There is a general consensus to the value of an authentic text in a world language classroom. Authentic texts if scaffolded can be successful at any level of language learning. Many teachers find it most difficult to utilize them during the first year of learning a new language. A children’s story can be a powerful way to integrate the necessary use of authentic texts, using the technique of VTS, visual thinking strategies.
When completing a unit based around a story, a good way to introduce the story and get students to write or speak in the target language would be to have them use the pictures from the story as a prompt. There are a few ways this could be done. In each case I recommend that the the students have the prior knowledge of the vocabulary, or that the vocabulary has already been scaffolded.
1. Cut up the images of a story. Have students order the story as to how they think it occurred, and work collaboratively to retell the story verbally or in writing. They then need to explain to the class or another group what happened and why and defend their position.
2. Show them images of the story in order and have the students write or tell their own version of the story.
As a way to differentiate this type of activity, I will use a certain amount of brainstorming ahead of time depending on the students’ needs. We may list vocabulary that we see in each picture first, as a whole class, or preferably in rotating stations on chart paper. Then I hang the chart paper on a clothes line so the words are anchored there for the students.
For students at a lower level you can provide prompts to start sentences, or in some cases the words that match with the pictures.
As teachers, we know our students and their needs and can group them accordingly.
As an assessment, the students can create a new ending to the story, write a new story based on that one (see my previous blog post as an example), or talk about lessons learned in order to create a community or school project.
I have personally seen that the use of authentic texts can help language acquisition grow exponentially. And with the added component of VTS, they are made more accessible in the classroom.
Explorer Elementary Charter School in San Diego, a school I recently visited, serves as the inspiration for this post.