Da Musically Inclined Bomb

DePauw University's First Year Seminar on Writing about Music

Sunday, October 22, 2006

text about textbooks

Du tac au tac
Jeannette D. Bragger
Donald B. Rice

My French book, Du tac au tac, helps provide students with the communication strategies needed to become a good conversationalist in French. By this point in the course, we are expected to be fairly adept with French verbs and vocabulary. This course is meant to teach us to sound good even if our French is still a bit shaky.
Du tac au tac is set up in 8 chapters that each deal with a specific conversation category. Chapter subjects include, “Asking for Help,” “Asking for and Giving Advice,”
“Organizing a Trip,”Expressing Opinions,” “Recalling the Past,” “Speaking of Literature,” and “Talking about Current Events.” The beginning of each chapter asks us questions involving the subject material so write down everything we can remember about the subject. Usually, this involves suggesting useful expressions for various situations.
The textbook comes with a CD, containing conversations between French speakers. Before listening to each conversation, there are Pre-Listening questions. The book provides us with a few vocabulary words or slang phrases we may not already know. I found the list of “Expressions to gain time,” (well, so, ummm, let’s see, you know) and “Expressions to enter into a conversation” (But, Exactly, not at all, wait a second, I understand, but, Listen, I think that) to be particularly helpful because they help me to sound more conversational and to sound French while stalling during a conversation rather than standing there like a stupid American saying, “Umm.”
Since the class is about conversation, focusing on typical, informal conversation, the language used is also informal. Demands are given succinctly but not formally. The book even starts sentences with “And” and uses contractions. This book is very encouraging. Much of the strategies explained reflect back to the “conversation is like throwing a ball back and forth” analogy.


“To be an effective conversational partly, it’s not enough to catch the ball. It’s just as important to know how to throw the ball back so that the conversation remains interactive rather than turning into a monologue.”
The authors make conversing in French sound easy, by using words like “just”: “If you want to interject something into a conversation, just look at the previous speaker and use a starter to attract his or her attention and, possibly, to interrupt.”

This book teaches fundamentals about conversation that makes the difference between a good and bad conversationalist, regardless of the language. For example, “When you’ve taken your turn in a conversation, throw the ball back to the listener by adding a word or expression that requires a response.”
Sometimes in a foreign language, it is easy to get tongue tied and stuck with words. This book is helpful because it is teaching me to think, “What point do I need to get across now?” We are so accustomed to English at this point, it is easy to talk without thinking. This textbook helps us to build on what others have said, buy time, and find alternative ways of saying things. This way, we can make good use of what we know, even if we don’t know much.

The book only uses english for a couple of paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter, to explain concepts (such as the ones in examples I have given) that would be hard for the student to understand in french. Otherwise, all directions etc are given in french. I find this hellful because with my abilities in french thus far, I can only read for the general idea- I'm glad the authors understand this and explain the important things in english.

The Musicians Guide to Theory and Analysis
Jane Piper Clendinning

Elizabeth West Marvin

All of us are familiar with the Theory textbook. It is organized into chapters such as “Metric Organization” and “Parts of the Basic Phrase.” The first page of each chapter includes an Outline of topics covered, a couple sentence chapter Overview, and Repertoire (tracks used on the CDs). Large blue headlines announce larger topics within the chapter. For example Chapter Six, Pitch Intervals, has the topics, “Combining Pitches,” “Pitch-Inverval Qualities,” “The Relative Consonance and Dissonance of Intervals,” and “The Inversion of Intervals” highlighted in blue. Each of these topics includes bolded subtopics, and a “Key Concept” announced in a large blue box. Examples are offered with music from the textbook CD and each example is followed by a “Try it.” “Try it” sections are basically homework questions in the textbook, placed right after the explanation so we can try the concept right after learning about it.
I find the occaisional “Another Way” sections helpful. Sometimes one way of explaining something is just not enough, but an alternative way it clicks. I appreciate that this textbook accepts different ways of explaining things rather than insisting on one way.
The writing in our Theory textbook feels much more like classic textbook style writing than my French book did. This is necessary because the subject is mathematical and not open to much interpretation, so instruction and explanation needs to be clear. The French class on the other hand, was about teaching to be conversational, so the writing needed to be conversational in its own way to reflect that concept.
Other than the fact that the writing is pretty clear, I find the organization of the Theory textbook to be most helpful, because it is easy for me to find key points if I can’t remember them. I also like that many of the musical excerpts used are familiar pieces, and span the genres of music. This helps the students to connect to the expamles. Since we can relate them to an excerpt of music we know, classical or popular, it helps us to understand how theory is relevant in music and in our education. Since, for some students, theory can feel like a drag, understanding the relevancy of a subject by the inclusion of familiar excerpts is a significant part of the book.


At 10/22/2006 10:06 PM, Blogger Emily Rose said...

I like textbooks with CDs. I know I'm kind of a loser, but I get excited for audio-visual aids.

At 10/22/2006 10:40 PM, Blogger Becca said...

Your french textbook seems neat. I like the idea that you learn to stall in french. "Le um..." =)

At 10/22/2006 10:41 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Good in depth work.

At 10/22/2006 10:42 PM, Blogger Mistuh Bond said...

I like it when language textbooks focus more on natural speech rather than perfected speech.

At 10/23/2006 12:01 AM, Blogger Dennis Fuller said...

i always find the "another way" sections really usefull


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