A francophone friend of mine recommended these books to me because she uses them with her children. She liked the broad coverage of different topics included and the colourful interface. After looking through her copies, I had to agree and purchased them myself.
I ordered level CM1 (grade 4) for my 10 year old daughter, and CE2 (grade 3) for my 8 year old son. Both kids have been using them for a few months. My daughter is also using Grammaire de Base – she just finished the 4th grade level for that series, so this one is a nice review for her. Caribou has also covered a few things that Grammaire de Base didn’t, which has been helpful. My son isn’t yet ready for Grammaire de Base, but as I’m writing this, I’m thinking it may be time to pull the grade 3 book out for him soon.
What I like about Caribou:
You can use one copy for multiple children fairly easily. A lot of the exercises are meant to be done on separate paper, so your student does not need to write in the book. There are a few multiple choice sections that would be easier to do right in the book, but given that the books were $32 each, I’d say just order one and re-use it. I wish I had realized this myself, because I have an extra copy of CM1 (I had ordered one for my son who I figured would eventually use it.)
Good explanations of the concepts. Each concept is explained in the Je retiens section of the lesson. The explanations are concise and clear. This book manages to narrow down complicated rules to simple sentences. Fabulous!
The books are full-colour and interesting to look at. It’s a lot easier to get a child interested in the subject when they are opening a book with some pictures and coloured text. Definitely a plus.
You can find the teacher guides online with a simple Google search. I found the guides for the levels I needed before starting, but honestly I haven’t even looked at them since we got going. I skimmed the guides before we started to get a basic idea of what to look for, but the books themselves have proven to be enough for us. It’s nice to know that the guides are there if I get stuck and need further explanation or instruction, but so far so good.
Vocabulary explanations right on the page. The book is divided into 2 sections – the first one has some grammar type lessons with 3-4 paragraph stories to read at the beginning. The second section is longer stories with comprehension & discussion questions. For these longer stories, the definitions for more advanced words are written right on the page. This is a huge time-saver and makes it easier to learn new vocabulary and make sense of the story.
What I don’t like about Caribou:
It’s a lot of writing. Many of the instructions say things like “recopy this sentence adding in xyz in the space provided.” My daughter may go for that if I asked her to do it, but my son who hates to write would struggle through the whole thing from start to finish. As a result, I’ve decided to work through the books orally. I sit down with each child and ask them the questions and we discuss the answers together.
The short stories don’t have the vocabulary explanations that the longer stories do. Some of the words in the shorter stories are difficult for me to understand (let alone my children), so it would be a lot easier to follow what is going on if they had the definitions included. Nobody wants to stop reading once every paragraph to look up an unknown word.
A lot of repetition. I suppose having too many questions that ask the same thing is better than not having enough practice available, but it can get a little dry. I do end up letting the kids skip some of the questions for things they already know extensively. This in itself is no big deal, but it can get problematic when they expect to skip questions on other lessons when they really do need the practice.
I do plan on ordering a copy of the next level of the series when my oldest is finished CM1. For us, the extra practice and discussion that we’re getting from using them is worth the cost. These books have been a great addition to our French routine, particularly once we started doing both a grammar lesson and a story each time we pick up the book.
These books were shipped from France, so it took several months for Librarie du Centre to get them in for me. If you’re planning on getting them, order ahead! 🙂
UPDATE (JUNE 13, 2016): I have decided to drop these books from our routine because my kids were detesting them. See more details here.
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