Skip to main content

A review of Allez Book 1

O.U.P. sent me an evaluation pack of their course Allez (Book 1) to review. I should point out that they do not pay me to do this, but it is of professional interest to me to look at courses and from Oxford's point of view they may feel that any publicity is good!

Allez is written by Corinne Dzuilka-Heywood, Yvonne Kennedy and Katie Smith with help from Geneviève Talon. It is designed to be suitable for teaching the new KS3 curriculum, with its greater emphasis on grammar, literary texts and translation. I'm having a look at the pupil book, Teacher Handbook sample, Kerboodle sample and Grammar and Skills Workbook by Michael Spencer and Liz Black.

There are many aspects you need to consider when weighing up a new course. I listed my own criteria for assessing courses here. Ideally you would like to be able to see all the books over a key stage to see how content, progress and revision are catered for, but the rushed nature of curriculum reform means that we get to see one book at a time in general.

Teachers may be looking at a range of contenders this summer, including this course, Tricolore (for higher ability) and the popular Studio from Pearson.

So what does Allez have to offer?

Although aimed at the full ability range Book 1 seems to offer a high degree of challenge in terms of grammar and vocabulary presented. The material is less finely graded than in Tricolore, for example, and builds up in complexity quite quickly. Each of the nine units has a topic title, subtitled with the key vocabulary, grammar and skills covered.

Unit 1 gets straight into nationality, gender with definite articles (indefinite articles are often encountered first in books), prepositions with countries, je m'appelle and je suis, numbers up to 30, expressing age with avoir, colours and adjective agreement, physical features and objects (including materials and shape). This shows the authors are not overly concerned with fine-tuning the selection and grading of language. I am slightly uncomfortable with this approach, but it may suit some teachers who worry less about such matters. It may also reflect the greater degree of challenge we are supposed to be seeing as well as an assumption about what children may have done at primary school. Whether students cope with it is another matter.

Unit 4, Boire et manger, adopts a conventional approach with pictures, short texts, gap-filling with du/de la/des, matching with translation, listening with tick boxes and true/false, short paragraph writing, menus to read, a dialogue to do, some pair/group work, quite a lot of questions in English (which involves translation), unjumbling of sentences etc. There is undoubtedly a lot of material, most of it usable or adaptable for other activities. Difficulty level seems not far short of Tricolore, but there is significantly more English content. Immediate future tense is introduced at this stage - I would have left it until later, maintaining the focus on embedding present tense.

So, in general, exercise types are mainstream. Matching, gap fill, simple listening tasks, use of pictures to stimulate oral work, box-filling, a little translation, true-false with statements in English, sentence writing, situational dialogues to read and perform. Teachers would have to provide their own repetitive drill-style oral exercises, dictation, translation, if this is their preferred approach.There are grammar boxes with simple explanations and "strategies" boxes which help students how to improve their skills. This is a notably prominent and strong aspect of the book - helping pupils how to learn effectively. In addition, there are "plenary" boxes to encourage students to assess how well they have picked up points.

One pleasing inclusion is video listening. Each unit has video material with exercises to do in the pupil book. These videos feature in the Kerboodle package too. More about this below.

Units also have "labo-langue" pages in green which essentially focus on grammar and writing. These include large "strategies" boxes to help students develop techniques of memorisation and writing. Reading tasks include some of a literary nature, as one would expect with the new curriculum. This really feels like lip-service to me, as I said in the review of the Tricolore book. To me, the poem on page 18, Pour dessiner un bonhomme, for example, is not of great use for practising language and as a teacher I would have ignored it. Each unit comes with a short test of the four skills and a summary vocabulary list which many teachers would find useful for rote learning.

I should also mention that the back of the book comes with a customary and useful alphabetical French-English glossary, verb tables and set of grammar explanations. There are no extra extension tasks as in Tricolore, but the Grammar and Skills workbook provides this. This 63 page student booklet offers a good range of grammar activities, clearly laid out, with brief explanations and exercises with a decent number of examples. There is, notably, a greater stress on translation into English. I find this regrettable, but understandable given recent curriculum changes. This is a classic case of the "backwash effect", exams leading pedagogy, and not in a good way.

A word about the online Kerboodle package which goes with the course: as with Tricolore from the same stable, there are two purchase options - the more popular one, I would think, will be the interactive assessment and other resources. The second would add on an online course book for every student. This may be worthwhile for schools who do not give out textbooks to keep and take home. Kerboodle is tablet-friendly, customisable, editable and teachers can add their own resources. The online samples are limited, but I did look at some video featuring children talking about a a time capsule (to practise objects, materials etc). This is the same video used at the end of Unit 1 in the pupil book. The language is authentic enough, clear, on the fast and hard side for Y7 and a little "acted out", but the children play their roles well.  Teachers may find it useful to extract short snippets for intensive practice and modelling. It must be noted that the annual licence adds a lot of cost for cash-strapped departments. Resourcing an MFL department gets more and more expensive.

