Students participating in target language discussions about authentic text

As students move across the proficiency continuum, a great goal to work toward is to have students conduct discussions in the target language about the authentic texts they have interpreted.

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As is described in the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, students work toward being able to participate in discussions once they reach the intermediate high proficiency level and beyond.  It is important that we begin to build students’ skills early on in their language learning experience, beginning with highly scaffolded, simple discussions to more in-depth, spontaneous ones.

In the interpretive mode, beginning at the intermediate high proficiency level, it is expected that language learners can “understand the main message and some supporting details across major time frames in conversations and discussions.”

In the interpersonal mode, beginning at the advanced level, speakers “can maintain spontaneous spoken, written, or signed conversations and discussions across various time frames on familiar, as well as unfamiliar, concrete topics, using series of connected sentences and probing questions.”

So, how do we put novice language learners on the pathway toward being able to participate confidently in discussions in the target language?

Building students’ discussion skills

From the novice level, students can participate in discussions in the target language about authentic texts they have interpreted if those experiences are:

  • well-modeled by the teacher
  • highly scaffolded

Types of discussions students might have include:

  • making decisions
  • solving problems
  • expressing opinions
  • creating a product

Scaffolds for discussion skills might include:

  • graphic organizers on which students have taken notes about the authentic text, ideally set up to assist them in the discussion.  For example, if the intent of the discussion is for students to compare and contrast two ideas, a Venn diagram might be the most appropriate graphic organizer to use.  Here’s an example of an organizer in Italian:

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  • expressions lists that support students’ conversations.  For example, if the purpose of the discussion is to express an opinion about the authentic text, sentence frames/starters would be provided.  An example in French is below:

and one for Spanish:

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http://marruecospanish.blogspot.com/2016/10/como-expresar-una-opinion-o-valorar-un.html

  • protocols for discussions: taking turns, using gambits or conversational fillers, building off of what group members have said, assigning group roles, etc.
  • a routine or strategy that serves as a framework for the discussion.  Click on the image below to explore a variety of discussion strategies.

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Example classroom scenario:

In an intermediate level Spanish class, the teacher shows this quote by Pablo Neruda during a unit on Personal and Public Identities.  The teacher asks students to write a summary statement in the target language about the quote.

pablo-neruda-muere-lentamente-quien-no-viaja-quien-no-lee-quien-no-escucha-mc3basica-quien-no-halla-encanto-en-sc3ad-mismo

https://nadienosentiende.com/2016/09/09/lobos/pablo-neruda-muere-lentamente-quien-no-viaja-quien-no-lee-quien-no-escucha-musica-quien-no-halla-encanto-en-si-mismo/

Then, the teacher gives each small group one part of the quote:

  • Quien no viaja [someone who doesn’t travel]
  • Quien no lee [someone who doesn’t read]
  • Quien no escucha música [someone who doesn’t listen to music]

Students work in groups to discuss the benefits of traveling, reading, and listening to music and each student records their group’s ideas on a graphic organizer.  When ready, students move to mixed groups to share their group’s ideas. They conduct a conversation with their classmates using the “Bounce” strategy in the target language.   Additional ideas generated by the group are added to the graphic organizers.

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As an extension, student groups are given the choice of:

  • Creating an infographic on the benefits of traveling, reading, listening to music, etc. using tech tools such as Piktochart
  • Creating their own version of the Neruda quote
  • Researching Pablo Neruda
  • Polling their classmates about the benefits

 

Technology tools for interpretive tasks using authentic text

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Authentic texts provide real world contexts for language learners.  They are motivating and engaging to students because they are relevant and meaningful to native speakers of the language.  This blog post explores ways to marry technology tools with the interpretation of authentic resources.

