Adding depth and interest to novice level units through authentic resources

IMG_2701(photo credit: Heather Sherrow)

Many language educators of novice level courses struggle with student engagement.  The students are acquiring very basic vocabulary and sentence structure which limits what they can express in the second language.  The imbalance between what novices can communicate and what they want to express can be very frustrating and disengaging for beginning language learners, especially at the secondary and college levels.

What if extending and deepening typical novice themes to those in which students are interested and about which they care increases engagement?

Understanding the iGeneration

GenZ

The students in our classrooms, right now, are members of what is called the “iGeneration.”  They were born from 1996 to the present.

They are independent and competitive.  They are digital natives.  They have an 8 second attention span and they suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  They will have 17 jobs in their lifetime and 15 homes.  They spend an average of 10 hours per day using technology.  They would rather watch or listen to streaming media on demand than traditional TV.   They rarely use email because it is too slow and want to engage with relatable but not overly famous influencers.  They value uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, shareability and recognition.

60% of i-Geners want to change the world.  They feel empowered, connected, and empathetic.  They are self-starters and they want to stand out and make a difference in the world.  They are self-aware and self-reliant.  iGeners would take a 10-20% pay cut to work for a company with a mission about which they care deeply.

Students from the iGeneration are also called Generation Z, Founders, Builders, Globals, Makers, Curators, and Developers.  Notice how many of the labels are action words.  Our students want to be involved in their learning, solve problems, and make a social impact.

Note: To find out more about the iGeneration, go to: https://www.grahnforlang.com/knowing-the-learner.html

Tapping into what engages the iGeneration

How might we tap into what our i-Geners seek by making our content themes more action-oriented and socially-conscious through authentic resources?

Typical novice level content themes in a beginning language course might include topics such as:

  • personal descriptions
  • family
  • food
  • school
  • house
  • clothing
  • weather
  • travel
  • my community

Let’s explore some possibilities of how we can increase language learners’ engagement in typical novice themes.  Many of the authentic resources in these extended themes include vocabulary and language chunks that will reinforce and stretch student language.  Keep in mind that the topics should be age-appropriate for the students.

For each idea below, click on the image to go to the Pinterest page containing authentic resources for multiple languages on that topic.

Novice unit: Personal Descriptions

Theme extension: Identity and Diversity

Note: The photo at the beginning of this blog post is of posters made by middle school level one Spanish students after exploring identity and diversity during the personal descriptions unit.

Novice unit: Family

Theme extension: Types of Families, Adoption, Caring for Elderly Relatives

Novice unit: Food

Theme extension: Food Waste

Novice unit: Food

Theme extension: Hunger

Novice unit: Food

Theme extension: Meatless Mondays

Novice unit: Food

Theme extension: Veganism and Vegetarianism

Novice unit: School

Theme extension: Bullying

Novice unit: House

Theme extension: Homelessness

Novice Unit: Clothing

Theme extension: Buying Vintage/Second-Hand Clothing

Novice unit: Weather

Theme extension: Climate Change/Global Warming

Novice unit: Travel/Vacations

Theme extension: Ecotourism

Novice Unit: My Community

Theme extension: Earth Day

Novice Unit: My Community

Theme extension: Recycling

Other socially-conscious topics of interest to i-Geners include:

Volunteering and Giving

Children’s Rights

Women’s Rights

Immigration

Human Rights

Sources:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/403072235386815013/

https://visual.ly/community/infographic/other/generation-z

https://ahappymarketer.wordpress.com/

https://www.roberthalf.com/sites/default/files/documents/rh_0715_grph_1330x3433_genzinfographic_can_eng_sec.pdf

Deepening Students’ Comprehension of Authentic Resources: Thinking Routines

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This is my third post on strategies for deepening students’ comprehension of authentic resources.  The previous posts were:

Deepening Students’ Comprehension of Authentic Resources: Supports and Scaffolds and Deepening Students’ Comprehension of Authentic Resources: Visual Strategies.

