Edexcel GCSE Chinese textbook - Independent Review

Tags: Review

Resource Title:  Edexcel GCSE Chinese Student Book

Author: Carruthers, Yan, Liu, Tate,Wang, Bin,Zhu

Cost (RRP): £15.99 students book

Related associated resources in the series:

Teacher’s Guide £39.99

Audio CDs £95.00

Assessment pack £110.00

Available from:  Pearson Education

Reviewer:   Hanghang Huang & Elizabeth Garner

Description:   Edexcel GCSE Chinese is a new KS4 course providing complete preparation for the new Edexcel GCSE Chinese (Mandarin) specification.  It contains:

•  Full coverage of topics in the new Edexcel GCSE specification

•  Photos and illustrations in authentic contexts make every lesson interesting and show students what everyday life is like in China.

•  Controlled Assessment spreads in every chapter help students prepare for the writing and speaking assessments.

•  Examiner tips and advice on improving grades in ResultsPlus sections.

•  A wide variety of activities on every spread so you can differentiate your teaching to suit students of all abilities.

•  Strong focus on learning Chinese characters with tips, advice and vocabulary boxes throughout and a section on Chinese character acquisition at the back of the book.

•  Discrete extension units provide extra stretch activities for more able students.

Comments from the Authors/Editor:   The Edexcel GCSE materials were written by a team of authors from SSAT Confucius Classrooms and edited by the SSAT Confucius Institute Director, Katharine Carruthers.  They were reviewed by Peking University’s School of Chinese as a Second Language. The student book is designed for learners who have already studied at least 2 years (ideally 3) of Chinese at KS3.  The Heinemann Jin bu 1 & 2 books are designed to provide an ideal foundation prior to students embarking on Edexcel GCSE.

A few key points to bear in mind:

•  Although it is aimed at the Edexcel GCSE Chinese examination, it could easily be used by those taking any Level 2 Chinese qualification.

•  There is a strong emphasis on character acquisition and recognition with pinyin only given for new words.

•  There is a huge amount of activities on each double-page spread. Unlike many existing Chinese textbooks, it is not intended that you cover every activity with your students. The idea is that you can mix and match and use some for the whole class, others for differentiated activities and some not at all, if you don’t want to.

•  There is more than enough material to provide a solid grounding for GCSE and also for some transition work at the beginning of an AS course.

In December 2010, Edexcel GCSE Chinese won an award for Outstanding International Teaching Material from Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International.

Reviewer Profiles: Hanghang Huang is a PGCE Mandarin graduate from Goldmiths University who has been teaching Mandarin at Fortismere School in North London since 2008.   She teaches GCSE and AS/A2 Mandarin in her school and has approximately 250 students.

Elizabeth Garner is an AST for Mandarin at the Anglo European School in Essex where she manages the SSAT Confucius Classroom. She teaches Mandarin and German at KS3, KS4 and KS5. 

Things I liked about the resource :   (Hanghang) The book is clearly organized into modules which map the new Edexcel GCSE Chinese assessment units and themes.  This in itself offers peace of mind to  teachers who by following the scheme of work  and topics arranged in the book will safely cover all relevant areas for the GCSE.

The reading materials are very up-to-date, reflecting the new lifestyle, fashion, and people’s perspectives in recent decades in China, thus much more familiar and appealing to teenagers.

The book is very colourful with vivid pictures and text boxes. It  includes a wide range of exercises for listening, reading, speaking and writing in each unit for the foundation level and higher level.  Higher level tasks can be ‘toned down’ by giving more notes and clues. Authentic scenarios are also provided for many tasks, making them more ‘useful’ and interesting.

The layout and format is very similar to the current textbooks of other modern foreign languages, making it  easier for students learning other languages at the same time to follow and ‘get on with it’. This consistency with other textbooks help to make learning Chinese as a second language in schools far more mainstream.

(Elizabeth)  A good textbook needs to understand its audience. And this book, designed as it is around the current Edexcel GCSE specification and aimed at GCSE students, does exactly that. Its authors, all teachers with experience of teaching UK students Mandarin, have produced a book which understands the needs of both teachers and students.

