Can my novice learners interpret authentic text?

Can my novice language learners interpret authentic text?  This is a question I have gotten quite a bit lately.  Most language educators are very comfortable with exposing intermediate and advanced level learners to authentic materials from the target language culture(s).  Their level of confidence is rooted in the fact that students at the intermediate and advanced proficiency levels, through their learning experiences, have acquired enough language and a sense for how discourse is organized in the target language to be able to handle the challenge.

But, when it comes to novice level learners, there is real hesitation.  Let’s explore some of the challenges and possible solutions to them.

  1. Do novice learners have the skills to interpret text, particularly if it contains words and phrases with which they are unfamiliar?

Novice level learners benefit from being taught routines and procedures for approaching text.  These routines should be modeled for learners as they are guided through the processes.  Some examples include:

  • using text features such as visuals, titles, and captions
  • looking for cognates
  • using context to derive meaning

2.  What can I expect novice learners to do with text?

In speaking with educators about unsuccessful attempts at having novice learners interpret authentic text, my standby response is: “Is what you were asking them to do aligned with what the ACTFL-NCSSFL Can-Do Statements and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners tell us novices can do?”  Here’s a screenshot from the Can-Do Statements:

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When interpreting authentic text, novices can:

  • list words with which they are familiar
  • make a guess about a word that looks/sounds like one they know
  • categorize ideas into simple categories
  • write a short summary sentence describing the purpose of the text
  • answer choice questions
  • complete cloze activities
  • complete more complex tasks with modeling and sentence framing

(You can download a copy of the checklist above by clicking this link.)

When designing interpretive tasks for your novice learners, use the Can-Do statements and the bulleted list above to guide your planning.  Ensure that the tasks you are giving the students are in line with what learners at their level can do.  Asking students to demonstrate interpretive skills too far above their ability level may cause frustration, disengagement, and push back from students.  It may also perpetuate the students’ belief in their inability to read, write, and view authentic text in the target language and derive meaning from it.

3.  Where do I begin?

Start small.  Opening a class with a meme or quote that reflects the current thematic unit can be a great confidence builder.  Memes are visual and can engage students through humor and interest.  Memes and quotes can also provide an example of language structures in context.  Here are some resources for you:

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French memes and quotes

German memes and quotes

Italian memes and quotes

Spanish memes and quotes

4. Believe that novices can interpret authentic text.

Using the ideas in this blog post, I challenge you to begin to incorporate authentic text into your lesson plans for novice level classes.  And as with all new strategies, after having implemented them, reflect on the impact the interpretive tasks using authentic text had on student learning and student engagement.

 

How do I build my students’ skills to prepare them to interpret authentic text?

As language educators, we understand the merits of exposing our students to authentic resources.  So far in this blog, our focus has been about finding, selecting, and storing authentic resources.  Now let’s turn our attention to what can we do as teachers to intentionally build skills with our students for the interpretive mode.

What do readers bring to the interpretive task?

From the Teacher’s Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction (2010) by Shrum and Glisan, they suggest the following list of what readers bring to interpretive tasks:

*Their knowledge of the target language

*Their background knowledge and world experiences

*Their knowledge of how discourse is organized

*Their ability to hold information in short-term memory

*Their ability to use a variety of strategies to help them arrive at meaning

(adapted from Shrum & Glisan, 2010, p. 183)

What are some ways I can build students’ interpretive skills?

Next, let’s consider some practical ways we can build students’ interpretive skills on a daily basis in our language classrooms:

1.Integrate authentic texts into instruction on a regular basis.

2.Provide opportunities for students to explore an authentic text in order to glean either the main idea or specific details, but without having to demonstrate an understanding of the entire text.

3.Prepare students for the task by activating their background knowledge and engaging them in anticipating the main idea of what they will read.

4.Provide students with strategies for comprehending authentic texts such as:

*Using contextual clues

*Using word families as clues to figuring out the meaning of new words

*Identifying key words that provide meaning clues

*Using titles and visuals that appear with the text as clues to meaning.

5.Use interpretive tasks as the basis for interpersonal and presentational communication.

6.Design interpretive activities that include pair and group collaboration.