For this post, we will focus on how to use thinking routines as processes through which students demonstrate deeper comprehension of text.

What are thinking routines?

In the book, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, authors Church, Morrison, and Ritchhart report on research done at Harvard by a group called Project Zero.

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The authors describe “thinking routines” as:

  • ways to make student thinking visible
  • patterns by which we operate and go about the job of learning and working together in the classroom
  • any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly
  • being designed to promote students’ thinking
  • being goal-oriented, and targeting specific types of thinking
  • getting used over and over again in the classroom
  • consisting of only a few steps
  • easy to learn and teach
  • used in a variety of contexts
  • used by groups or individuals

http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03a_ThinkingRoutines.html

Here’s a great infographic that speaks to the idea of how to implement a culture of thinking in your classroom:

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The thinking routines are divided into categories based on their function:

  • Core Routines
  • Understanding Routines
  • Fairness Routines
  • Truth Routines
  • Creativity Routines

The Core Routines include:

  • What Makes You Say That?
  • Think Puzzle Explore
  • Think Pair Share
  • Circle of Viewpoints
  • I Used to Think…Now I Think
  • See Think Wonder
  • Compass Points

To read more about all of the thinking routines, click on this link.

How to embed thinking routines into your lesson plans

Here’s an example of how a thinking routine can be incorporated into your classroom.

  1. Students interpret several infographics in the target language on the topic of school lunches.  Students take notes about the information they gain from the infographic on an organizer.

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After, they meet in pairs or small groups comprised of students who interpreted different infographics to discuss and share what they gleaned from their infographic using their organizers.  Students add ideas to their organizers they gained from classmates.

As an extension and to deepen student comprehension, the teacher regroups the students to have a discussion about what they learned from the infographics.  They use the thinking routine called “I see…, I think…, I wonder” as a guide for their discussion.  The teacher provides the students with an expressions list to use while they share in small groups (agreement, disagreement, I think that…, I wonder why…., better, best, etc.).  Students talk about opinions they have and questions they have about the topic of school lunches.

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There are many resources online that have versions of the thinking routines in other languages.  Here are some links for Spanish:

Visual Thinking- Rutinas de Pensamiento

Rutinas de Pensamiento

Rutinas de Pensamiento (weebly)

¿Que son las rutinas de pensamiento? (infographic)

Rutinas de Pensamiento (PDF)

Rutinas de Pensamiento (strategy cards)

 

To explore more about thinking routines, visit my website: https://www.grahnforlang.com/thinking-strategies.html

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or my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/grahnforlang/thinking-strategies/

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To read more about Project Zero, go to:  http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/visible-thinking

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Deepening Students’ Comprehension of Authentic Resources: Supports and Scaffolds

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This is my second post on the topic of deepening students’ comprehension of authentic resources.  The previous post focused on visual strategies.  This post will highlight supports and scaffolds that assist students in comprehending authentic text.

Graphic organizers

Interpreting authentic text can feel very daunting, especially to our reluctant and struggling language learners.  Having scaffolds and supports to help students focus and organize their thinking can make a big difference in student confidence in and perseverance through tasks.

A graphic organizer that is labeled with specific categories gives students “buckets” for the ideas they glean from the text.  Am I looking for opinions, reasons, and examples the author is giving?  Am I interpreting a description of a person and categorizing my notes into physical and personality traits?  A well-labeled graphic organizer can be just the support some learners need in lieu of being a given a blank sheet of paper on which to collect “notes.”

For example, in a French class while reading a children’s storybook in the target language, the teacher gives students a graphic organizer set up as a story map.  The story map helps students know what they are reading/listening for in the text.

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Here’s an example of a story map organizer for Spanish:

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Here’s an example of a graphic organizer in Spanish from Really Good Stuff where students write the main idea and details from an authentic text.  Click on the image below to access a PDF of multiple graphic organizers in Spanish.

