Title Upgrade French Reading for GCSE
Upgrade German Reading for GCSE
Author Lawrence Briggs and Alan Wesson
Publisher Mary Glasgow Magazines
Reviewer Susie Lacey
   
 

My initial impression of these two books was very positive. They are essentially a ring bound collection of photocopiable work sheets to improve GCSE reading skills and are divided between Foundation, Foundation/Higher and Higher style questions on all the GCSE topics. At the front there is a list of the different topics required by each exam board, and the relevant work sheets for each topic. I was therefore able to go straight to three work sheets for each topic my classes were studying. Each work sheet is clearly laid out, with a space for the pupil's name and plenty of illustrations to accompany the text. There are usually two exercises per page, the first being a multiple choice and the second requiring one word, or full sentence answers. On each page there is a section called Clever Clues in the foundation stage, Handy Hints in the Foundation/Higher, and Tips for texts at Higher level. This gives advice in English about how to approach a reading comprehension, false friends, and highlights grammar in the text. A lot of the sheets also have a cartoon with a joke about common mistakes. At the end of each section is a well laid out vocabulary list. There are also four test yourself sections, so it would in theory be possible to work through the sheets like a revision text book.

I tried the French out with a high ability year 10 group, and an average year 9 set; and the German with a beginners year 9 set and a mixed ability year 10 set. The students reacted positively to the clear layout, several commented that it was more like a GCSE paper than our text book, and they appreciated the clear spaces for answers, and being able to write on the sheet. The response to the illustrations and cartoons was mixed. Some of the girls liked the cartoons, and several even coloured them in! We agreed that the jokes were rather weak and they tended to distract the class rather than make any valid point. The book is advertised as ideal for homework and cover lessons, and although each sheet would make a nice self- explanatory homework task, there is far too little material to cover a lesson. In one 35 minute lesson my mixed ability beginners German set completed three foundation sheets and one foundation/higher sheet. While this is a tribute to the stand-alone character of the sheets, and the helpful points given in the hints section, I feel that there could have been more meat in the exercises, perhaps less of an emphasis on true or false? The vocabulary used is up to date, but there are too many English root words considering the space given to reading skills. The editors have made an effort to include up to date material, although the images themselves are standard Mary Glasgow and some of the celebrities featured could date quickly. The most useful part of the book were the clear vocabulary lists on each topic. These could be used for coursework preparation, or as a homework task.

These books would be most useful for a low ability set, or for a teacher frustrated by the lack of good reading material in their text books. I would only ever use them as an easy homework task to set, do and mark, or as a lesson plenary. However, I was interested to see that there is a grammar work-book as part of the same series, as this format could work well for simple grammar exercises.