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.

 

 

Using Twitter posts as authentic text

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https://www.bftv-docs.com/2016—igeneration.html

Our students from the iGeneration see social media as a way to access interesting content and as a form of entertainment.   And, it is easy to access social media posts from individuals from target language countries.  As you can imagine, our students would find posts from real people in real life contexts very engaging.

Tweets for Content:  Searching Twitter using your content theme can generate lots of publicly available tweets on a topic of interest to your students that will demonstrate vocabulary in context.  For example, the tweets below were generated by putting “mis pasatiempos” (my pastimes) into the search bar on Twitter (curated by the teacher):

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Here’s a series of tweets that were collected on the topic of vacations (in Spanish):

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For tweets about current events, you may want to follow news and information Twitter accounts:

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Tweets for grammar in context:  Social media posts can also serve as examples of language structures in context.  Imagine that during a previous class, while interpreting a text, a question came up about a particular language structure in the text.  As you plan the lesson for the next class, you decide to gather some posts from Twitter that demonstrate that language structure in context.  You type in key words into the search bar in Twitter and glean through the results for examples that best fit your purpose.

Some examples of phrases that might be typed into the search bar to generate tweets in context:

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Here are some examples of tweets generated in French when “si j’étais riche…” (If I was rich…) was inputted into the search bar that show sentences with the imperfect and conditional tenses in context:

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Here are some tweets that came up when I typed in “dudo que” (I doubt that…) to find tweets in context using the subjunctive:

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This set of tweets for Spanish came from searching for the phrase “Cuando era niño, creía que…” (When I was a child, I thought that…) which provided lots of examples of the imperfect tense in context.

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For those Spanish teachers who follow Zachary Jones, you know that he creates activities using tweets called “Twiccionario.”  You can check them out on his website: Zambombazo.

And, as with all authentic resources:

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Happy searching!

Gathering authentic resources for a thematic unit

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We know that the ACTFL Core Practices encourage us to use authentic resources as much as possible in our teaching.

ACTFL Core Practices

We also know that for each thematic unit we teach, we would ideally like to have a toolbox full of authentic resources for each that consists of a variety of texts and media that will

  • be appealing to our learners
  • expose them to a variety of text types
  • work for guided and independent activities and assessments, and other aspects of our lessons.

How do we find and curate all of the authentic resources we’d like to use in our lessons for a thematic unit?

When you are gathering authentic resources for any thematic unit, there are several things to keep in mind.  In my blog post from September 16, 2017, “How do I select authentic resources for my language classroom?” I offered a tool for guiding your selection of authentic resources (which can be downloaded by clicking on the image below):

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Let’s begin by considering the variety of authentic resources that may exist around a particular theme.

Pinterest is a good place to start.  On Pinterest, you will find many language colleagues have built boards around themes.  As I shared in my post, “How do I find authentic resources for my language classroom?” (posted on 9/8/17 ), there are “Pinners” you can follow on Pinterest whose boards are arranged around themes you teach.  Some of my recommendations include:

Novice Level Spanish: Señora Sherrow

Novice Level Spanish: Señorita N. Rodriguez

Advanced Level Spanish: Sharon Birch

French resources: Meg Chance

French resources: Julee LaPorte

AATF Pinterest boards by theme

German Teacher Favorites

I have created over 100 Pinterest boards on a variety of topics for multiple languages.  I have attempted to curate all of the authentic resources so that they are appropriate to use with students, but the rule of thumb about using any new resource with your students is:

Preview!  Preview!  Preview!

Please feel free to peruse the boards that align to your units.  Click on the image below to go to my webpage where each of the themes is clickable:

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What if you want to collect your own set of authentic resources for a particular theme?

Let’s use the example of a thematic unit about school and the subtopic is school lunches.  Some examples of authentic resources gathered on that subtopic might be:

Poster (French):      c51ce176b6521cbf82d760c99f7d3289

Meme (Spanish):  xq99fo6.jpg.pagespeed.ic.imagenes-memes-fotos-frases-graciosas-chistosas-divertidas-risa-chida-español-whatsapp-facebook

Weekly menu (Italian):     ee29e1d92b54ddc0b2203efe419f2c54

Infographic (German):           5ddb504e23a814e79cbd10e80001d3c7 .

Infographic (Portuguese) .     0cac5c1580da7715280c6f6dcc4750cd

Brochure (Spanish):           23ea3893a183947389776c89c1ced137

Video (German):   efd37e407d5b192c6cb238ed520ecbc0

Cartoon (Italian):     tumblr_mlp2scTp901rd5karo1_1280

Animated cartoon (French):   Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 9.38.47 PM

Photo (lunches from around the world)   1a33e879824638685f102dc2b17ce99f

Commercial (French):     Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 6.24.02 PM

For more authentic resources on the topic of school lunches for multiple languages, visit my Pinterest board:

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Once you have gathered lots of examples of authentic text for a particular theme or unit, consider how you will implement each of them.  Think of the list of questions below as categories under which you can sort the authentic resources you have gathered:

  1. Which authentic resources will you use as lesson hooks that are high interest to your students?
  2. Which authentic resources will support vocabulary input or reinforcement?
  3. Which authentic resources provide a context for teaching grammar in context?
  4. Which authentic resources will you group together of varying difficulty levels to provide challenge for all learners in the form of tiered text or tiered tasks?
  5. Which authentic resources will students use as a basis for interpersonal tasks? for presentational tasks?
  6. Which authentic resources will allow students to practice their listening and viewing skills?
  7. For which authentic resources will you create a graphic organizer to assist students in capturing what they learn from the text?
  8. Which authentic resources will be the context for performance tasks?
  9. Which authentic resources will be the basis of learning centers that allow students to work independently across the modes of communication?
  10. Which authentic resources will be the context for guided discussions?

Some of the types of activities might include:

Presentational:

  1. Comparing and contrasting school lunches in the US vs. a target language country.
  2. Creating a presentational speaking or writing product about an ideal school lunch menu
  3. Designing a new weekly menu for the school cafeteria
  4. Using authentic resources as a basis of a discussion or cultural comparison (scaffolded with expressions lists, etc. for struggling learners)

Interpersonal:

  1. Expressing opinions about school lunches in their own school (write a letter to the principal or district superintendent, etc.)
  2. Using authentic school menus as a context for an information gap activity

Interpretive skill building:

  1. Highlighting grammar points and language patterns in the text
  2. Demonstrating strategies for interpretation of authentic text through a guided activity and think aloud

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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