The text book provides a ready-made framework for a 2 GCSE course. The nine units, which comprehensively cover all the main topics in the new GCSE specification, are subdivided into chapters, with a useful vocabulary review at the end of each unit. Each unit also offers practice material for controlled assessments. But be warned; the level of this material is very high and they should not be tackled early on.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the topic, with a wide range of vocabulary and grammar introduced in the varied listening, reading, speaking and writing activities. Progression is catered for- each unit begins with a review and each chapter builds up from basics. Characters are only glossed with pinyin when they are first introduced, which is a challenge for some students. However this is, I feel, one of the book’s strengths, since students are encouraged from the very beginning to focus on character learning.

The result is a book which provides a great deal of support to those new to teaching GCSE, as well as a great deal of ready-made teaching resources for all.

Compared to other Mandarin textbooks on the market, which tend to follow the same predictable format in every unit, this book provides a varied approach to each topic, with plenty of lively illustrations, real-life Chinese photographs and a wide range of different and enjoyable activities. For students, it is a format which is at once familiar to them, mirroring as it does other MFL textbooks. Its references to modern Chinese life and contemporary Chinese people are very appealing. The response I have had from students has been overwhelmingly positive.

How could the resource be improved?  (Hanghang)  Unlike other languages, there is no ‘foundation book’ for this resource, although Jin Bu (Pearson Education) has now been written providing foundation progression from KS3 (Year 7-9, aged 11-14) through to GCSE . For earlier stages therefore either the teacher must prepare materials or purchase a book such as Jin Bu  to develop a foundational level of Chinese.  The content in the book tends to be quite difficult for students with either no basic knowledge or inadequate vocabulary and grammar knowledge gained in previous years. The speaking and writing examples at the end of each module are often too hard to use for less competent students.   Many of the tasks usually cover several topic areas and this can be quite challenging for some students.  Teachers, usually have groups with mixed abilities, therefore it is quite difficult to provide differentiation for weaker students with this book, and teachers need to plan ‘easier tasks’ on their own.

(Elizabeth)  One criticism is that some of the chapters are very heavily text-based, requiring a lot of time to be spent on reading. The new GCSE makes fewer demands in this area. It is important, therefore, to be selective. The glossary at the back of the textbook is also not too helpful; a more conventional pinyin-based dictionary would have been more useful to my own students.

Why and how did I use this resource? (Hanghang)  Being a new  book written specifically for the new Edexcel Chinese GCSE, it will act as a very good guideline for GCSE teaching, especially for me who started to teach GCSE class (year 9/10) for the first time last year.   Following the GCSE scheme of work it is also very good for higher level GCSE students.

(Elizabeth) While the book was aimed at students with two years of Chinese, due to timetable constraints my own students have to tackle it after only one year (approximately 40 hours of teaching) which is a challenge, since the language, even in the early units, quickly increases in complexity towards the level required for GCSE. However, with a little extra support my students are able to cope.

On the other hand there is more than enough material for a two-year GCSE course and teachers will need to focus on the units required to cover the GCSE listening and reading topics, plus the topics they choose for the students controlled assessments.

Why may others use this resource? (Hanghang)   I would recommend this book to schools serious in achieving high grades in GCSE Chinese. With the introduction of the English Baccalaureate schools will be measured on whether pupils pass a basket of subjects including a Modern Foreign Language and this book I am sure will serve to ensure that pass rates are as good in Chinese as other languages. This is not a KS3 book but it is not designed to be so.  It does, however need to be used by pupils with a good grounding of Chinese developed in KS3.

(Elizabeth)  This textbook is an excellent choice for any schools who wish to enter students for AQA or Edexcel GCSE Chinese, who have completed one to two years of Chinese.  However, its focus on characters and the layout of the book mean that is designed for a classroom-based setting rather than self study and it is not appropriate for beginners.

Conclusions / other comments:  (Hanghang)  This is a very good resource which demonstrates high expectations to improve GCSE grades and affluent cultural extension to raise intercultural understanding.

(Elizabeth) Edexcel GCSE Chinese is without doubt the best book currently available on the market for teachers and students preparing for GCSE.