First, we must acknowledge that all language teachers and language learners do not have equal access to technology in their schools and institutions.  Some examples of technology accessiblity might include:

  • one teacher desktop computer for teacher use only
  • several desktop computers in the classroom
  • access to a laptop/tablet cart/set that can be signed out for use
  • access to a computer lab that can be reserved
  • a BYOD policy (Bring Your Own Device) where students may use their own laptops, tablets, or cellphones in school
  • one to one devices provided by school/district

Our 21st century learners view technology as a natural part of their every day lives.  Technology is a tool for collaborating, for creating and curating, for communicating, and for doing research.

When selecting technology tools to implement into classroom activities, consider the SAMR model.  The SAMR model was developed in 2010 by Ruben Puentedura to describe the four levels of technology integration.

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http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/11/13/SAMR_FirstSteps.pdf

As you can see from the SAMR framework, technology integration can transform and enhance the task at hand.  What is the purpose of the technology tool being used?  How does it enhance the student’s experience/learning?  When reflecting on integrating technology into your lesson plans, the rubric below may be helpful to you:

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Examples of technology integration with authentic resources:

Before listening, reading, viewing activities:

  • Students make predictions about the authentic text using text features
  • Students brainstorm connections with and ideas and questions about the topic of the authentic text
  • Students list what they already know about the topic of the authentic resource

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During listening, reading, and viewing activities

  • Students take notes about authentic text as they read

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  • Students record new vocabulary and definitions from the authentic text
  • Students create flashcards for new vocabulary from the authentic text

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  • Teachers check students’ understanding of the authentic text

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  • Students write text messages or tweets about the authentic text

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After listening, reading, viewing activities

  • Students record a summary of the content of the authentic resource

 

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  • Students create a poster/infographic about the text of the authentic resource

 

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  • Students retell the content of the authentic text in a story format

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  • Students create a comic strip about the content of the authentic text

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  • Students create a game about the content from the authentic text.

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  • Students respond to a prompt about the text and respond to classmates’ posts

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  • Students create an interactive presentation about the authentic text

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For more ideas for integrating technology with the interpretation of authentic resources, click the image below:

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Using authentic text as a springboard to interpersonal tasks

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What we know about brain-friendly teaching, is that the brain likes experiences that connect to one another.  As we plan lessons for our language learners, we should keep this idea in mind.  How do the tasks or activities I’ve planned for students to practice the new content connect to one another?

As we consider the use of authentic resources in our classrooms, how can those interpretive tasks naturally connect to productive language experiences in the interpersonal mode?  The authentic text, whether it be a video, an infographic, or a poem, gives students a context for their interpersonal interactions, in lieu of inventing isolated, unrelated scenarios.

The interpersonal mode of communication

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In the interpersonal mode, students spontaneously share information and ideas with others.  Learners interact and negotiate meaning with clarity and cultural sensitivity.  Students are expected to begin, carry on, and end a conversation without a written script, relying on the knowledge of the language they have acquired and using skills to communicate even when they do not understand.

Scaffolds and supports for interpersonal tasks

To support students, especially struggling and reluctant learners, providing scaffolds and supports for them to persevere through an interpersonal task may be the key to building their confidence in their own communication skills.  Some examples of scaffolds and supports might be

  • modeling the interpersonal task before students try it themselves
  • providing suggested sentence starters and frames
  • pairing struggling students with students who are more confident in productive activities
  • circulating in the room and giving positive feedback to students, especially those who typically struggle, for their efforts

Examples of interpersonal activities

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There are many activities or strategies that teachers plan to give students interpersonal communication practice and experiences.  Strategies provide a structure or framework for interpersonal interactions.  Here are a few examples:

Information Gap Activities

Inside-Outside Circles

Password

Discussion Continuum

Think-Pair-Share-Square

Three Step Interview

People Bingo/Find Someone Who

Accountable Talk

Speed Dating

Fan-N-Pick

Sample Classroom Application:

For a novice level Spanish class, the teacher selects the infographic, “Qué significa cada emoticon” (What each emoticon means) to enrich the students’ language for describing how people are feeling.  Each student is given a copy of the infographic or access to it online.