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For similar tools, visit this Pinterest page:

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Anchor Charts

Another example of a scaffold or support is anchor charts.  Anchor charts give students a framework to think about a text and its structure.  They are visual and often are created by the teacher in real time with the students where student input is added to the chart.

Here’s an example of an anchor chart about how to make connections with a text-

  • text to self
  • text to text
  • text to the world

It gives students sample sentence frames they can use to make those connections with the text.  The anchor chart remains visible in the classroom as a support to which students may refer to in the future.

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Here’s an example of an anchor chart in French reminding readers about the types of details for which they are reading or listening while interpreting an authentic text.

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Below is an anchor chart in Chinese that gives students guidance on how to express their opinion about a text they have read/listened to called “OREO Opinion Writing.”  This is an example of a structure that students likely have learned in their English/Language Arts class and is easily tranferable to the language classroom.

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For more examples of anchor charts, here’s a link to my Pinterest board:

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Productive group work

A very powerful way to support language learners in deepening their comprehension of authentic text is to provide them with opportunities to work in pairs or in a small group. Having a partner or group members to check and verify their thinking can be a great way to build language learners’ confidence level in their ability to interpret authentic text.

Some of the advantages of productive group work from the Center for Innovation and Research in Teaching (CIRT) include:

  1. Students able to take ownership of the subject matter.
  2. Students develop communication and teamwork skills.
  3. Content is reinforced as students work together and “teach” each other.
  4. Content may be broken down into parts.  This allows students to tackle larger and more complex problems and assignments than they would be able to do individually.
  5. Students can work together to pool their expertise, knowledge and skills.

Collaboratively tackling a challenging task that involves interpreting authentic text is a bridge to language learner independence in the interpretive mode.

Some of the best routines or processes to use during productive group work time is cooperative learning structures like Jigsaw, Numbered Heads Together, and Round Table.  Visual directions on how the various cooperative learning strategies work can be found online to ensure that the teaching of the routine can be done in the target language.  Here’s an example of visual directions for the Kagan structure called “Rally Coach”:

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For more ideas for productive group work, go to the Flexible Grouping page on my website:

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or visit my Pinterest board on the same topic:

 

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“Scaffold” by erix! is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Deepening Students’ Comprehension of Authentic Resources: Visual Strategies

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As we guide learners to interpret authentic text, what strategies might help deepen their comprehension of the text they read, listen to, or view?

This will be the first of three posts on this topic.  This post will address visual strategies that assist students in comprehending authentic text.

Background Information on Visual Strategies

According to Robert Marzano (2001), learners use dual coding to store information in their brains: a linguistic form and an imagery form.  That means that when you learn a word like “hamburger,” you not only have a memory of how it is spelled in your mind, but also an image.

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Imagery involves:

Imaging:  the visualization in the mind’s eye of something that person has actually experienced

Imagining:  visualization in the mind of something the person has not yet experienced

David Sousa (2001) describes visualization as:

  • When the brain creates images, the same parts of the visual cortex are activated as when you process what you see with your eyes.
  • Imagery can be used in the classroom in the form of notetaking, cooperative learning groups, and alternative assessments.

9 Reasons for Using Visuals

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As illustrated by the infographic above, there are many reasons for using visuals in teaching and learning.  Perhaps, some of the most powerful reasons have to do with the impact they have on students by reducing anxiety and building independence.

Benefits of Using Visuals in Teaching and LearningVisuals_Brain_cut
Benefits of using visuals include:

  • Enhancing long-term memories
  • Faster message transmission
  • Improving comprehension
  • Better critical thinking
  • Better creative thinking
  • Increasing students’ attention, motivation, and curiosity

 

Empowering the Brain in Learning Using Visuals

 

  1. Using visuals for comprehensible input

Visuals are a type of authentic text whether or not they contain printed words.  They are learner-friendly and open up multiple opportunities for student writing and speaking products.  Visuals, particularly those that contain much more than a single item, provide more of a context and a basis for communication such as the one below:

Martin Melogno

https://melogno.com/category/laminas/

Using an image as a follow up to reading a text:

Example: After having read an article in the target language about recycling efforts in a town, the teacher follows up by showing an image in a tweet that contains visual representations of many of the ideas from the article.  The students use the visual, along with their notes, to support their understanding of the text during an interpersonal exchange with a classmate.

