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Association for Language Learning review 2013

Stephen Glover and Nathalie Kaddouri
£25 per unit, or £250 for each of the entire AS and A2 A*ttitudes

Stephen Glover is a well-known name in the world of materials for French learners and teachers, and ALF (A level French) contains a veritable treasure trove of materials and high quality resources to support AS and A2 French teachers and learners. Over the years Stephen has published many different types of books for learners of French, including in 2010 an excellent series of workbooks on a dozen of the most popular literary texts used in A level French. This series has been supplemented by more titles, including some French films.

AS and A2 A*ttitudes are online course books. The AS section includes the following AS topics: ‘Voyages’, ‘Les Jeunes’, ‘L’Education’, ‘Le Genre – hommes et femmes’, ‘La Santé’, ‘Les Traditions’, ‘Les Loisirs’, ‘Les Rapports entre les Gens’, ‘Le Monde du Travail’, ‘L’Environnement’, ‘Le Sport’, ‘La Publicité’. The A2 materials are divided into 3 units: ‘L’Environnement’, ‘La France Multiculturelle’ and ‘Les Problèmes Sociaux’.

The authors claim with justification that A*ttitudes is a new type of product made possible by the internet. They say that it can develop organically and quickly respond to changing examination requirements. There is a wealth of materials and exercises within each unit. I looked in detail at the AS unit on holidays for this review and felt quite overwhelmed with the amount of content! Each unit starts with a ‘Listothèque’ – a list of vocabulary and expressions, grammar exercises, and lots of good listening material (MP3 recordings) with exercises and video clips. There are a range of reading comprehension tasks and a very meaty section on essay planning and writing which looked quite challenging but very useful. Experience has certainly shown me that many students struggle with essay writing and this section of the course has a considerable amount of detail about how to approach this task. There are model essays and a teacher’s scheme of work. There is also a section on the website devoted to the (current) individual requirements of each of the examination boards.

The cost, £250 for the whole course, would seem to be good value, especially when compared to the cost of a set of A level text books and the accompanying online resources licence which has to be renewed and paid for annually. There are versions for VLEs and Moodle as well as some Taskmagic games, although these come at an additional cost. However, each unit is available individually at £25, which will allow cash-strapped departments to try out a unit without committing to the whole course. The website also invites interested parties to contact Stephen for a trial login before buying and, as the saying goes, ‘You can’t say fairer than that’. These materials do look as if they will deliver the goods. Using them could certainly enhance your teaching, although it will require a different way of working: deciding what to download, what to print off and how to store it in order to access it for revision. Some students are not particularly good at organising paper in folders in a logical way, but for others in this generation, working in a virtual learning environment and using smart phones will be second nature. My only reservation is that some teachers – and also some students (and possibly parents?) I suspect – may feel that they need the solid, tangible presence of a textbook, although perhaps that is because some of us just feel more secure with a book than with working in the ‘clouds.’ Is this the future for educational publishing or will there always be a place for the traditional book? What is certain, however, is that there will always be a place for high quality materials like this.

Dianne Place