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by Erica Fischer on May 5, 2015

3 Adapt Tasks to Interact with Authentic Resources!

Last week, #langchat participants took part in an energetic conversation about authentic resources – they discussed the selection process for students at different proficiency levels and what outcomes they expect, as well as ways ways to prepare students for engagement with authentic resources. To finish things off, Langchatters shared their strategies for supporting students as they engage with written and audiovisual authentic resources. While the chat revealed diverse thoughts and opinions about the value of authentic resources, @natadel76 spoke for many of the participants when she said, “[I] can’t stay away [from] this topic.”

Thanks to everyone who joined in the chat, and a big thank you to last Thursday’s moderators, Laura (@SraSpanglish), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Amy (@alenord)!

Question 1: How do you select authentic resources for students at different proficiency levels?

Participants recognized the importance of considering accessibility, theme, and student interest in selecting appropriate authentic resources.

  • Accessibility: @Mr_Fernie reminded fellow instructors to “[keep] texts level appropriate in [students’] L2 and L1,” noting, “[If a text is] too advanced for kids in [their] L1, they [probably] can’t understand it fully in [their] L2.” In considering level appropriateness, @SraWillis pays attention to the “quantity of [vocabulary and number] of cognates.” @MlleSulewski observed that “[text] length [and the] extent to which visual cues are used” are other factors worthy of consideration. @SraSpanglish pointed out that “images [and] familiar formats like recipes [or Wikipedia] articles [lower students’ affective filter]” by presenting them with a familiar genre that feels more accessible. Even when interesting texts seem out of reach in light of students’ current proficiency level, @ProfeCochran noted that they can still be valuable tools: “If I find an [authentic resource] that I love and really fits the theme, but is difficult, we will pick out key words, main ideas, etc.”
  • Theme: Some participants look for authentic resources that complement a current theme in the class. @MmeFarab wrote that she selects authentic resources for her class “[mostly] by theme,” and @profesorM said, “I choose [authentic resources] by topic.”
  • Interest: @MmeCarbonneau recommends considering student interests in selecting authentic resources: “Choose [resources] by [their] interest level […] and [relevance] to students’ lives.”

In addressing this question, one participant questioned the need for authentic resources in the classroom and a side conversation took shape. In response, some participants shared their thoughts on the benefits of incorporating authentic resources. For example, @alenord said, “[Authentic resources allow] students [to] interact with authentic [language] as it is found in [a] country [where the target language is spoken].” @natadel76 added, “[Using authentic resources] provides opportunities [for students] to learn how to deal with [the] unknown and learn [from] context.” @MlleSulewski wrote, “[Also], language and culture [are] intertwined [in these resources, allowing us to kill] 2 birds [with] 1 stone.” @profepj3 noted that authentic resources “give learners a real world context to wrap their learning around.” While some remained unconvinced that authentic resources are necessary or important for language learning, all could agree with @SenoraDiamond55’s comment that “[carefully] chosen resources (authentic or not) [along with] careful scaffolding [are] keys to success!”

Question 2: What outcomes do you expect from your students interacting with an authentic resource?

Participants shared expected outcomes for students engaging with authentic resources, which included cultural insights, ‘ah-ha’ moments, confidence and motivation.

  • Cultural Insights: @ProfeCochran wrote, “[Authentic resources offer important] insight to products, practices and perspectives of the target culture.” @SraWillis also noted students’ “exposure to culture,” and @SrLaBoone added that this can foster an “appreciation for [the] target culture, [and prompt] comparison to [one’s] own [culture], [while leading students to the] realization that language serves a practical purpose.”
  • Ah-ha Moments: Ideally, @SrLaBoone wrote that “[carefully] selected [authentic resources that are] presented well [should trigger] ah-ha! [moments for students].” He commented, “I honestly expect a lot of ‘light bulb’ moments when presenting [students] with [authentic resources].” @bjillmoore added, “I think it’s hard for some [students] to ‘let it go’ so to speak and [focus on the] gist. But once [they] learn [to] it’s amazing what they do!”
  • Confidence and Motivation: ‘Light bulb’ moments in turn are seen to increase confidence and motivation. @SraWillis wrote that authentic resources “build confidence when [students] realize they ‘get it’.” @SenoraDiamond55 said, “The confidence that comes with ‘getting’ [authentic resources] is amazing. [I love] watching that.” @William_Caze added that authentic resources can also be motivating: “Motivation! Authentic resources inspire students to realize they really CAN function in their L2!”

Question 3: How do you prepare students BEFORE interacting with an authentic resource?