 

The teacher leads the class through highlighting the adjectives in the infographic.  He encourages students to guess the meaning of words with which they are unfamiliar using target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce their meaning.  The teacher makes connections between the highlighted descriptors and the work they have recently been doing with gender and number of adjectives.  He asks the students to draw conclusions about how the highlighted adjectives in the infographic change to describe various people.  The teacher does a guided charting activity with the students.

The teacher displays a list of simple situations in the target language on the document camera, using known vocabulary and lots of cognates. (You just won the lottery!, Your team lost the soccer match. You got a perfect score on your math test.).  Each student selects one situation and creates a web of feelings about that topic, using vocabulary from the infographic.

In small groups, students interview each other about how they would feel in each of the situations using the infographic and the web they created.  Group members may use an expressions list provided by the teacher as support for this interpersonal activity.

  • I would feel _____.
  • I agree.  I disagree.
  • Me too./Not me.
  • I don’t know.
  • How does that make you feel?
  • What do you think?
  • I think that…
  • I hate when that happens!
  • No way!
  • Of course!

 

Tiering authentic text to meet the needs of all learners

As was discussed in my last post, “Tiering tasks for authentic text to meet the needs of all learners,” one way of differentiating tasks to meet the needs of all learners when interpreting authentic text, is to tier the task.  Another approach would be to tier the text.

Here are some simple steps to tiering authentic text:

  1. Look for multiple pieces of text at varying levels of difficulty or complexity on the same topic.

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Here are three examples on the topic of Bullying in French.  Determine which text will be for the lowest, mid, and highest tiers.

tiertext1   tiertext2

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2. Decide whether you will tier the tasks as demonstrated in the previous blog post or design a generic task that will work for all three tiers like the one below:

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Example scenario for tiering authentic text:

Students have a graphic organizer and one of three infographics of varying challenge levels on the topic of the physical activity level of children in Canada during a unit on healthy lifestyles in an intermediate level French class.  Students are assigned an infographic based on their readiness level or may select an infographic.  Students record information gleaned from the text on their graphic organizers.

 

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Afterward, students are placed in mixed readiness groups of 3 or 4.  In their small groups, students conduct an interpersonal conversation with their peers about what they learned from the text using their graphic organizers.  Ideas acquired from group members are added to individual students’ notes on the graphic organizers.

The teacher may provide helpful phrases and/or sentence stems in the target language to students as a resource for their conversations.

  • According to the infographic…
  • It is interesting that…
  • I am surprised that…
  • Typically…
  • Generally…
  • In my opinion,…
  • Both
  • On the contrary
  • On the one hand/on the other hand

As a follow-up, student create a presentational writing product comparing their family’s level of physical activity with information from the infographics.  The students are given a blank Venn diagram graphic organizer to plan their writing.

If you’d like to explore more examples of tiered text, visit: https://www.grahnforlang.com/tiering-tasks-and-text.html

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For more detailed information about tiering, download the Tiering Guide below:

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Tiering tasks for authentic text to meet the needs of all learners

Aligned with the ACTFL Core Practices for World Language Learning, language educators are encouraged to “guide learners through interpreting authentic resources.” Authentic resources are created by and for the target language users, either for information or entertainment.

We have heard the phrase “Adapt the task, not the text.”  The idea behind that quote is that once we alter an authentic resource in any way, it is no longer authentic.  So, teachers are challenged to offer language learners opportunities to interpret authentic resources at the correct challenge level.  One way to accomplish that goal is through tiering.

First, think about the wide diversity of language learners in your classroom.  In any one classroom, there are students who are at varying levels of

  •  language proficiency
  • motivation and engagement
  • and comfort with the target language classroom.

They are struggling learners, reluctant learners, disengaged learners, engaged learners, enthusiastic learners, and advanced learners and their needs are diverse and varied.  Often, we assign tasks to our learners that are too difficult for some and far less challenging for others.  This can cause frustration on the part of students and impact their level of commitment and engagement in tasks.

