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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