Many instructors commented on the importance of frontloading vocabulary before having students engage with any type of authentic resources. @SenoraDiamond55 wrote, “Warm-up activities should involve KEY vocabulary for success using [authentic resources].” @Mr_Fernie suggested “personalized pre-teaching of [vocabulary where] students read through [a text] and find words they don’t know [or] recognize [for the class to] discuss together.” @senoritasatar recommended “graphic organizers [and] brainstorming” as another way to help students think about a topic and relevant vocabulary. @SJWLI shared ready-made “graphic organizers for Spanish teachers”: Additionally, @magisterb480 reflected on the importance of contextualizing an authentic resource: “[The instructor should] activate prior knowledge and provide background information, especially [from an] historical perspective.” Lastly, @SraWienhold reminds students that total comprehension is unlikely, and that’s OK!: “[Prepare students] that they will [not] get every word, [and explain that it’s] more about overall meaning #hardforhighflyers.”

Question 4: How do you support students WHILE they interact with a WRITTEN authentic resource?

Langchatters offered helpful suggestions on how to support students as they take on written authentic resources. Many participants suggested circulating around the room to offer assistance and encouragement. @espanolsrs wrote, “[Circulate and] help [students]. I try to explain [a] word [or] phrase in [the] L2 or point out [that] they should keep reading to gain context clues if possible.” @SenoraDiamond55 said, “Look for [and] support those [students] for whom the struggle may be entering BAD (unproductive [or] frustrating) territory. Give MORE help.” Other instructors recommended going through the text in chunks, posing questions to students along the way. @MmeCarbonneau recognized the benefit of deciphering authentic resources in pairs, groups, or as a class versus individually: “[Let students] work with someone while interacting with [authentic resources. There is safety] in numbers.” Aside from human aids, others recognized the value of textual supports. @textivate said, “Provide…. a glossary, a parallel text, an image, a cartoon, a video in support of the text.” Some added that processing guides or graphic organizers can also support students as they attempt to understand the content of resources. @William_Caze pointed out that sometimes instructors can help most by being a bit unhelpful: “Sometimes I help by being unhelpful. I remind [students] of tools available [for them] to try on their own. 3 [out of] 4 times, they figure it out!” Lastly, @SenoraDiamond55 noted that instructors should encourage students to calmly approach authentic resources: “Remind them to breathe? [I’m half] kidding.”

Question 5: How do you support students WHILE they interact with AUDIOVISUAL authentic resources?

Some participants wrote that the supports they provide for both textual and audiovisual authentic resources are the same. @MmeCarbonneau wrote, “For me [support is] no different than [for] written [authentic resources].” Just as for written resources, @CatherineKU72 suggested that instructors have students “[look] at vocabulary in [a] smaller context, [provide supporting] pictures, [and build] in moments of confidence [with dissection of] chunks [of material].” Nevertheless, langchatters also offered some specific recommendations for audiovisual authentic resources. In particular, they suggested befriending the pause button. @SECottrell wrote, “[It’s] not worth the time if it’s not comprehensible. PAUSE IS OUR FRIEND.” @SenoraDiamond55 added, “[Especially] for lower levels, we have to teach [students] it’s OK and APPROPRIATE to need to see [and/or] hear [content] more than once!” @magisterb480 suggested asking students to focus their attention on specific parts of a resource and providing multiple listening opportunities: “Maybe have them listen to [a resource] a few times to pay attention to specific parts.” @SraWienhold noted that pauses also allow instructors time to “retell [content and] ask questions.” @MaCristinaRV shared a resource that supports strategic pauses for comprehension checks: “#EDpuzzle is a great tool to use with [authentic resources], since it makes checking for understanding at the right moments easy.” Finally, Langchatters suggested encouraging students to use visual cues as an aid for comprehension. @SrLaBoone said, “[Have students] pick out a few things they DID understand. Also, [have them] reflect on images and [the] overall mood of what they’re seeing.” @William_Caze added, “A silent first watch of a video before introducing sound is often helpful, and I love to hear my students’ wild theories!”


Langchatters had plenty of thoughts and insights about authentic resources and their place in the language classroom. Participants discussed strategies for their selection and projected outcomes, and they also offered tips on how to prepare students for engagement with authentic resources. Finally, they shared advice on supporting students as they interact with textual or audiovisual authentic resources.

Eager to know more about authentic resources (#authres)? Check out these past #langchat summaries:

Thank You!

You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. *Reminder*: In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Got a topic you’re eager to discuss? Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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