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Best Authentic Resources for World Language Teachers

Best Authentic Resources for World Language TeachersCultural items like food are just some of the ways that #langchat participants are using authentic resources in their classrooms.

“Authentic resources can be anything from the target culture that exercises their senses, from visuals to food,” newcomer @weslotero explained during Thursday night’s #langchat. While many teachers know the value of using authentic audio and video resources in their teaching, there are a variety of different kinds of authentic resources that can be effectively used in the classroom.

As the world language community shifts towards integrating both traditional and new authentic resources, language professionals are turning to their colleagues to find the best ways to teach with them.

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Authentic Resources for Reading

One of the main reasons #langchat teachers use authentic resources is to help students improve their reading proficiency in the target language. Reading resources like articles and newspapers provide a low-stress way of introducing authentic material, especially for students who feel more comfortable with “book work” than communication.

@emilybakerhanes explained, “I like authentic images/ads/readings. Level ones don’t get overwhelmed and learn critical reading skills.”

Tips and resources for authentic reading:

  • @profesorM has his students “use online real estate sites and ipads” to increase reading engagement. One of his favorite activities is having students peruse sites with their Ipads in order to find and go through the steps of “buying” a house in an actual Spanish-speaking community.
  • @SenoritaClark uses People en Español because it is “relevant and engaging” for her students.
  • @jas347 encourages other teachers to invest in “subscriptions to mags, newspapers…full of authentic images, ads, text and text and cultural info!”
  • @spanishplans gave great links to ESPN deportes to find high-interest reading for male students. They also shared a link to Nulu, which has articles to increase reading comprehension as well as audio read-throughs.
  • @CristinaZimmer4 said, “While not completely authentic, Viente Mundos has some nice articles about culture in Spain, with lessons to go with.”
  • @Sra_Hildinger offered her suggestions for international reading: Newspapers around the world and Tom Alsop’s list of newspapers for WL.

Getting Students “Sold” on Authentic Resources

@CoLeeSensei reminded us that heavy reading isn’t the only way to use authentic resources. She said, “#Authres doesn’t have to be ‘text intense’ – authentic is more than that!”

A good example of this is with advertisements. Advertisements are designed to get people engaged, which is why they are so effective in the classroom. The visually appealing image and direct language makes them excellent teaching tools, especially at lower levels.

@emilybakerhanes said, “I want to do more w/ advertisements. Strong images w/short statements will stick in their head!

A number of other teachers agreed, citing ads as great tools for teaching context, good starting points for conversation and instruction on media literacy.

  • @ZJonesSpanish shared some media literacy and 21st Century skill-building advertisement activities.
  • @CatherineKU72 said, “Wandermami’s Delicious page has quite a list of commercials.
  • @senoraCMT suggested that #langchatters use PubliTV to find excellent ads for classroom use.
  • @placido reminded us of @SEOCottrell’s compilation of Spanish commercial transcripts.
  • @lanecindy1234 also shared her collection of commercials and @CristinaZimmer4 shared her favorite Spanish commercial site, Comercial Mexicana.
  • @CatherineKU72 also suggested that teachers keep their eyes open for ads while traveling. She said, “While on trips, I raid the supermarket for the ads. They are light-weight to bring back (10 copies!) and offer non-tech solution.”

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Worth a Thousand Words

Still, ads aren’t the only visual mode of authentic resources. Many teachers are enamored with cartoons and other images to motivate language skill-building. @placido said, “Memes and cartoons are short, sweet, plentiful and relateable!” and gave an example. Both @ProsperaHLP and @SenoraCMT agreed, sharing their favorite sources for cartoons: Malfalda and Pinterest.

Other great ideas for using images? Movie posters, photos and videos. @Sra_Hildinger shared the Culturally Authentic Pictoral Lexicon for a good source of cultural images.

@ZJonesSpanish said, “Movie posters are great, especially for seeing linguistic variation in action (Spain vs. Latin American posters) and intriguing translations.” @placido also loves using still images to teach, but laments the limited access from her school campus. “Flickr is a wonderful source for beautiful photos. Blocked at school though.”

  • @LesliePhillips3: “For photos, write what happened before pic, during, and prediction about after.”
  • @km_york: “I like to add on to the cloze with image to text match, translation, illustration and put in order activities too.”
  • @crwmsteach: “With movies or video clips: describe people; what are they doing/did/will do; your opinion of film or character.”
  • @LesliePhillips3: “Sometimes I first play the video with no sound so language learners can observe, predict and question.”