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for a collection of images, click below to visit this Pinterest page:

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To read a post about how to use visuals like infographics to teach new vocabulary in context, click here.

2. Using word clouds, word splashes, and word pictures to reinforce meaning and isolate key words and phrases.

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Making vocabulary words visual is a very brain-friendly strategy.  By adding a visual element to a word or phase, it causes an emotional connection and is more engaging.  As students create word clouds, word splashes or word pictures, they make physical and mental connections between the visuals and the words.

By inputting a section of text into a word cloud generator, the words that appear most in the text appear larger and by eliminating all of the non-meaning bearing words (the, a, and, etc.), often the big ideas and supporting details become emphasized.

Students can also create word clouds to demonstrate their comprehension of a text by inputting all of the key words and phrases into the generator.  After, students might review each other’s word clouds to compare the key words each student selected.

Popular word cloud generators include:

https://worditout.com/

http://www.wordle.net

http://www.tagxedo.com/

3. Creating visuals through visual notetaking and sketchnoting to capture ideas from a text

Visual notetaking and Sketchnoting are strategies whereby students draw symbols and pictures to indicate their understanding of a text.  The result is a visual version of the text that was read, listened to, or viewed.

For example, a teacher plays audio text and students draw what they hear in any type of non-linguistic representations. This could be shapes or stick figures, etc.  Using their drawings only, students must retell the main events of the audio text.

What is sketchnoting?  According to Mike Rhode, author of The Sketchnote Handbook:

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The sketchnote below might represent notes a student took while listening to a video clip of a student talking about what he/she wants to do during Spring vacation:

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http://www.sketchnote-factory.fr/

4. 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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You can find lots of graphic organizers on this Pinterest page:

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Foldables

Foldables or 3-D graphic organizers are a hands-on way for students to visualize and organize information.  By folding, cutting, labeling, and drawing pictures, students create a product that represents their learning from a particular text.

Here’s an example of a foldable for a unit on houses and homes in Spanish:

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Fore more on foldables, click the image below to go to my Pinterest page on Interactive Notebooks and Foldables:

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Another way to think about grammar in context

This is my fifth post on thinking about grammar in context using authentic resources.  Why?  Because it is a topic that teachers and leaders are at this very moment trying to digest and actualize from the core practices.

ACTFL Core Practices

As stated in the Core Practices, grammar should be approached as a concept and in context.  That means that we are having students focus on function over form.  This shift in instructional approach is aimed at increasing student proficiency in the language, to be able to communicate meaningfully with others.

There is no question that grammar is a necessity in communication.  As learners advance along the proficiency continuum, the understanding and use of grammar become a differentiating factor.  It’s how we are having students learn about language grammar that is changing.

What if we thought about grammar as an outgrowth of an exploration of a topic of interest?  And, that the grammar becomes a secondary point of reference after the meaning being communicated in the text.

Let’s consider the variety of ways we might have students discover grammar in communicative contexts through authentic text:

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InCidental:  

  • Grammar in context does not impede meaning.
  • Structures can be treated as vocabulary without in-depth analysis.

ReCycled:

  • Text is chosen for content/theme alignment.
  • Text contains grammar in context with which students are familiar.
  • Teacher makes connections to prior learning.
  • Students notice familiar patterns in the text.

FoCused:

  • Text is selected to draw attention to particular grammar points in context.
  • Teacher may employ a protocol for grammar discovery.

ReinforCing

  • Teacher selects follow-up texts that provides additional context for a grammar point.
  • Students can explain the patterns they notice and test their hypotheses to find additional examples.

EnriChing:

  • Students can transfer and apply understanding of grammar to new texts.
  • Text may contain examples of multiple grammar points in context. Students can identify grammatical clues that support meaning.