Could you use this course? Definitely. Some teachers may be wary of the level of difficulty for their classes and look elsewhere, some may feel there is too much clutter on the pages, some may feel there are not enough examples of grammar practice to embed knowledge. Compared with Studio the presentation and content looks staid, but the pedagogical approach looks generally sound. There are plenty of input and output tasks, but I would repeat that caveat about the selection and grading of language. Unit 2, for examples, gets pupils to recognise past tenses. Is that necessary? Could it confuse? Does it all move along a bit fast? Can we challenge more? Or do we risk overloading too many students?


  1. Seems very interesting :)
    Worth a look!

  2. Just adding a review of Allez from Bernardette Holmes here also

  3. I am looking forward to having a good look at this book. The supporting online packages sound great. Could be an effective way to get students to take more ownership of their learning!

  4. OUP have since sent me a copy of the second student book. My first impression was that content was on the dull side, but this was only an initial impression. It's always worth comparing all available courses. Studio may be a more attractive overall option.

  5. We use this book and it has to be the worse textbook I have used. The students find the layout confusing. It does not present any language. There is no progression. The units are badly put together, language brought up halfhazardly, it looks as if there was no planning behind it. We hate the French, German and Spanish. The videos looked good but are unusable as they stand as they are too complex and therefore the Teachers would have to spend time designing questions for them
    These textbooks create a lot of work for teachers to make them usable.if you are a non-specialist even worse. I personally only use the listenings but then again I have to change all the questions. I could go on and on. My only regret is that we invested in these. We hate the products. There must be better on the market. Truly awful.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Laure. It would not be my first choice.

    1. Looking into buying a new course. Steve Smith; which would be your first choice? Studio? Tricolore? Why?


Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

What is the natural order hypothesis?

The natural order hypothesis states that all learners acquire the grammatical structures of a language in roughly the same order. This applies to both first and second language acquisition. This order is not dependent on the ease with which a particular language feature can be taught; in English, some features, such as third-person "-s" ("he runs") are easy to teach in a classroom setting, but are not typically fully acquired until the later stages of language acquisition. The hypothesis was based on morpheme studies by Heidi Dulay and Marina Burt, which found that certain morphemes were predictably learned before others during the course of second language acquisition. The hypothesis was picked up by Stephen Krashen who incorporated it in his very well known input model of second language learning. Furthermore, according to the natural order hypothesis, the order of acquisition remains the same regardless of the teacher's explicit instruction; in other words,

What is "Input Processing"?

Input Processing (IP) was proposed by Bill VanPatten, Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition from Michigan State University. Bill may be known to some of you from his podcast show Tea with BVP. He is one of those rare university academics who makes a specific effort to engage with practising teachers. IP was first proposed in a 1993 article (published with T. Cadierno in the Modern Language Journal) entitled "Input processing and second language acquisition: A role for instruction." My summary of it is based on an article "Input Processing and Processing Instruction: Definitions and Issues" (2013) by Hossein Hashemnezhad. IP is a little complicated to explain, but I'll do my best to summarise the key points before suggesting how it relates to other ways of looking at classroom language teaching. Is this actually any use to teachers? I apologise in advance for over-simplifying or misunderstanding. To paraphrase Dr Leonard McCoy from Star Trek &q

Delayed dictation

Image: What is “delayed dictation”? Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music. It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too. Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating. In our language teaching case, though, the

Using sentence builder frames for GCSE speaking and writing preparation

Some teachers have cottoned on to the fact that sentence builders (aka substitution tables) are a very useful tool for helping students prepare for their GCSE speaking and writing tests. My own hunch is that would help for students of all levels of proficiency, but may be particularly helpful for those likely to get lower grades, say between 3-6. Much depends, of course, on how complex you make the table. To remind you, here is a typical sentence builder, as found on the frenchteacher site. The topic is talking about where you live. A word of warning - formatting blogs in Blogger is a nightmare when you start with Word documents, so apologies for any issues. It might have taken me another 30 minutes just to sort out the html code underlying the original document. Dans ma ville (in my town) Dans ma région (In my area) il y a (there is/are) des banques (banks) des cafés (cafes) des

Pros and cons of pair and group work

Most teachers have made frequent use of pair and group work for many years, notably since the rise of communicative language teaching in the 1980s. Even before then it would have been common for pupils to work in pairs on simple role-play and dialogue tasks. So pair and group work is standard practice, if not universally supported by language teachers. It’s always worth evaluating, however, whether a practice works - whether, in this case, it helps students develop their proficiency. Pros Rod Ellis (2005) summarises the advantages of pair/group work (based on Jacobs, 1998) “1. The quantity of learner speech can increase. In teacher-fronted classrooms, the teacher typically speaks 80% of the time; in groupwork more students talk for more of the time. 2. The variety of speech acts can increase. In teacher-fronted classrooms, students are cast in a responsive role, but in groupwork they can perform a wide range of roles, including those involved in the negotiation of meaning. 3. There can