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DVD – English

| September 24, 2010

(First Additional Language) Grade 12 Revision
2009/2010 Video Lectures Paper1
Teacher/ presenter: Janet Unterslak
Produced by PRIMEDIA Education in association with iSabelo Learning
ISBN: 08909009

It’s such a good idea, it’s a wonder no-one’s done it before now. We’re talking about PRIMEDIA Education’s DVD revision series for learners to use at home. Subjects covered include English (Home Language and First Additional Language), Afrikaans (First Additional Language) Mathematics, Mathematics Literacy, Physical Science, Life Science, Geography, History, Accountancy and Business Studies.

Series should supplement classroom contact time

Granted, learners must have access to DVD players, but once that hurdle’s crossed, it’s an ingenious solution. The series is not intended to replace contact time in the classroom, but rather to supplement what an effective teacher can provide. And when one considers the amount of work to be covered in the syllabus in preparation for the final examination, one can only imagine that teachers and pupils alike will be grateful for the extra support.

Studying at home could, of course, be fraught with peril if students don’t have the discipline or requisite study skills. But if they’ve got the right stuff, then they could actually absorb more, better, than they would in a crowded, noisy classroom where time is short and anxiety hangs in the air. At home, in a comforting environment, they can play and replay sections of the DVD as often as necessary.

Care has gone into production

A revision DVD intended for home use could also fail miserably if badly produced. Technology savvy teens are, after all, notoriously easily distracted. PRIMEDIA
has taken care to make the series slick, yet simple. The English First Additional Language (FAL) DVD reviewed for our readers used a pleasantly appropriate Shakespearean background. Key concepts on scrolls and helpful arrows slide in and out to reinforce key concepts and break the monotony of an ever-present teacher/facilitator.

Unterslak a winner

Here again, the wrong choice of presenter could ruin the entire enterprise – many of us will have seen a current TV ad lampooning the idea of TV-based academic instruction. But in PRIMEDIA Education’s case, there can be no better choice of teacher/narrator for a take-home English revision DVD than well-respected teacher Janet Unterslak.

With years of experience, she’s seen it all, whether as a classroom teacher, TV instructor, examiner or marker, which means you can trust her advice. Because she’s onscreen for such long periods of time, every detail counts; she’s wellgroomed and simply dressed so as not to distract. Even more importantly, she’s exceptionally well-spoken and empathetic, taking care not to rush her audience. She pays attention to detail, and is extremely patient, even though she must have explained these concepts a thousand times over the years.

Complex syllabus

And it’s the concepts that ultimately count, after all. I felt extreme sympathy for FAL learners who must negotiate the vagaries of English. Even if they’ve been taught in the language for the better part of twelve years, studies indicate that second language students first translate into their own language, then back into English to gain some measure of understanding. And even if they take Unterslak’s advice and read widely – newspapers, magazines, and cereal boxes – they must still face a summative exam that’s really a bit of a gamble. As Unterslak dissected a comprehension passage, I wondered how many second language pupils could in all fairness be expected to grasp – possibly for the first time – words and phrases like ‘destitute’, ‘clinch’, ‘a golden touch’ and ‘government tender’ – under exam conditions. Add to that complex instructions, cunningly worded questions and un-decipherable mark allocations, and it’s a wonder anyone passes.

Unterslak does her very best to guide learners through these mazes (they can also refer to the handy booklet that comes with the DVD), and I would imagine that they would feel a great surge of confidence knowing they are in her care. I loved the fact that the DVD includes the guidelines given to those who set the paper, and to those who mark. Teachers should also watch this series so that they can remind their pupils as often as possible what NOT to do in an exam – Unterslak makes it crystal clear that there are multiple instances where markers will simply write ‘0’. If students can avoid these traps, and can learn how to answer exams, in addition
to learning their subject material thoroughly, they’ll be in a strong position.

I urge pupils and teachers to get their hands on PRIMEDIA Education’s revision series immediately.

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Category: Book Reviews, Spring 2010 Edition

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