7.Assist students in moving from literal comprehension (key word, main idea, and supporting detail detection) to interpretive comprehension (word and concept inferences, author/cultural perspectives, organizational principles of the text).

(ACTFL Integrated Performance Assessment Manual, 2003)

If you are interested in completing a self-assessment around the seven points above, click here.

Resources for building interpretive skills:

On my wiki, A Recipe for Rigor in World Languages, I have created a page called “Addressing the Interpretive Mode.”  I have linked there many resources in multiple languages for building students’ listening, reading, and viewing skills in the target language.

A. Building students’ confidence with text

Talking about what successful language learners do will emphasize to students how not knowing every word and making mistakes are both part of the language learning process.  The image on the right (below), is a poster that gives students a protocol for encountering unknown words in their reading of authentic text.

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There are also many resources and tools available online in multiple languages that support students’ listening, reading, and viewing skill building.  Here are a few examples below (each is hot linked to its source):

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B. Before, During and After Reading, Viewing, and Listening Activities

Mirroring the routines and processes students use in their language arts classes reinforces their interpretive skills.  Here are some examples below:

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C. The Power of Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are handy tools to support learners as they view, listen, and/or read.  In addition, graphic organizers provide students with a visual way to organize notes and information.  In many cases, you can find graphic organizers on the web in the target language.

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D. Tech Tools for Supporting Listening, Reading and Viewing Skills

There are so many web-based applications that pair well with listening, reading, and viewing activities in the language classroom and technology-enhanced classroom activities are highly engaging to students.  Click on the image below to access the links to the various web tools.

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Finally, almost all of the resources in this posting can be found on my Pinterest page called “Reading in World Languages.”

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How do I store the authentic resources I gather for my students?

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BWW, Before the Worldwide Web, teachers stored everything in manila folders in a bank of file cabinets in the back of their classroom.  Authentic resources were limited to physical items such as books, magazines, art prints, newspapers, posters, CDs, VHS movies, maps, schedules, and product labels and packaging.

Today, although many language teachers adorn their classrooms with some of the resources listed above that they have accumulated over the years, the internet has changed the game.  The students now have 24/7 to real life authentic video, audio, text, and images.

So, it is only logical that in the 21st century, there are technology solutions for storing our authentic resources.  Here are a few:

  1. Google Drive: Google Drive is a convenient choice because many teachers now store their lesson plans, student work, slide presentations, surveys, and other documents in Google.  You can upload images, videos, and audio files there.  The downside of using Google Drive is that there is no way to upload links to it.  So, if you want to capture a link, you would need to copy it and paste it into a Google Doc and save that doc.  Given the link, students can access files in the Drive electronically.  Here is an example of a teacher’s Google Drive folder that contains resources for a Career IPA:

googledrive

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6-B87IYUYK2bjhqWkx3VDUtTWc

2. Blendspace (tes teach):  Blendspace allows you to collect multimedia for interactive lessons on a particular topic.   It allows you to store digital content with files in the same location.  Here is an example of a teacher’s Blendspace page for an IPA on Health and Wellness in Spanish.  As with Google Drive, students can access the Blendspace page online:

blendspace

https://www.tes.com/lessons/GwWSTfzUTw_GTg/ipa-level-4-health-and-wellness?redirect-bs=1

3. Pinterest:  Pinterest is my favorite place to store links and online items.  You can organize your “boards” by theme or category.  Once you have set up boards, Pinterest will recommend “pins” to you based on the themes you have chosen.  It is also possible on Pinterest to “follow” certain “pinners” who are also teachers of the same language.  You will then be alerted when they add pins to their boards.  Here’s an example of a Pinterest board for the AP Global Theme of Global Challenges for German:

And here is the result of a search in Pinterest for the AP theme of Contemporary Life for French which yields many boards on the topic:

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All of the above mentioned online solutions to storing authentic resources are dynamic not static, and therefore allow you delete and add files/links as needed.

 

How do I select authentic resources for my language classroom?

My previous post addressed the ways you can search for authentic resources for use in your language classroom.  Now, let’s explore criteria by which you might select the resources that are the best fit for your learners, your learning targets and your lesson plans.

