Category Archives: Authentic Text

Authentic Texts Part Deux: the Hows

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Many teachers struggle with ways to expose novice learners to authentic texts.  If you scaffold appropriately, novice learners can handle a variety of materials.  It’s certainly easier to use anything that has audio or visual in addition to written text.  Here are simple steps to scaffolding an authentic text:

In the context of a larger unit on travel, I had my students interpreting the safety procedures on a plane through videos, online brochures and websites.  They watched several videos.  Here is one example.  It is a good choice for novice learners because of its familiarity and cognates.

1. Preview the text: Before students learn any new vocabulary, allow them to watch the video a few times, trying to see if they can identify any words or phrases.  Tell them to watch it in a relaxed manner.  I usually use a calm voice, and say, “Just listen.  You don’t need to understand every word.  Focus on what you can understand, not the words that you can’t understand.  Just listen.”  During the second viewing, as a formative assessment, they can write down the words they hear that they are familiar with, and new words they can infer based on the context.  At the end of each viewing, I ask them to hold up a hand low in front of them using their fingers as a way to represent their comprehension, 5 being the highest.  They mark this down on the same paper.  I can collect the papers and see what does not need to be retaught or we can make a class list off all the words we already know as an anchor activity. Read the rest of this entry

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Get Real!: Cultural Literacy through Authenticity – Part One: The Whys

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“Culture is an abstraction; it cannot actually be seen or touched…. We see people acting in agreed-upon ways in the face of similar situations…we notice people moving their bodies in certain ways – making choices in their lives about where to live, what to eat, how to learn, how to work and love – in response to similar events and experiences, and  say: “oh, these people belong to the same culture”.  (H. Ned Seeyle)

Our recent #langchat inspired me to blog about something which I am truly passionate, using authentic texts in the world language classroom.  We discussed the definition of culture and how to teach it.  Because culture is fluid and amorphous, it is difficult to define.  The website http://coerll.utexas.edu/methods/modules/culture/ expands upon culture as a skill.

I like the term “cultural literacy” which includes:
  • The ability to perceive and recognize cultural differences.
  • The ability to accept cultural differences.
  • The ability to appreciate and value cultural differences.
In my experience, the most effective way to teach culture is through the use of authentic texts.  They can teach cultural literacy because they contain authentic cultural information and give students exposure to real language.  Ned Seelye writes: “Learning a language in isolation of its cultural roots prevents one from becoming socialized into its contextual use. Knowledge of linguistic structure alone does not carry with it any special insight into the political, social, religious, or economic system.”

What is an authentic text?
A “text” isn’t limited to something written down. A text can be a film, an artifact, anything in a language and culture that conveys meaning.  Authentic texts are print, audio, and visual documents created and used by native speakers. Examples include books, web sites, articles, artwork, films, folktales, music, advertisements, videos, posters, news, songs, food, commercials.  Think of any experience you go through during a normal day in a foreign country. Read the rest of this entry

Don’t Beat ’em, Join ’em!: Cellphones Allowed!

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Ian Jukescommitted me” a while ago.  We live in a time of exponential change, and education serves our students only if it prepares them to live in the world as productive citizens.  When we think of the real world, we don’t think of an isolated classroom containing barriers with no access to technology, or where its use is prohibited. Unfortunately, many schools are continuing to educate students in this manner.  Often, teachers are burdened with narrowing technology budgets and limited resources.  Most students have access to cell phones, which currently act a lot more like computers than phones. How can we see them as helpful to our classes rather than hindrances?

Take advantage of the fact that you have 10 or more “computers” in your classroom available for use at any moment, no training required!!

Here are are some useful and meaningful ways to use cellphones in the world language classroom:

1.     GoogleVoice: Save time and go green!  As an oral assessment, have students leave you a message by calling your GoogleVoicemail in class responding to a  prompt. Then, text or email back your feedback and score. Read the rest of this entry

Keepin’ it real: Authentic Texts using Visual Thinking

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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.