We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Oct 5, 2016

How does literacy present itself in your L2 teaching?


Studying Visual Literacy” (CC BY 2.0) by Angela Thomas

Last week, #langchat tackled the topic of literacy and how that presents itself in L2 teaching. Participants discussed the types of texts that they have students interact with (and why), as well as how the type of text that is used can changes the way that students will interact with it. Langchatters went on to talk about the ways to incorporate literacy texts like drama and poetry in to lower level classes, along with ideas for how to scaffold target language discussions with students about the texts themselves. Lastly, contributors chatted through strategies they felt can help make interactions with academic texts more meaningful and engaging as a whole.

Question 1: What types of text do you have students interact with, and why?

Literacy is a really important piece of the world language classroom, and figuring out ways to incorporate it in a way that makes sense can be a challenge. Langchatters had a plethora of ideas for types of texts that teachers can have students interact with. Ideas included things like comprehensible texts, short stories, infographics, novels, teacher created stories, authentic resources, TL novels, songs/lyrics, articles, blog posts, memes, Tweets, peer-generated texts, and lots more. As @BThompsonEDU put it, teachers should have students interact with, “Everything! Poems, songs, advertisements, stories, cartoons, etc., because reading is a jumping board to talking!”

The “why” of the question is the driving force and answers included to build student’s confidence and vocabulary, to give them real world practice, to see language as it is used in real life, to build community, to gain greater comprehension of meaning, to make connections between what they’ve learned and what they see, and to use the language in as many ways as they can to be able to work towards full proficiency.  Like @srtamartino said, it’s important to use texts and focus on literacy as much as possible, “…so that it becomes meaningful to not just understand language, but culture [too] & [be able to] make connections/compare/etc.” because that is really the whole point of the world language classroom.

Question 2: How does the TYPE of text you use CHANGE how your students interact with it?

The type of text being used is significant because it determines the purpose of the activity – you wouldn’t have students interact with a newspaper article in the same way that you would have them interact with a song, so it’s important to pick the right kind of text for the goal you want to accomplish. Additionally, the type of text you pick may force you to change the task based on the level and makes you reflect on how the text is used outside of the classroom, plus it can drive where you go next – essay, response, creating a graph, more research, etc.

Chatters also shared tips for picking texts for the desired outcome like when @SenoraJansen shared that “Short articles and infographics reinforce culture and give us a jumping off point. Novels pull everything together!” and @SraDentlinger shared that she, “DIGS into novels. They become my anchor. Stories are a short activity part of a bigger picture.” And @bjillmoore summed up the thought that you have to help students get ready to use certain types of text when she said, “The pre-reading/video activities prepare for the interaction and set up ways for students to interact. Preparation [is] important.”

Participants ended this question by comparing and contrasting the benefits of using longer texts to the benefits of using shorter texts, and the general consensus was that both have a place and are necessary to promote literacy in the WL classroom.

Question 3: How can we incorporate literary texts like drama & poetry into lower levels?

It can be daunting to try and think of ways to include literary texts like drama and poetry into lower grade levels but they really are effective tools for students of all ages. Ideas for ways to incorporate them included doing reader’s theater, having students perform short skits, have them write dialogues, use poems for pronunciation practice, turn authentic children’s poems into short chants for vocabulary practice, or using a short poem as a cultural example of something you have been teaching in class.

A great suggestion for how to make using texts like drama and poetry with younger students easier was to focus on reading strategies, and then simply apply those to the TL activities. Like @PRHSspanish said, “[We] must study up on literacy strategies and incorporate – it isn’t just conjugations anymore, Toto!” Similarly, @BThompsonEdu agreed when she said, “We have to make sure that we use reading strategies!! Pre-read, during activities, after activities. They can be so fun. [And] the great thing about reading strategies is that they are just great activities for [students] in TL.”

Question 4: How can we scaffold TL discussion about texts?

Scaffolding discussions in the target language about the texts that you’re reading can be challenging. Ideas for how to do it effectively include using guided questions or jigsaw activities, make sure they are comfortably with the vocabulary/use graphic organizers, have them write/talk/draw/talk, have the students ask questions, use tools like Nearpod, pull out words and personalize them, make sure that you can do something with it in all modes, have student interacting with the text in some while they are reading, and lots more. A much-liked teqhnique came from @CecileLane who suggested that teachers, “Extract ideas from text that students can connect to, teach key structures needed and [then] do Personalized Questions & Answers.”

And @alenord shared a great idea when said that she, “LOVES to pull out words [I] want to target, or structures, and [then] use them as question filters to get [students] to consider further.” Similarly, @SraWeinhold suggested that teachers have discussion questions for any give chapter/text projected on the whiteboard so that students can see/connect to them visually before having to talk through them.

The key theme for this question was to make sure and be prepared ahead of time since scaffolding takes work and doesn’t just automatically present itself on the spot. Like @SraDentlinger pointed out, “I think it’s important to know what we want [students] to do when [they are] done [before] scaffolding.”

Question 5: What strategies make interactions with ACADEMIC TEXTS more meaningful and engaging?

Academic texts are not always a favorite source of input in the WL classroom, but there are ways to help student interactions with them become meaningful and engaging experiences. Some suggestions for ways to so included making sure it has a purpose that’s something they actually can/want to do, connect them to modern themes/current events so that they are more relatable, work on cross-curricular tasks, supplementing things that they are learning about in other classes, create additional activities to complement the text, come up with ways to help students reflect on the content, and lots more. @V_Sojo had a great point when they said, “Any kind of collaborative reading with a lot of opportunities to reflect on given text – REFLECTION is the key!”

@alenord also pointed out that even if the academic text isn’t the focus of the whole lesson, “It could be that a more academic text could give background to another type of text we are going to use.” and that can be a great starting point for discussion.

Overall, there seemed to be a general consensus to the answer for this question when several chatters agreed that the strategies for making texts meaningful/engaging should be the same across the board for all types of texts, and should be applied the same, whether it’s an academic text or not.


This week, langchatters took on the topic of literacy in the L2 classroom. Takeaways included that all WL teachers should figure out a way to incorporate poetry into their classes that’s level appropriate, short novels for older levels can be a great literacy tool, and to remember to incorporate pre-reading whenever possible because it’s so helpful for students of all levels.

An all-inclusive, wrap-up thought came from @SenoritaHersh when she shared that her takeaway was that, “Literate=able to function and communicate day to day. Therefore literacy=everyday materials (fun & academic).”

Thank You!

Thank you to Amy (@alenord) and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for leading this week’s chat, and as always, thanks to everyone who takes the time to join these discussions every week. We hope that you continue to link up with #langchat as often as you are able – if the weekday chats on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET don’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Our weekly #langchats have gotten busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

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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