Feasting on Authentic Resources

“Do we consider objects or food to be authentic resources? I think so!” @placido exclaimed. Many participants talked about the excellent ability of food to connect students with the culture and peoples of their target language class. From language-rich restaurant menus to online grocery stores, #langchat participants shared some of their favorite ways to incorporate food as an authentic resource.

  • @jas347 said, “Find your favorite restaurant chain in France, search furnished apartments in Paris, look up French Top 40…options are endless!”
  • @CatherineKU72 said, “Some businesses are adding 3D or virtual visit of their shops like this virtual boulangerie pour les profs de FR.”
  • @ZJonesSpanish said, “We love to look at grocery-store circulars around holidays,” then shared the Plato del Dia site, an archive of hundreds of Spanish-language menus.
  • Online grocery stores: Mas x menos, Compra Online, DR’s Supermercados Nacional.
  • @profesorM suggests to do a food tasting in class. He said, “Goya makes tropical fruit juices, we have a tasting with plantain chips, salsa and tortillas.”
  • @spanishplans said, “I’ve been using “how-to” cooking videos in Spanish. Students watch, then summarize recipe. Or type of transcript and do cloze.”
  • @weslotero said, “I like bringing food and drinks into my class like horchata and conchas from mexico.” @ProsperaHLP also suggests bringing foods like guava paste, arroz con leche, Moros y Cristianos (rice & black beans), or empanadas. @spanishplans suggested the fruit “tuna” (prickly pear) as well as Inca Kola.
  • @muchachitaMJ said, “Another fun #authres is Yelp. Students read reviews in language in their choice about restaurants, places in city, hotels + more!”
  • @muchachitaMJ shared her experience with using authentic food as a classroom reward. “I used mini bananas for a prize yesterday. One girl was mad. Ha! The rest went nuts because they had never seen a mini-banana!” @SenoritaClark responded, “I LOVE that idea! Authentic AND healthy!”

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Creative Ways for Using Authentic Resources

Class Warm-Ups. Authentic resources are engaging and a great way to get students thinking about the lesson. @placido uses authentic resources to motivate and inspire discussion. Other #langchat participants have used authentic music as transition activities as the class enters for the day.

Reading and listening guides. Reading and listening guides provide needed structure, especially for students who are more comfortable with doing worksheets. @placido explained these benefits in her classroom and shared an example of a listening guide.

Websites in the Target Language. Students love looking at websites in the target language because it can resonate personally with them. Not only that, but @jas347 explained that they can also “learn tech/online navigation vocab and explore [specific] topics.”

Live Communication. There is nothing more authentic than interacting with a native language speaker. @profesorM mentioned his use of e-Pals, but was unimpressed with the level of interaction. @emliybakerhaynes mentioned Skype as a method of authentic communication, but cited possible technology problems as a demotivator. @jas347 offered a great low-tech solution: “We partnered with International Book Project to penpal with school in Cameroon…they send us #authres! great for cultural variety!”

Using Classified Ads. A number of teachers use classified ads to expose students to the target language. @ElSrScharf said, “I use Craigslist ads from different countries- apts for rent, furniture, etc #langchat tweeting from Costa Rica trip w stdts.” @emilybakerhanes agreed: “In college we looked at classfied ads. Teaches odd vocab and abbreviations. Especially looking for a flat.”

Incorporating Music. Music is one of the easiest and most common ways to engage students with authentic resources. Great ideas included @profesorM’s idea of playing songs in the target language and then filling in lyrics on a listening guide. @CoLeeSensei has a “song of the week” from Itunes in the target language country, often with an accompanying music video. @senoraCMT suggested making a Wordle of some lyrics and then having students pair up to compete to see which team can identify the most words. @LesliePhillips3 shared an idea to to provide song lyrics out of order or with sentences divided, so students have to match the beginning with the end.

Using Twitter. Since many students spend so much time on Twitter in their personal lives, it connects them personally when they are able to see tweets in the target language. @SenoritaClark and @jas347 suggest changing the location of the trending topics to a country that speaks the target language in order to get the best, “coolest” tweets. @ZJonesSpanish also shared their “Twiccionarios,” for Spanish teachers.

