4 types of authentic resources and how to use them effectively

By Cristin Bleess
@cristinbleess
Instructional Strategist

In Part 1 of our series on authentic resources we talked about the basics of authentic resources. Today we are going to take a deeper dive and look at how your students can interact with these great resources to learn vocabulary and grammar in context.

Authentic resources are an excellent way to provide the needed input for learners to begin to acquire new vocabulary or language structures. By showing examples of how the language is actually used, students are not learning the information in isolation, but rather with meaning attached to it, embedded in context and culture. As they interact with the resource, they are seeing how and why it is used in different instances.

In classrooms using a proficiency-driven instructional method, the teacher moves from being the provider of all new knowledge to the co-constructor of that knowledge. Instead of front-loading our learners with all the words or rules they could possibly ever need, I am proposing using authentic resources to show them how the language is used by native-speakers and letting students organize that new knowledge in a way that is meaningful for them.

Let’s look at some examples:

Language: English
Language Structure: Past Progressive
How to use: Students read for general meaning. Ask why these comics are funny and what the drivers were doing in each comic. Pose guiding questions: Were the actions in the past or the present? How do you know? Did these people do two actions, one after the other or were they doing two actions at the same time? What verbs tell you that? How are they formed?Provide additional input of the target structure so students can verify their predictions.

Language: French
Vocabulary: Free time activities
How to use: Students scan bar graph to find out what information it provides. In partners, student complete the following organizer: I see…(words they can guess) I think…(words they think they can figure out) I wonder…(words they are just taking a complete guess on)Students talk about what activities they like and don’t like. Students make comparisons between what is popular to do in France vs. the US.

This first suggestion for using authentic resources is to provide input for the students that shows the new content in use, how a native speaker might use it. The students are using their receptive skills with these activities.

Teachers use guiding questions to help the students figure out how and why the new language structure or vocabulary is used. This allows students to take more of the responsibility for their own learning while we are there to guide them.

Now, that students have an understanding of the new vocabulary or grammar, let’s move them to using their productive skills to communicate with their new content knowledge.

Sometimes an authentic resource may not have examples of the new language you are teaching in use, but serves as a springboard for communicating with that language instead. The content provides information for students to use in interpersonal or presentational tasks.

Here are a couple of examples:

Language: Spanish
Vocabulary: School supplies
How to use: Show a few screenshots of the video. Ask students what they think the video is about. Show the video as students jot down what supplies the boy has and what problem he has. Students discuss what other supplies the boy might need and for which classes.

Language: French
Language Structure: If clauses (first conditional)
How to use: Ask students if anyone rides their bike to school or to their job. Why or why not? Tell students about the organization Vélo Québec that promotes cycling in Canada and is trying to get people to commute more via bike. Show them the infographic. Students do a Think-Pair-Share using the information in the infographic to answer the following questions: According to Vélo Québec, riding your bike to work (or school) will have many positive benefits for you. What are some of the benefits they say will happen if you ride your bike to work? Do you agree? Does this information persuade you to ride your bike to school or work more? Why or why not?

You have seen four different types of authentic resources (comics, bar graph, video, infographic) and how they could be used to teach grammar and vocabulary. Each resource is intriguing for the learners and encourages them to interact with it to interpret and extend their knowledge of the target language and culture. You are reaching your goals of having students understand the new content and being able to create with it.

Cristin Bleess has been a language teacher for over twenty years both in the US and abroad. She has been involved in professional development at the local, state, and national level and is currently an Instructional Strategist at Wayside Publishing.

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