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Review of Panorama francophone 1 by Danièle Bourdais and Sue Finnie

Panorama francophone is a CUP course designed specifically for students preparing for the ab initio International Baccalaureate exam. With an international audience in mind, you won't find any English in the student and teacher books, nor in the accompanying cahier d'exercices. Another possible audience might be general studies students in England who wish to do beginners' French.

The course consists of 14 chapters, beginning with Je me présente, then working through Tu es comment?, la vie quotidienne, Bon appétit, En ville, Mon paradis sur terre, Temps libre, Projets de vacances, Au lycée, Faites la fête!, La santé pour tous, L'Evolution du shopping, Nous les jeunes and Le français dans le monde.

Each chapter covers a general topic, sub-topics within and one or more grammar points, beginning with articles and ending with negation and government of verbs (two verbs together). Tenses are covered in the sequence present, near future, perfect, future, conditional and imperfect. Each chapter ends with a revision page.

To take one chapter as an example (Chapter 5, En ville): the opening page features a sign showing the entrance to Marseilles with a list of its twinned cities. This is the basis for some simple oral questions, which include revision of knowledge of la francophonie, covered at the start of the course. There follows some simple vocabulary building based on five pictures of French-speaking cities around the world. This is followed on the next page by a reading task to match short paragraphs with the correct city. There is then a grid to complete to show reading comprehension and a listening task (with audio coming from an accompanying CD).

Simple speaking and writing tasks are followed by further vocabulary building with the aid of authentic pictures and a game of vocabulary bingo. A matching reading task follows, putting simple definitions with places around town. At this point simple prepositions are introduced and practised by means of a memory game about describing part of a town centre. A street map of Vannes is the basis for a listening gap-fill, learning how to give and understand directions and use imperatives.  More listening and pair work follows.

The final double spread begins with factual information about Terre-de-Haut and Marrakech. This is used for a reading matching task and simple oral exploitation. information about the town of Clermont is then used to get students to eventually speak and write about their own town or village. Students are then asked to choose a twin town for their own and justify their choice. The revision page features information about Dakar with comprehension and writing task.

If this material feels a little immature, be reassured that later in Book 1 students are reading about vegetarianism, technology, online shopping, rights and duties of young people, bullying, friendship and voting at 16. No doubt Book 2 moves into more challenging territory.

The comprehensive teacher's book includes transcripts, solutions to exercises, ways to exploit the material and further information for teachers, including, for example, a description of how the imperative works.

I should mention the cahier d'exercices too. This is a separate booklet for students, in black and white, with a wide of exercises, some of them illustrated. You get gap-fill, word-searches, matching, odd-one-out, sentence construction from grids, multi-choice, crosswords, questions in French and more.

When I look at a book my first questions tend to be: is it interesting? Is it usable?How much would you not want to use? Does it need supplementing?

In this case, if you were working with IB students, this could be your sole resource and would provide ample material for classroom exploitation and homework. Inevitably, the easier material would be somewhat below the maturity level of 16-17 year-olds, but I'd assume they would be happy to play the game and recognise that basics need to be covered. Generally the content is interesting and informative, clearly aimed at an international audience, while the large format pages are clearly laid out, colourful without being gimmicky, with pictures serving a useful purpose. Where they are needed for specific teaching points they are clear.

The methodology is traditional topic-based supported by a grammatical progression with the main emphasis on vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. By the end of the book students are reading full pages of text. Teachers would need to decide how much time they would need to spend on the written tasks. If you know more about the IB than I do, you'll know where to lay the stress.Exercise types are all familiar, mainstream stuff by very experienced writers. Pretty much everything looks "do-able". This comes through in the teacher's book too.

In sum, this course looks very useful indeed for teachers and students doing ab initio IB and I would recommend it unreservedly.


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