Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 2: While You Are Reading

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

Since the time Joaquín was sitting in my Spanish 3 class, student engagement has been a key guidepost for me in lesson design. Joaquín was a bright student with a great sense of humor and a strong creative streak, so, I could have anticipated what he would do, but I did not. That day, the class was ideal; students were quietly completing writing exercises in their workbooks. You could hear a pin drop. A dream class, right? Suddenly, Joaquín put his pencil down, stood up, and walked to the window. He opened the window, stuck his head out, and screamed. Then, he closed the window, walked back to his seat, and sat down. And stared me down. The class and I stared back with our mouths opened. The bell rang and I came to, closed my mouth, and vowed to change the way I teach. Obviously, workbook exercises were not cutting it with student engagement, or with helping students acquire the language.  

We now know that communicative ability cannot be drilled, and as evidenced by Joaquín, drills are stifling. Bill VanPatten, a current researcher in second language acquisition, writes that, “[Communicative ability] cannot be practiced in the traditional sense of practice. Communicative ability develops because we find ourselves in communicative contexts.” As a result, world language teachers are moving to proficiency-driven classrooms in which students are immersed in the target language, engaging in real-world tasks, using language to explore content in intercultural contexts, and showing what they know and can do via performance assessments.  

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Accessing Authentic Resources – Beyond Questioning Part 1: Gearing Up

By Deborah Espitia
@despitia
Instructional Strategist

World language teachers have been incorporating authentic resources – materials made by native speakers for native speakers – into their lessons since forever. How many of you have collected “realia” during your travels? Menus, ticket stubs, magazines, newspapers, posters, and coasters have all found their way into my suitcase and then into my classroom. And with the Internet, the sky’s the limit. All types of print and audiovisual materials are at our fingertips and shared with our students. 

Fortunately, our students love these materials as much as we do. Authentic resources are highly motivating because they provide students with a window into the everyday use of the target language – real people actually communicate with this language! Authentic resources not only bring authenticity into the classroom, but they also prompt students to use the language themselves and support them in making intercultural connections. 

But how does all this happen? How do students move from reading or listening to a resource to talking or writing about the content it presents? Often, we have students answer a series of questions to gauge their comprehension of the material. Proper questioning strategies can be a powerful learning tool, as noted by educational researcher, Robert J. Marzano, especially when sequencing questions from details to categories, elaborations, and evidence.  

However, too much of a good thing can get old. So, let’s mix it up!

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The power of authentic resources

By Ed Weiss

During my teaching career, I always had a true affinity for the use of authentic materials.  All the research indicates that student proficiency increases with exposure to a variety of authentic materials.  Perhaps even more compelling than the research, is the memory of my secondary education.  My teachers were well trained and had clearly mastered the language, but those were the days of grammar-centric world language classes.  Verb conjugations and vocabulary lists were featured aspects of instruction.  My only memories of authentic materials were posters from Air France and SNCF and the weekly arrival of Paris Match magazine.  The tasks that we were assigned were essentially decontextualized sentences accompanied by verb form drills.  The curriculum was primarily based on mastery of forms with minimal real life applications of language skills.  From a student perspective, we didn’t know any better.  We couldn’t envision an intercultural, multimedia course with internet access to enrich and connect with students.  Our teachers were limited by their lack of resources and the pedagogical philosophy of that era. 

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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:

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Authentic resources: what they are, where to find them, and how to use them

By Cristin Bleess
@cristinbleess
Instructional Strategist

Authentic resources. That buzz word seems to be everywhere these days. It’s thrown around as if it were a beach ball in Miami. They are mentioned in ACTFL’s Six Core Practices. It is assumed that everyone is using them, or at least knows that they should be. But, do they? Let’s talk a bit about the basics of authentic resources: what are they, where to find them, and how to use them.

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