Next, we need to anchor ourselves in the ACTFL-NCSSFL Can-Do Statements and the ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.  These descriptors give guidance on what teachers can expect their students to be able to do with text based on their proficiency level.

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Due to this wide diversity, teachers respond to their students’ needs on a continuum.  From low challenge and high support to high challenge and low support as illustrated by the graphic below.

 

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What are supports?

Providing support to students in the form of  models, examples, sentence frames, and task-specific target language expressions which are subsequently removed as students become more confident and independent with their learning.”

One way to meet the needs of the variety of language learners in the classroom, is through tiering.  Tiering creates opportunities for students to practice language skills toward a proficiency goal at varying levels of challenge and support based on teacher or student-identified readiness.

Some examples of supports include:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Fewer gaps in cloze activity
  • Word banks
  • Sentence starters
  • Sample responses
  • Graphic organizers
  • Question prompts

How do I create tiered tasks?

Step 1: Select the authentic text for your students to interpret.

Step 2: Create an “on level” task.

Step 3: Create a more scaffolded task for struggling learners.

Step 4: Create a more open-ended task for advanced learners.

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How do I decide which tier each student should be given?

  • determine the students’ readiness level based on formative data (exit tickets, classwork, performances, etc.)
  • allow students to choose their level of challenge

For more detailed information about tiering, download the Tiering Guide below:

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Example of tiered tasks for authentic text:  

In an intermediate level Spanish class, students have been focused on the question, “What is family?”  The teacher selects a video called “¿Qué es una familia?” which is produced by the Subsecretaría de Niñez, Adolescencia y Familia – Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros – Gobierno de La Provincia de Santiago del Estero, Argentina.

The teacher creates tiered tasks for the video.  She creates

  • an “on level” worksheet that provides a word bank at the bottom,
  • a version for struggling learners that provides a word bank for each question,
  • and a more open-ended version for advanced learners and heritage speakers that provides no word banks.

Students view the video and take notes on their worksheets.  After, students are placed in mixed-readiness groups and each group receives one of the questions from the worksheet written on a large piece of chart paper.  The group records their responses for the question on the chart paper.

When time is called, student groups rotate through the other questions, reading the responses written by previous groups and adding new ideas.

Once all groups have made the full rotation, the posters are displayed around the room.  Each student selects one question on which he/she would like to create an oral presentation which they will record next class.

Tier 1:

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Tier 2:

tier2

Tier 3:

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More examples of tiered tasks can be found at: https://www.grahnforlang.com/tiering-tasks-and-text.html

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How can I learn more about tiering?

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http://worldlanguagetiering.weebly.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Reading: Building students’ confidence in interpreting authentic texts

 

The thought of having novice language learners confidently interpreting authentic text is far-fetched for some.  With their limited vocabulary and facility with the language, unlocking an authentic text can feel daunting to beginning language learners.

It is magical to walk into a classroom and see students sitting in chairs and lying on the floor, fully engaged in reading books in the target language, both fiction and non-fiction, that they chose based on their interests.

How do we build students’ confidence with interpreting authentic texts?

One strategy is to provide students with regular opportunities to read independently in the target language.

What are the benefits of providing independent reading time to students?

  • It builds confidence with reading in target language
  • The texts are sources of comprehensible input and add to students’ vocabulary and understanding of structure and syntax
  • Choice is motivating and engaging
  • The experience increases fluency
  • Reading texts of choice adds to cultural knowledge
  • It allows students to read text at their challenge level

Here are some basic steps to start independent reading time in your language classroom:

  1. Provide access to students to target language books.

 

Many language teachers have a library of children’s books that they have collected over time from purveyors such as Amazon, book stores, and speciality foreign language book sellers.

In addition to buying hard copy books, many target language readers can be found online.  Click the image below to access a page on my website where you will find links to multiple sources for online books:

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On that same webpage, you will find a list of online target language magazines:

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2. Decide how independent reading will figure into your planning

Students will benefit the most from recurring opportunities to read a book of choice in the target language.  Will you provide class time every other week or on a weekly basis for students to read independently?