Other great ideas:

  • @km_york: “I’ve done clips where I play the audio and have them pick out Who/what/where and relevant vocab #langchat just for the gist.”
  • @placido: “#authres make a great warm-up to motivate and inspire a discussion. I often use mine to start up a story.”
  • @Val_Hays: “Look at online apartment/house listings in TL and have ss draw floorplans.”
  • @weslotero: “My wife sent me 2 alpacas for Valentine’s Day last week. My students got to feel a Peruvian animal in the classroom! They loved it!”
  • @ZJonesSpanish: “We like to use #authres in task-based activities, like ‘Plan dinner and a movie in X place.’”
  • @jas347: “Changing YouTube account into TL and into a country that speaks TL!”

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Implementing Authentic Resources Effectively

Although it is clear that #langchatters love authentic resources, the wealth of materials available can be overwhelming and difficult to implement. Two major issues came up during the chat that teachers seem to have trouble with: using English when introducing authentic resources for reading and listening, and differentiation.

A number of teachers wondered if it is wise to use English to assess students’ understanding of authentic resources. @LesliePhillips3, @emilybakerhaynes and @muchacitaMJ all discussed the necessity of stepping out of the target language to assess comprehension of an authentic resource. @emilybakerhaynes said, “We want to test their understanding of the reading, not our questions.”

The other major obstacle in using authentic resources at teaching tools is differentiation. Clearly, each teacher’s classroom has a different set of challenges that require creative thinking when using authentic resources. Some classrooms must have alternatives for special needs students. Other classrooms have limited access to technology, or have many websites blocked.

#langchat participants came up with some good strategies for these types of obstacles. For those with limited technology, @emilybakerhanes suggested “Music w/printed lyrics, printed ads, projected ads/cartoons.” @senoraCMT also offered, “I have only one computer with a large monitor. I just show them there.” For classrooms with visually impaired students, @CatherineKU72 introduced the idea of focusing on audio resources. She said, “Why not offer the sounds and music of the city? Tongue twisters or audio books.”

Making Authentic Resources Comprehensible

Finally, @placido gave some sage words of advice: “Remember to activate acquisition with comprehensible input! All #authres with no #CI doesn’t work!” In order to make authentic resources comprehensible, participants agreed that the learning task needs to be leveled so that students don’t feel overwhelmed. @ZJonesSpanish encouraged teachers to use Bloom’s Taxonomy and the ACTFL 21st Century Skills Map for ways to make the tasks fit the proficiency of the students.

Thank You!

Thank you to our moderators, @placido and @CoLeeSensei, for keeping us on our toes and sharing great authentic resources. Also, thanks to all of you that came and shared your ideas and opinions: it wouldn’t be #langchat without you!

We love to find ways to help you learn as a language professional. Please help us know what to talk about during #langchat by sharing your topic ideas for upcoming chats with us.



Additional Resources

Apps Gone Free
Kiva Brain Pop app

French Links and Apps

AATF’s Delicious page
Quebec Government Website Carnaval de Quebec
Jour de la Terre Quebec Marche Malin app
List of French Apps (@CatherineKU72)

Spanish Links and Apps

Univision app
RTVE app
List of Spanish Apps (@CatherineKU72)
Que Rica Vida recipe app
Nestle TV Pocoyo for Spanish
Authentic Resources organized by theme (@ZJonesSpanish)
Authentic Resources organized by grammar point (@ZJonesSpanish)
Authentic Music organized by location and country (@ZJonesSpanish)
Mexico City Craigslist IKEA Online Store in Spanish
El Corte Ingles Online Store in Spanish Yabla

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.

One comment

  • Creighton Vilsack

    This is a really helpful compilation of resources Erica! I’d like to highlight one that’s not listed called Hablamos Today. It’s perfect for the “Live Commnication” part of the “Creative Ways for Using Authentic Resources” page. I run the site with my girlfriend, and we’re positive it would be a great resource to list here!

    We run “Conversation Labs,” where students supplement their Spanish learning by doing 20 minute guided conversation sessions with native Spanish speakers in Nicaragua. It’s like teleporting to Nicaragua and being immersed in Spanish. The “live communication” resources you currently discuss do have some problems, including a lack of vetting of the conversation partners, as well as a lack of structure to the conversation sessions. We can design an immersion conversation plan for Spanish learners of any age!

    If you wanted to link to it, I’m sure your readers will find it an awesome resource! Also, here’s the link to the “Conversation Lab” classroom version for teachers…..

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