The Award for Outstanding Secondary Resource was in 2018 won by Cengage Learning for their French learning text, Tapis Volant. Translated as ‘flying carpet’ referring to the many countries where French is spoken, the series first appeared in 1995 as a student workbook, student book, teacher resource book and audio cassettes.
The Australian Publishers Association, coordinators of the Educational Publishing Awards of Australia, spoke with Catriona McKenzie, Senior publisher of Nelson (a Cengage company) to learn more about transitioning Tapis Volant’s older editions to align with the current Australian curriculum, involving many teachers as authors and advisers.
From Catriona McKenzie:
The original edition of Tapis Volant related its material to a context near where Australian students live (e.g. the Pacific on the east, the Indian Ocean countries on the west). So the first two editions included characters, situations, and cultural information from New Caledonia, Mauritius, Réunion, Vietnam, etc., as well as from France and Australia.
The first three editions took into consideration the range of state syllabus requirements, but the 4th edition, the one which won an EPAA, was written in accordance with the Australian Curriculum and this is one of the major reasons for the update of this series.
A cover change
In Tapis Volant editions 1, 2 and 3 the icon was a person on a flying carpet. However, in the 4th edition, a black cat was chosen as it is a typical French icon reflecting the first cabaret founded in Paris in the mid-19th century.
Storyline and context
In Tapis Volant 3e the key contexts of the dialogues, the story line and cultural backgrounds shifted back to France, in response to requests from teachers. There were still references and characters from other places where French is spoken, including New Caledonia and Australia as well as Europe (Belgium and Switzerland), Africa (including Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles), North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), the Caribbean and Canada.
Edition 4 additions
Like edition three, along with the usual textbooks and workbooks, there was also a NelsonNetBook component, and a comprehensive website with digital resources for students and teachers.
In every unit of Tapis Volant 4e Student Books and Workbooks, the inclusion of new features such as ‘Find out more’, ‘What do you think’, ‘Reflect and create’, ‘Let’s compare French and English’, ‘Let’s communicate in French’ with associated tasks, provide students with the opportunity to engage in a range of activities and to apply their language learning.
The auto-evaluation section has been enriched by including more grammar problem-solving activities (students are asked to reflect on how the language works rather than being told). A new section, ‘Mise au point’, invites students to reflect on their work and devise strategies to improve their learning (‘learning how to learn’).
Trends in language learning
The current focus on task-based language learning to develop a range of communicative skills and intercultural competencies seems to still prevail in second language acquisition methodology. Reflecting today’s digital teaching and learning, there is a variety of features integrated in the e-book as well as the digital activities on the website, all of which have a range of methodological implications. A diverse range of teaching styles and philosophies is possible, just as there is always a range of ways in which students prefer to learn and/or opportunities for new ways of learning. The 4th edition was carefully designed to respond to these changes with the focus on the student, rather than follow any ‘latest trend’.
The team (including teachers)
Many individuals collaborated on the Tapis Volant 4e series, including authors, teachers, students, curriculum advisers, language consultants and proofreaders, together with more than 20 Cengage employees including editors, designers and illustrators, sales and marketing representatives, production personnel, audio personnel, and digital teams.
The authors have throughout all four editions been indebted to the excellent advice and editing of freelance editor, Ingrid de Baets.
For the 4th edition, Kellie Dickson, a secondary teacher of French at McKinnon Secondary College reviewed the core manuscripts and was a co-author of the Teacher Toolkit. Kellie’s input provided invaluable elements of classroom practicality and awareness of student needs and curriculum requirements.
There has always been extensive teacher involvement throughout all editions of Tapis Volant. The teacher reviewers for the various components of the course have provided suggestions for topics, their sequencing and content, the progression of difficulty of language, the style of exercises, the wording of questions, ideas for assessment, the importance of ‘scaffolding’ for student tasks, and the significance or otherwise of various aspects of the culture.
There has from time to time been student feedback on the engaging nature of the characters and their stories as well as criticism of the characters and their appearance!
The feedback has been very positive. Students are enjoying the updated photographs and content, variety of core skill practice and relevance and interest of topics such as the environment and fashion (Book 2), handy vocabulary lists at the end of each chapter, online activities such as the videos and the comprehensive preparation for senior studies via Workbook tasks which can be completed in French or English.
Thoughts on the EPAA win
The Tapis Volant series has been well received for more than twenty years by teachers of French throughout Australia. This is due in part to the authors’ continued enthusiasm and shared beliefs and educational principles about teaching and learning French, as well as their skill in developing humorous and lively dialogues that students can relate to, linked story lines to maintain student interest, the constant interplay of cultural differences, and contemporary language modelling.
There is also no doubt that the diversity and range of exercises and activities has been pleasing to students and teachers across a wide range of different schools in Australia. There is also a range of supplementary activities, some closely related to the unit language, others more general; videos, audio listening texts, worksheets with scaffolding for speaking activities, extension activities, curriculum support and connections, games, online activities for revision and consolidation, drawing posters, and even making a short film. Students are provided with opportunities for task- based, collaborative and independent learning that can be completed in classrooms or at home.