Using authentic text with young language learners

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Using authentic text with young language learners can present multiple challenges.  Students in Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten and the primary grades are often not yet literate in their first language.  As a result, using authentic resources that are heavy in written text are not appropriate to use with most young learners.

Picture books

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Early language learners can benefit from being read to by the teacher.  Picture books provide visuals that support the students’ understanding.  Through picture books, teachers can model ways to derive meaning from text using reading strategies such as guessing meaning using pictures and guessing words that look or sound like their English equivalent.  In addition, young language learners can interact with websites and apps that offer picture books that, in some cases, can be read to students.  Some examples include:

Epic books (Spanish and Chinese)

Children’s Books Forever (multiple languages)

Songs, Rhymes, Finger Plays and Poems

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Because songs, rhymes, and poems often have repetition and rhyming words, they are very user-friendly for young language learners.  Adding gestures to songs, rhymes, and poems will assist students in comprehension of the text.

One source for target language songs and rhymes for multiple languages is called Mama Lisa’s World:

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https://www.mamalisa.com/

On YouTube, you can find children’s songs in the target language (but can be difficult to verify as authentic) which contain a video component, like the following example:

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2xjgvWb9cx5F637XjsUNxw

Cartoons 

At the very heart of the raison d’être of cartoons is to engage young children.  Cartoons in any language appeal to young language learners.  There are many target language cartoons available online through YouTube and can be aligned to thematic units such as family, celebrations, travel, and making friends.

Click the image below to visit my webpage where I have linked several cartoon series in various languages.

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Visuals for Speaking and Writing

Although not all visuals can be verified as “authentic text,” there are visuals available that have target language contexts.  The Pinterest board linked below offers a selection of visuals that can be used for practicing the interpretive mode, leading to both speaking and writing prompts.

Infographics

The best infographics to use with young language learners are those that are highly visual balanced with minimal written text.  Here is a link to my Pinterest board called “Authentic Text for Young Language Learners.

Fine Art

Interpreting pieces of art can be the basis for speaking and writing prompts for young language learners.  Not only are visuals a type of text, but by being fine art, a cultural context is added.  When students describe a painting, they can talk about the colors, the items in the picture, their location in relationship to one another (prepositions of location), the time of day, weather, describing the people in the painting, etc.

A great example is VanGogh’s Bedroom at Arles:

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Students can describe the colors they see, the items in the room, and their position in the room.

The student learning can be extended by then learning about the artist.

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To add to your resource toolbox, there are coloring pages online (free download) for famous artwork:

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For more examples of artwork relating to the bedroom (house) click the image below:

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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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