 

It is also worth pointing out that having students see grammar as part of communicating messages in another language is a key part of building language fluency.  Instead of using isolated, meaningless practice sentences, there are protocols through which students can use inductive thinking to gain an understanding of syntax and grammar.

Those protocols include:

  • The PACE Model
  •  Concept Attainment
  • The Inductive Approach
  • The Discovery Technique
  • Unlocking Language Patterns

All of the protocols above and more can be found on my webpage called “Grammar in Context.”

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If you’d like to visit the previous posts, here are the links below:

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources (4/13/18)

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources: Part 2 (7/27/18)

Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources: Part 3 (11/2/18)

Using Memes to Show Grammar in Context (1/28/19)

Basing learning centers on authentic text: Part 3

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Learning centers or stations are a great way for students to work independently with the language in the various modes.  Students can gain confidence through working with the station tasks, especially when basing them on authentic text.  This post is the third on the topic of embedding authentic resources into learning center tasks.

Many teachers feel as if preparing learning centers is far too much work and in some ways, it is.  One way to look at putting together learning centers is to think about activities that would have been teacher-led and how those activities or tasks can be adapted so that students can work independently with the material without teacher intervention.

Take a look at the authentic resources you have curated on a particular topic or theme and match them to the various skills areas: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  To encourage student engagement in the center activities:

  • allow for choices by offering multiple resources at any one station
  • allow for varying challenge levels by providing authentic resources at different levels of difficulty.

Centers activities can be “generic” in the sense that the same type of task might be done at that particular skill station.  For example, at the speaking or writing center, students often have a photograph, painting, or other authentic visual on which they will base their speaking or writing product.

The previous posts were:

For this post, I am sharing additional ideas for basing learning centers on authentic resources hoping to inspire you to plan learning centers of your own.

Topic: Vacations

Reading and Speaking Center 

Students are asked to categorize the tweets about vacations.  They may create your own categories.

Instructions

Tweets

Talk about whether the opinions expressed in the tweets match your preferences.    You may use the speaking mat for help.

Speaking mat

Reading and Writing Center

Instructions

Graphic organizer

Infographics

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202169470756550944/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202169470756547578/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202169470755989426/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202169470755989280/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202169470759128126/

Listening Center 

Instructions

Activity sheet

Links to audio files

https://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article4547&lang=fr 

https://www.audio-lingua.eu/spip.php?article5716&lang=fr 

 

For more information on learning centers, visit my website:

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Or, visit this very useful Weebly site: http://worldlanguagecenters.weebly.com/

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Fine art as authentic text

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In the interpretive mode, the word “text” carries the same definition as the Language Arts Common Core: anything that is read, listened to, or viewed.  Not only does that definition include videos, audio clips. memes, infographics, poems, articles, and short stories, but it also includes visuals.

Visual Literacy

Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.  In an article on Edutopia, Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies, the author, Todd Finley, discusses ways to increase students’ visual literacy skills such as:

  • Think Alouds
  • Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
  • Five Card Flickr
  • Image Analysis

For more information on Visual Literacy or Visual Thinking Strategies, here are some links:

 

“Reading” Pictures

In my blog post entitled “Teaching Listening and Viewing Skills Using Authentic Resources,” I shared some simple ideas for having students interpret visuals:

Some strategies students can use when “reading a picture” are:

  • describe what they see (what is going on, who is doing what)
  • make connections with the visual
  • describe how the picture makes them feel
  • express an opinion

In that same blog post, I shared a tool called a “picture description frame” which gives students the language they need to describe a picture:

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Examples of the picture frame for multiple languages can be found at:

https://www.grahnforlang.com/scaffolds-and-supports.html

Focus on Fine Art

We have heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  How can we leverage the power of authentic visuals such as fine art to give students a context for interpersonal exchanges and presentational products and performances?

Fine art, in particular, offers some unique benefits in that it usually has a cultural context.  So, the discussion of the artwork extends beyond what is seen in the piece to the connections the artwork has to the historical time period and to the cultural products, practices and perspectives.