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Image credit: Heather Sherrow (hsherrow@hcpss.org)

One approach would be to have a designated day of the week for independent reading.  It may be the first or last fifteen minutes of a class.  Independent reading may also be an option for students who complete tasks early.

3. Hold students accountable during independent reading while keeping it low stress

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Because the purposes, among others, for independent reading time are for students to read freely in the target language and to maintain a low affective filter where students take risks during independent reading time, it is not advised that students are assessed on what they read.   The intent of independent reading time is not to check comprehension and have students complete worksheets.  Some examples of student accountability during independent reading time include: keeping reading logs, recording new words they learned through their reading in their personal dictionaries, and creating a short journal entry that summarizes what they read.

4. Ensure students, especially novices, feel confident enough to read in the target language independently

As shared in an earlier post, How do I build my students’ skills to prepare them to interpret authentic text?, I shared the poster below:

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This poster gives students a protocol to follow when they encounter a word they do not know while they are reading.  It is also important to make sure learners understand what a language learner at their current proficiency level is expected to be able to do with text.  Finally, learners need to be reassured that they do not need to understand every word they read and that they can use text features such as visuals, titles, and captions to unlock the meaning of the text.

5. Get started!

Using authentic text in guided activities

During the “guided instruction” phase of lessons, the teacher provides support and guidance through practice with new content or structures that move students toward independence with their language learning.

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During this phase of a lesson, the students try out their new learning through tasks that are intentionally created or selected by the teacher that gradually release control to the student.

Guided activities can also serve as a context for teaching students routines or processes that will aid them in “owning” their new learning.   When interpreting authentic text, the goal of guided tasks is to increase student confidence in their ability to unlock meaning in authentic texts.

Some types of tasks a teacher may select for guided activities include:

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 10.55.32 AM Here are some examples of teachers using authentic text in guided activities:

Example 1: 

The teacher provides a copy of a poem entitled “La Vie” to students in an intermediate level French class and displays a copy on the document camera.  The teacher talks students through interpreting the text in the target language using a routine called “Text Mark Up.”  The students use colored pencils, markers or highlighters. The students mark all words in the text that they know in one color.  Then in a second color, mark all words they can guess because of their similarity to another word in the target language or as an English cognate.  Finally, students use a third color to mark words/phrases they can guess through context.

 .         la vie

The teacher uses target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce the meaning of unknown words.

The teacher asks students to work in pairs to guess the main idea of the text based on their highlighting and other text features.  The teacher records pairs’ ideas as they are shared.

Example 2: 

For an intermediate level Spanish class, the teacher selects a song by Romeo Santos called “Héroe Favorito” which demonstrates imperfect subjunctive and conditional “si” (if) clauses in context.

The teacher gives the students a copy of the lyrics.  He leads the students through unlocking the meaning of the song by having students identify words they know, words that they can guess that are cognates, and words they can guess through context.  The teacher uses target language examples, circumlocution, and visuals, etc. to reinforce the meaning of unknown words.

The teacher then shows the music video for the song.

The teacher gives students a graphic organizer that lists all of the superheroes mentioned in the song.  The teacher models the first row with the class and writes the ideas on a copy of the organizer which is projected by the document camera.  The students then work in pairs to complete the organizer about each superhero based on the lyrics.  When time is called, each pair meets with another pair to share their ideas captured on their graphic organizers.

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On the reverse side of the first organizer is one called “Somebody Wanted But So.”  The teacher chose to use this organizer as a guided activity because this is the first time students have seen this tool.  The teacher uses questioning strategies to deepen students’ comprehension of the song lyrics by collaboratively coming up with ideas for the prompts in each row.  The teacher models the process doing a “think aloud” by projecting the graphic organizer on the document camera and recording student ideas as they are offered.

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Using the ideas gleaned on the organizer, students write a summary sentence about the song.

As a follow up activity, students create their own superhero using the prompt, “If I were a superhero, I would…” by telling what they would be called, what powers they would have, etc.