passive. The latter includes plenty of examples covering various A-level themes. Students could do instant translation work on these. Steve is right to practise the passive; it's a grammatical area which students find suprisingly difficult, even though it resembles English in its formation.

As with his AS resources, Steve then includes useful material on essay planning along with a model essay of 417 words. AQA ask for a minumum of 250 words, but this is inadequate to access higher content marks, so 400 words is a bare minimum.

So how does it all stack up as a resource costing £15? No problem with value for money. The exercises are skilfully put together and at the right level. They cover some key grammar, plot and character. To my mind it is not enough for a total package (and I am not sure it is claimed to be so), since it doesn't get into aspects such as the new wave, Truffaut's own influences and love of the cinema, so it would need more input from the teacher. Truffaut's films are, as much as anything, about himself, so that needs to be looked at as part of the cultural topic. It might also have been good to see one or two scenes analysed in detail, maybe with some scripted dialogue.

I took a brief look at the resources on Les 400 coups which look similar. The two Truffaut packs are priced together at £25. It looks like a good investment to me and if these materials are representative of Steve's other cultural topic packs I think teachers should look carefully at them as superb time-savers.


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"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)

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’( The point i…

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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!

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