One model I can offer is the four “A’s”.  Those four overarching themes for choosing authentic resources include:

  • Authentic
  • Accessible
  • Appealing
  • Aligned

Authentic:  Authentic resources are prepared by and for the target language users, not for language learners and are created solely for the use of target language speakers for pleasure or information.

Accessible: Authentic resources should be appropriate to the students’ age and proficiency level and at an appropriate level of rigor or challenge.  They should be rich in visual support, cognates, and known words and should be linked to students’ background knowledge.

Appealing:  Authentic resources should be connected to real life, be interesting to students, and grab their attention.  They may be novel, humorous, and tech-based.

Aligned: Authentic resources should be matched to learning targets, offer opportunities for students to practice interpretive skills, and can act as springboards for interpersonal and presentational tasks.  They are sources of comprehensible input and are examples of vocabulary, language structures, and culture in context.

 

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You can download a PDF of the document above by clicking here.

How do I find authentic resources for my language classroom?

One of the challenges to implementing authentic resources into instruction for teachers is the time it takes to find them.  Using a generic Google Search can be arduous and time-consuming.

Using a Google Search in the target language will render the best results.  Some examples include:

Spain: https://www.google.es

France: https://www.google.fr

Germany: https://www.google.de

Italy: https://www.google.it

China: https://www.google.com.hk

Another tip for finding authentic resources is to search the topic or theme you are teaching followed by the type of resource you are looking for in the target language.  For example, if you are searching for infographics for your German students on the topic of vacations, you would search “Urlaub infografik.”

Here are the results I received in that search:

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In addition, searches can be done on You Tube using the topic/theme in the target language.  For example, if you are looking for videos for the theme of “Back to School” in Spanish, enter “regreso a clases” into the search bar in YouTube.  Here are the results I received:

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“Work smarter, not harder” is an adage that most educators aspire to because time is always a challenge.  In my experience, I have come to realize that language educators are part of a community that regularly practices “professional generosity.”  Sharing and collaboration are valued in our profession.   Many of our colleagues have posted the authentic resources they have gathered online through applications and websites that are public, the most popular of which is Pinterest.

First, if you are not a member of Pinterest and are interested in using it to find resources,  I encourage you to become a member (at no cost).

Once you are on Pinterest, search for a topic or theme in the target language.  Often you will find a whole Pinterest board that someone has put together on the topic or theme which contains multiple types of authentic resources.  If I want to find authentic resources for one of the AP Global Themes for my French class, for example, I search in Pinterest for “Défis Mondiaux.” (Global Challenges).  Here are the results of that search:

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Once you have used Pinterest several times, you may find a “Pinner” that you want to “follow.”  Following a Pinner means that you will regularly have access to his/her boards on Pinterest.  For example, a great Pinner to follow on Pinterest if you are a novice level Spanish teacher is my good friend and colleague, Señora Sherrow:

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Finally, I invite you to follow me on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/grahnforlang/

I have created boards on general topics relating to language teaching (Resources for Elementary World Language, World Language Advocacy, World Language Pedagogy, Centers, etc.).  I have also created Pinterest boards for authentic resources, either organized by text type (memes, infographics, commercials) or by theme.

Some of the themes include:  Ecotourism, Back To School, Bullying, Tiny HousesImmigration, Pets, Homelessness, Poverty and Hunger, and Natural Disasters.

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For more links to authentic resources, you can go to: https://wlrecipe4rigor.wikispaces.com/Authentic+Resources

Using authentic resources in the language classroom

ACTFL includes in the Guiding Principles of Language Learning six core practices.  One of the core practices is “Guiding Learners Through Interpreting Authentic Resources.”

When we talk about the value of authentic resources in world language instruction, several questions arise:

What are authentic resources?

How do I find them?

How do I select them?

How do I store them?

How do I incorporate them into my teaching?

Over the next few blog posts, I will attempt to address each one of these questions separately.

  1. What are authentic resources?

Authentic resources are created by and for the target language users either for information or entertainment.

Authentic resources include:

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in addition to: fine art, photographs, charts, maps, schedules, etc.  Since the advent of the Common Core, the idea of “text” has been expanded to include anything students view, listen to, or read.

Some examples:

Meme:

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Poem:                                                   Chart/schedule:

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Comic strip:

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Commercial:

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Infographic:

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Brochure:

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Audio clip:

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