The new edition Edexcel GCSE (9-1) Chinese textbook is available now to pre-order for June 2017. To celebrate the completion of the textbook, we caught up with Series Editor Katharine Carruthers, Pearson Editor Charonne Prosser and Series Writers Yan Hua and Michelle Tate to discuss the content of the book and the process of editing.
Katharine Carruthers (UCL IOE Confucius Institute)
As the series editor, I have hugely enjoyed working with Hua, Michelle and Charonne on the revised edition of Edexcel GCSE Chinese. It has been great to work with the original author and publishing team and to have had the continued support of Yu Bin at Peking University’s School of Chinese as a Second Language to do the Academic Review. Each author’s work has gone through a considerable number of iterations in a word document, way before it arrived at the elaborate proofing stage. Both Michelle and Hua have put together some really interesting and innovative material, covering quite sophisticated topics in an accessible way. They are both fantastic teachers and writers.
I have had the task of reading through and commenting on all the iterations, working through the activities; Yu Bin has also seen very many of them. A lot of checking, proofing, editing goes on!
Without Charonne’s keen eye on making sure the specification is fully covered, that all the exam spreads are in line with the actual exam specification and that the authored material will actually fit on a page, we’d be nowhere! Also her gentle chivvying to make sure that we all keep to the deadlines imposed by our publication deadline.
Huge congratulations to the authors! And many thanks to all the above! We hope the new book will be a very useful contribution to the teaching resources available for Chinese in schools in this country.
Yan Hua (Oundle School) and Michelle Tate (Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School)
- Can you please tell us a bit about the new content? How do the activities differ from before?
Michelle Tate (MT): The new activities in the textbook are closely aligned to the expectations of the specification. These include more inference style questioning for listening and reading, writing endings for statements according to texts, selecting correct answers from a given bank of words, etc. Exciting new topics relevant to teenagers have been added, such as environmental awareness and protection, green living, school rules and extra-curricular activities. Texts are based on what actually happens in schools, such as school council meetings, recycling campaigns, complaints about the rules headteachers make, to name but a few.
Yan Hua (YH): In Chapter 3 – Leisure, we added a unit called ‘Leisure Activities’ – talking about socialising with family and friends; in Chapter 4 – Media, we added a unit called Role Models – talking about role models’ life experiences; in Chapter 6 – Holidays, we massively updated the unit of ‘Booking a Hotel’ and the unit of ‘Making Travel Arrangements’; in Chapter 8 – The World of Work, we added two units, one called ‘Volunteering’, the other called ‘Campaigns and good causes’.
Activities in each unit are devised with the aim of ensuring students ‘learn something new’ and preparing them for the new examination. Best efforts have been made to devise content that are both authentic and accessible. The language now should feel authentic to 14-16 year olds, i.e. with colloquial phrases that teenagers in China would really be using. The medium of texts, i.e. use of blogs, social media forums, etc. should now be relevant to teenagers’ real life. In some chapters, we have added authentic literary texts for reading comprehension exercise.
2. Can you tell us about the exam spreadsheets at the end of each chapter? Do they cover everything that is in the new specification?
MT: Examples of model tasks with answers are given for both of the new style speaking and writing exams. Call- outs from the tasks provide useful pointers as to what might be good to include in answers. Guided questions related to the tasks are provided for students to think about to avoid them delving straight into attempting the tasks without considering the answers first. The full set of tasks in the textbook cover all topics in the specification, providing ample practice for students at both the Foundation and Higher level. Many tasks and new vocabulary learning go some way to bridging the gap between GCSE and Pre-U levels.
YH: In the exam spreadsheets at the end of each chapter, we have added an ‘Answer Booster’ table to help students understand what level of vocabulary, grammar and opinions are expected if they aim for a solid answer, aim higher, and aim for the top in speaking and writing exams. We closely refer to Edexcel SAMS for guidance to devise activities that provide the representative range of tasks at the same level of challenge as those which will occur in the new GCSE examination.
3. How did you find the writing process?
MT: Revising the textbook was a challenging ‘ball’ to throw into the mix of the juggle which is everyday life. Writing relevant, interesting and useful tasks for the students took SO MUCH time, which meant sending Emails after midnight became the norm for months. Charonne Prosser and Katharine Carruthers’ support and follow up was invaluable throughout to keep us motivated and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final result. It has been a very rewarding experience.
YH: Throughout the writing process we have pondered what alternative words and activities to include to ensure that the new book tackles the real challenges that Chinese would present as a foreign language. We have also tried to take advantages of some unique features of the language and create texts that can convey maximum maturity of ideas that suits GCSE using minimum complexity of language. The writing process is slow with attention to all details. We can be proud of the artisan spirit that we aim to adopt in the whole writing process.
Charonne Prosser (representing Pearson Education)
- What was it like working on a Chinese text book as opposed to a Spanish textbook?
Probably the biggest difference is that I personally understand very little Chinese, so that’s a big difference but in many ways the work that I am doing is similar in that I’m looking at: Do the pages work? Is there clarity in the way that the activities are laid out? Do you know where you start and where you’re supposed to finish? Do you start off the spread with relatively simple activities building up to more difficult activities? Do you start with the receptive skills building up to the productive skills? All these things are very much the same across all languages.
- How easy has it been to match activities for the new specification for Chinese?
Any GCSE book does two things: 1. it teaches students the language in the first place and 2. it prepares them for the exam. This means that not all your activities are exam activities because that would become completely tedious and wouldn’t help teachers as you can’t go in at exam level from activity one on the first page; you have to build towards the exam activities. Generally, it hasn’t been too difficult to put exam style activities into the book to help prepare students. In the book, we have a range of activities; we have quite simple straight forward activities you would expect such as picture matching and then we build up to the sorts of activities students will do in the exam and the types of writing and translation tasks they’re expected to do. We have been able to weave those into the body of the book and specifically into the spreads that focus on exam style questions.
- Are you tempted to learn Chinese as a result of your role in editing the new textbook?
Working on the book does tempt me because I understand little bits of Chinese now. I think with the three and a half languages I already have in my head (Charonne speaks Spanish, French, Japanese and some German as well as English!) mean it’s pretty full!
Thank-you to Katharine, Hua, Michelle and Charonne for taking time to talk to us about the new edition textbook.