The painting below, La Tamalada, by Carmen Lomas Garza shows a family working together to make tamales:

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In addition, consider the possibility that viewing fine art can also be a practice in language structures.  “The Boating Party” by Renoir (which is the artwork at the beginning of this post) can be used to talk about who is looking at whom, a great practice in using object pronouns.  “The Artist’s Bedroom at Arles” by Van Gogh is a great piece for practicing prepositions of place.

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Scaffolds and Supports for “Reading” Fine Art

There are expressions lists that exist to serve as scaffolds and supports for students when describing a picture or piece of art:

Spanish:

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French:

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And here’s a PDF from the Instituto Cervantes that offers a more in depth look at describing artwork in the target language.  Scroll to the appendices to see expressions lists they provide:

https://cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/publicaciones_centros/PDF/napoles_2013/05_diez-fumado.pdf

 

Using memes to show grammar in context

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Memes are funny, have limited text, and often involve cats or dogs.  First, it must be pointed out that there is virtually no way to prove that a meme is an authentic text.  Anyone can take a picture and overlay words.   With that said, students find memes humorous and attention-grabbing.

In the language classroom, memes can be used as lesson hooks or serve as the basis for an interpersonal exchange or a free write.  They can also be great examples of grammar in context.

For the example at the top of this blog post, several memes were collected that demonstrate adjectives in French.  They could be presented in a Powerpoint format or as a collage like above.

Below, is a grouping of memes all showing the present progressive tense in Spanish:

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And here’s a collection of memes that all have definite articles in German:

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In my blog post on April 13, 2018, “Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources,” multiple routines or protocols were discussed that can be used to have students discover language structure and grammar rules from context, which includes the PACE model.

And in a more recent post, “Teaching Grammar in Context Using Authentic Resources: Part 3,” I shared a protocol I recently developed to assist students in unlocking language patterns.  Here’s the link to the poster (click on the image below):

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And the link to the student worksheet.

To find the memes in the examples in this post and many more, click on the icons below for the appropriate language:

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To find more memes in the target language, you may want to follow a pinner on Pinterest who has created boards organized by grammar themes.  Here is an example from one of my teachers for Spanish:

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Students interpreting authentic text using the Daily 5 Framework

What is Daily 5?

*Daily 5 is a framework developed by Gail Bushy and Joan Moser for structuring literacy time so students develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently.

*Daily 5 allows for differentiation of instruction and engages students in learning.

*Daily 5 is a literacy instruction and classroom management system.

*The structure teaches students five independent literacy tasks.

Why use Daily 5 in the world language classroom?

  • The reading, writing, speaking and listening skills practiced through Daily 5 provide comprehensible input and practice to students and increases language proficiency.
  • Students interact with authentic text on topics of interest to them and at the appropriate level of challenge to add to their vocabulary banks and to increase their reading and speaking fluency in the target language.

What are the 5 strategies?

  • Read to Self    Picture1
    • Students develop reading skills in the target language by using strategies such as looking for cognates, using illustrations, and through context.
    • Reading to self adds to students’ vocabulary base and deepens understanding of syntax and sentence structure.
  • Work on Writing  Picture2
    • Through tiered assignments, students of all skill levels develop writing proficiency.  Students practice writing skills in the target language progressing from words to phrases and then to sentences and paragraphs.
  • Read to Someone  Picture3
    • Students practice speaking and listening skills by reading to classmates in the target language.  They practice pronunciation and work together to understand the text while increasing their fluency and literacy.
  • Listen to Reading    Picture4
    • Students practice listening comprehension skills in the target language and hear examples of a variety of speakers in the language.
    • Students follow along to increase vocabulary recognition, pronunciation and work together to understand the text while increasing their fluency and literacy.
  • Word work    Picture5
    • Students practice writing target language vocabulary words using a variety of instructional tools such as magnetic letters, Bananagrams, stamps, and dry erase boards.

