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Review of Attitudes16 for A-level French



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 literature. Attitudes16 comes in both AQA and Pearson-friendly formats and could form your sole main resource, or be used to complement other resources.

Let's take a close look. So far Steve and Nathalie have completed the six units you'd need for the first year of a two year course or AS-level. The remaining six will follow later. I'm going to focus on one unit; La famille en voie de changement (AQA), which many schools will start with in September. You would find the Pearson material to be very similar.

This unit, along with all the others, is broken down into a number of sections: key vocabulary and grammar, facts and figures, a general introduction to the sub-theme including a recorded feuilleton (an original touch), listening and reading tasks, a section called séquences, an oral exam section, translation both ways and a final song.

Vocabulary and grammar

This consists of a number of worksheets: a vocabulary list linked to Textivate interactive tasks (Textivate, if you don't know it yet, allows students to do a wide range of text manipulation tasks) and five grammar worksheets, for example, a sheet with a combined matching and verb conjugation task based on the present tense and a verb agreement tasks based on reflexive verbs.

Facts and figures

This has a clear and ungimmicky five slide PowerPoint  which include outside links, useful phrases and some figures which would feed into to the AO4 category of cultural knowledge - remember that in the new specs students will need to show off what they know about the culture to obtain the highest marks). You could easily use it for oral exploitation and embed phrases like un tiers, un quart, la moitié and so on.

You then have a series of briquettes d'information - listening tasks with worksheets, which double as useful language tasks and a further source of background information. You get a transcription, gap-fill and a task which combines verb conjugation with answering questions in French. I like the way Steve combines exercises on form with meaning. Two birds with one stone.

Introduction to the theme

So, having done the "pre-theme" tasks, you get on the topic itself in more detail. The recorded feuilleton is accompanied by a range of worksheet tasks: multi-choice, ticking correct sentences, questions in french and gap-fill from a choice of words. These are all mainstream A-level tasks, the like of which you'll find on exam papers. the level is appropriate and content interesting.

You also get a transcription combined with a grammar analysis tasks and glossed vocabulary, as well as a set of 18 pictures and paragraphs, the purpose of which is "to give students a socio-cultural perspective of the topic to bring them up to speed with how we arrived at the current situation in France/French speaking countries". In addition there is a research section "designed to give ideas for the personal study part of the oral examination in the full A level".

Listening

This is really video listening, since Steve has linked to external YouTube videos and combined them with Textivate tasks. I like this approach - most courses rely on pure audio and any video material (where it exists) can be very artificial. The two videos here are about how to charm a young woman and how to find a partner. Should be motivational!

Students can do these tasks at home if YouTube is not accessible at school. Steve is going to try to source more video clips from the ina.fr site, the French national archive of video clips.

Reading

You get a number of tasks, including short paragraphs with exercises ("narrow reading", if you like) and extracts from Zola with glossed vocabulary in the margin and comprehension exercises.

Séquences

This includes linked videos with various oral and written tasks, for example questions in French, lexical analysis and translation. This is excellent supplementary material which might well be used in the second year of a two year course, when you need to revisit the lower sixth themes at a higher level.

Oral exam

Here you have photo card examples and what steve calls "Le grand défi idea generator". The boxes of language contain lots of ideas around key aspects of the topic although taken much further than in the initial listothèque activity referred to above.

Translations

The French to English translation in this unit would fit the second year of the course best and is harder than the exam board specimens you see at AS-level. the English to French is done interactively with Textivate and is at an easier level in this particular unit.

Songs

You get links to YouTube songs on the theme of family, together with words.

So there we have it. Lots of very good material, all skills covered, well pitched, interesting and perfectly appropriate to the exam board specification.

What makes this resource distinctive, of course, is that it is not a printed book. How does it work then?

Here is the pricing: AQA specification- 6 units - £30 per unit, £40 for a VLE version £150 for all six units inc CD (£5 extra for CD 1+ units). Teachers can share their password with students or take advantage of their VLE, such as Moodle or Firefly. Steve sends out CDs for teachers to be able to put recordings on the VLE.

You would need to weigh this up against the cost of individual textbooks for students (costing roughly £22 each, before discount in OUP's case). Photocopying has to be factored in, but you'd be doing some of this with a printed book. I assume that the VLE version would be needed for all student access.

Compared with the printed books I have reviewed from OUP and Hodder, Attitudes16 has certain advantages, among them the interactivity (for which you'd pay extra, using, for example the OUP Kerboodle package which is of mixed quality). In addition, the video listening material is more motivational, if less finely tuned to the student's level of comprehension. If you favour authenticity over fine-tuning, then this will suit you. It's worth noting that there will be transcripts available for all the videos - they can be viewed on Textivate.
I also find the grammatical content more detailed than in the course books, which need quite a bit of supplementing. This would too, but to a lesser extent.

Overall, then, an excellent package which you might want to inspect along with other courses before you make a final decision.





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