Product Review – Allez
Earlier this year, former BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman launched a brutal attack on the French language, describing it as ‘useless’ (albeit also ‘beautiful), saying that learning it is ‘positively bad for you’.
Perhaps he was simply seeking attention, but clearly, few agree with him. French in fact remains the second most widely learned foreign language in the world, with almost 120 million students and 500,000 teachers. And for that to happen successfully, top quality resources are essential. Allez is a value for money, two-part course covering all of KS3, designed to prepare students for moving on to the EBacc and GCSE. There are nine units covered in each of the colourful and engaging student books, which include a range of topics such as lifestyles, holidays, technology, teenage issues and jobs. The books are extremely well thought through and contain the key vocabulary students need, a healthy helping of grammar activities, and plenty of skills development. There are activities at three levels – bronze, silver and gold – which makes differentiation a breeze; although overall, if anything I would say that the level of complexity and challenge offered by Allez is quite high, and that’s no bad thing.
Everything is clearly presented, and packed with features that focus on ‘real’ language. You will find translation and transcription activities in line with the new curriculum, plenty of paired and group talk, and opportunities for students to think creatively and express their ideas using authentic language, alongside the clever use of grammar boxes that contain simple explanations and strategies to help learners improve their skills. The units include ‘labo-langue’ pages which centre on grammar and writing with help for students to develop their techniques of memorisation and composition, while neat little plenary boxes support students in self-assessment techniques. There is also a short test in each unit of the four skills, and a summary vocabulary list. At the back of the book you will find the usual but useful French-English glossary with verb tables and a set of grammar explanations. Extra extension tasks are also available. The activities on offer are impressively varied and include matching, box filling, gap filling, listening tasks, pictures, true and false, sentence writing, translation and situational dialogues that students can read and perform. It’s encouraging to note that video listening is also included, with each unit having interesting and engaging material and exercises to complete in the pupil book. These are clear, recorded at the right speed and in many cases offer inspiring and fun content. For a teacher’s book to have any value then it has to be creative and practical - and Allez manages this with aplomb. Each is full of innovative ideas for starters and plenaries with bags of material including unit overviews, planning notes, grammar covered, strategies and skills, answers, and all the transcripts needed. It’s step by step if you need it to be - but with plenty of flexibility to make it your own, too.
Along with Allez you get a fantastic digital resource called Kerboodle, which is available through two purchase options – lessons, resources and assessment, and/or student access to the online course book. The content is customisable with some element of control over time, place, path or pace of learning, so you can add your own resources. Ultimately, what you have here is quality digital resourcing including a range of assessment materials, videos, worksheets and digital versions of textbooks, teacher notes, planning and a wealth of support. Kerboodle is also tablet-friendly; I’ve used it quite a lot over the years and have found it to be flexible, imaginative, well stocked and highly engaging for students. For many it will be a bit of a comfort blanket, and it certainly isn’t gimmicky. Will Allez be your first choice and could your department work with it? As always, that depends on a range of factors and what criteria you use to assess an MFL course package. For me, the language has to be rigorous and graded for difficulty to meet a range of needs, and there must be appropriate cultural content throughout. I think Allez does a fine job here providing plenty of variety and challenge with a wealth of materials in both French and English. There is a greater stress on translation into English, which won’t be to everyone’s liking – but I personally found it to be a great asset due to the wealth of support it provides and the diversity of rich content. All in all, I can see Allez and its various resources supporting students as they develop as linguists and helping to prepare them effectively for their exams, while enabling teachers to teach creatively, meaningfully and with confidence.
A good mixture of assessment and learning, along with the right balance of grammatical, functional and situational material. That’s something that often seems a little beyond many resources, so it’s great that Allez has taken on the task and delivered in style. Reviewed by: John Dabell