By Deborah Espitia
World language teachers are the most creative educators. We have a million and one ways to engage learners in speaking and writing in the target language. Engaging students is our passion – well, that and intercultural connections, of course! Unfortunately, though, it is too easy to develop the habit just of asking our students to answer comprehension questions to evaluate their understanding. Instead, why not have them demonstrate that comprehension through the very acts of speaking and writing?
In earlier blog posts, we examined pre-reading, listening, and viewing strategies, and during reading, listening, and viewing strategies. Today, we will take a closer look at what we can have learners do after they have engaged with an authentic resource to show they understand it.
After-reading, listening, and viewing strategies help learners prove their comprehension in a contextual setting. Often, learners simulate real-world tasks that result from interacting with a particular text. Preparing a dish from the target culture after reading a recipe is one way. Another might be calling to inquire about the menu and make a reservation after hearing a restaurant ad on the radio. We will go over six more strategies to help your learners exhibit their comprehension skills in the target language—and none of them involve answering comprehension questions!
1. Conduct a Survey
Infographics often contain survey results on some issue or area of interest. Have learners create their own survey using similar items or topics that branch off the main concept presented. In our French series, EntreCultures 1 Unité 1 L’Identité, students talk about what they like and dislike doing in their free time.
One of the activities has students read an infographic showing the top 10 activities the French like doing in their free time. Not only can learners create a survey by writing questions to ask their classmates (Est-ce que tu aimes cuisine?), but they can go on to conduct the survey in French, record the responses, graph the results, present them, and make comparisons between the top likes of their classmates compared with the French – all at the Novice Mid proficiency level. Voliá!
2. Tweet About It
Tweets are modern-day headlines. They succinctly summarize the main idea of a particular text, print, audio, or audiovisual. They can also express the views of the person tweeting or comment on others’ tweets. Twitter authors are not confined to a certain number of characters; in fact, many users post in a series of tweets, which makes it a great tool for your learners. After experiencing an authentic resource, have them write a series of tweets that include details describing or supporting the main idea of the authentic resource. To focus their thinking, give them a hashtag in the target language to align with. Or have them create their own (i.e., #MiRutinaDiaria, #GraciasProfe) #BeyondQuestioning.
3. Draft the Next Chapter
One of my learners’ favorite pieces of literature is the short play No hay que complicar la felicidad, by Marco Denevi. In it, the two characters, Él y Ella, end up complicating their love for each other, and the play ending leaves the audience wondering what happens next. It is the perfect vehicle for learners to create a second act in which they can illustrate the moral of the play by how the two characters next behave.
Excerpts from news articles work well with this strategy, too. Learners read or view a preliminary news report and draft a follow-up article or video, with details that draw on the facts laid out in the first article.
4. Give Advice
People love giving advice, and our learners are no exception. Another task in response to the story of Él y Ella is to have them give the main characters some advice – like therapy!
Or, if you are working on a unit about friendship, have learners explain the desirable traits in a boyfriend or girlfriend to Él y Ella. Then, students can provide ideas about the kinds of positive behaviors that demonstrate those traits.
Finally, you could have your learners watch the video Todo a un clic, found in EntreCulturas 3 Unidad 2 #CiudadaniaDigital, which shows learners how to be responsible digital citizens.
Afterward, have them show what they learned by creating a poster, comic strip, or video advising others about how to be positive social media users.
5. Create a Promo
A great way to get learners to act based on what they read, listen to, or view is to have them make short promotional videos. This is a logical extension to the advice-giving mentioned above. It also aligns well with learners expressing and supporting their preferences and opinions. An example of this appears in EntreCultures 2, Unité 3 Au boulot, les bénévoles!
The lesson asks learners to read a series of testimonials by volunteers at different organizations. Have them engage in pre- and during-reading activities that prepare them to select the organization with which they might like to volunteer. Then, have them create a short promotional video highlighting the organization, its work, and reasons others should consider volunteering there.
6. Conduct an Interview
One of the strategies from the previous blog post, Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 2: While You Are Reading has learners draft questions as they access an authentic resource, print, audio, or audiovisual. A natural next step is to have learners rework their questions into an interview format, then role-play responses.
The responses can be factual, with evidence based on the content. They can also be inferential, based on how a particular character might respond in the future, or have responded in the past, given that same content or context. These types of interviews work well for both nonfiction and fiction texts, and with current personalities, historical figures, and even characters in works of fiction.
For example, in EntreCulturas 2, Unidad 4 En la cocina de mi abuela, learners view a program in which people from various countries try different kinds of chiles and note their reactions.
Learners draft questions that address the actual reaction and comments by the participants, but also questions that probe more into their preferences. In preparation for the activity, create a set of cards with the names of the participants from the video and give each pair or small group of learners a set. Have them take turns drawing a card and then answering classmates’ questions in the role of that participant.
With these six strategies, we can really engage learners after they have accessed an authentic resource, whether it be written, audio, or visual. Let’s get our learners to analyze, synthesize, and create. These strategies are all so much more stimulating than simply answering comprehension questions.
So now you have 13 reading strategies (pre/during/post) to engage your students as they encounter authentic resources. Give one or more of these strategies a try and let us know how it goes. Or, add your ideas to our list by connecting with us via social media!
Todo a 1 Clic. (2014, April 24). TODO A 1 CLIC. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi_PGCoSDzs&t=15s
Mulato, A., Mora Roca, A., & Sánchez, O. (2016, March 17). ¡Hasta las lágrimas! La reacción de los extranjeros al probar el picante mexicano. [Video]. https://verne.elpais.com/verne/2016/03/15/mexico/1458077937_044806.html
Deborah Espitia has been a world language educator for more than thirty years. She is a lead author on EntreCulturas 3 and she is an Instructional Strategist at Wayside Publishing.