 

If you are interested in exploring resources for the Daily 5 framework, including some for French and Spanish, visit my Pinterest page:

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or, this page on my website:

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Increasing student comfort with authentic text through choice

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Trying to interpret a text in a language other than your first language can be intimidating.  And, in this day and age, students’ first impulse is to use Google Translate.  How can we lower students’ anxiety around interpreting authentic text?

In a previous post, I’ve discussed ways to build reading skills in the target language, implementing scaffolds and supports to support learners through interpreting authentic text.

Showing students how reading in another language has many similarities to reading in their first language and giving them the support to persevere through interpreting an authentic text can build confidence and lower anxiety.

Another approach might be to offer students choices.  Providing choices:

  • is motivating for students
  • draws on student strengths, abilities, and interests
  • gives students a sense of control, purpose, and competence

What types of choices might we offer students?

  • choice in the text they interpret
  • choice in the tools and strategies they use to gather information
  • choice in the way they complete tasks
  • choice in the planning and design of products

Let’s explore some strategies that lead to increased student comfort with authentic texts through choice.

  1. Allow students to select authentic text for independent reading time.

 

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In my blog post from May 11, 2018 called “Independent Reading: Building students’ confidence in interpreting authentic texts,”  I shared the benefits of providing time for students to read a text of choice independently in the target language (listed below):

  • 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

Allowing students to read a book of choice (either in hard copy form or online) in the target language lowers students’ stress and anxiety about reading in the second language where the goal is reading for pleasure, without being given worksheets or comprehension questions.

2. Implement before, during, and after reading choice boards

When students are required to demonstrate understanding of a text, using choice boards allows students to select the best way for them to reflect on what they learned from the text.  For each phase (before, during, or after reading), the student selects one task from the board to complete.  Click on the examples below to download a copy.

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3. Allow students to select an authentic text from a group of curated resources.

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Imagine that during a unit on the environment, intermediate level students are exploring the challenges of food waste.  Giving students a link to a Pinterest page like the one pictured above allows them to select from a collection of authentic resources that have already been curated on the topic.  For example, students may be asked to collect as many statistics as they can on the topic and then use that information to participate in a discussion or debate in the target language.  The teacher might provide a generic, flexible graphic organizer for students to capture their notes while interacting with the various authentic resources.

4. Encourage students to enrich and extend their learning by diving more deeply into a topic of their choice through authentic resources

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During a unit on personal technology, intermediate level students may be given several ideas for extending their learning on the topic based on their interests.  Some examples might include:

  •   exploring the idea of internet safety and digital citizenship
  •  researching the impact personal technology has on users’ health
  •  examining the topic of privacy and social media

These experiences may lead to presentational products or performances such as a short public service announcement, an infographic for young children, or a lesson created for English Language Learners on the topic.

5. Give access to students to authentic text at a variety of challenge levels

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In order for students to interpret authentic text that is neither too easy nor too hard for them, students can be taught strategies for selecting a text that is the best fit.  One way students can judge the difficulty level of a text is to count how many words in the first paragraph or section are unknown to them.  If there is only one unknown word, the students should select a more challenging text.  If the student counts 5 or more unknown words, the text is likely to be too difficult.  The “just right” authentic text contains 2-4 unknown words in the first segment.

In my blog post from May 25 2018, entitled “Tiering authentic text to meet the needs of all learners,” I shared strategies for selecting more than one text on a topic that have a variety of challenge levels.  When allowed to choose their challenge level, students become self-reflective about their confidence with the content and are able to select a text that is the best fit for them.

In a novice level Chinese class during a unit on healthy eating, for example, the teacher may give the following authentic text to the students from which they may select (click on each image below to access the source):

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Even the most reluctant learner can judge which infographic to interpret based on the number of visuals and the amount of text.  The generic graphic organizer for the task is a blank plate.  Being able to select the authentic resource which they will interpret can be motivating and engaging to students.

Consider how offering choices in authentic text might increase your students’ confidence level in the interpretive mode.