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by Erica Fischer on May 26, 2014

How to Scaffold Authentic Resources: We Ask. You Tell.

Last Thursday, Langchatters tuned in to discuss how to scaffold authentic resources (#authres) for comprehensible input. #langchat looked quite different last week, as moderators tested out a Q&A format. @KrisClimer wrote that “#langchat was a bit less spontaneous, less [like] hanging with my [personal learning network] in a pub, but if [a] pub [is] crowded [and you’re] straining to hear, [the question and answer] format helps.” @CoLeeSensei replied, “Sometimes you want the quiet chat in the pub…sometimes you want the fun of the party at the pub! Glad #langchat can adapt!” The whirlwind chats over the past few weeks might have had you ‘straining to hear,’ but #langchat is testing alternatives to ensure you don’t miss anything in the conversation.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated, and a special thanks to our moderators, Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), and Laura (@SraSpanglish), for structuring the conversation.

Langchatters tweeted in to share their thoughts on 8 questions, and their responses are summarized below.

Question 1: How do you go about choosing an authentic resource for your lesson/unit?

Several langchatters began by considering their learning goals and searching for authentic resources that are applicable to a particular unit theme. Many of them also emphasized the importance of taking student interests into consideration. For example, @srtajohnson13 wrote, “Step 1: KNOW your [students] and their interests.” @Marishawkins underscored this point, saying, “I determine what my students will find engaging and relevant,” and @alenord added, “I try to find [authentic resources] that kids can personalize and apply to their lives and experiences.” @tmsaue1 suggested that students could help select authentic resources: “how about involving our students in selecting [authentic resources]?,” and @srtajohnson13 enthusiastically replied, “I involve them in so many classroom decisions, why not [authentic resources]!?” In order to hold student interest, @Marishawkins added, “I think variety is also the key with [authentic resources].”

Langchatters also discussed the difficulty of achieving comprehensible input (i+1). @axamcarnes wrote, “I have trouble matching level to proficiency. i+1 is a very difficult thing to achieve.” @tmsaue1 asserted that “there is no such thing as ‘leveled’ [authentic resources],” adding, “it’s what we ask [students] to do [with] them that makes it appropriate.” @pamwesely agreed that “it’s about changing the task, not the text!”

Question 2: What strategies do you use (e.g. pre-reading/listening/viewing) to establish a context for the authentic resource you have selected?

Participants shared some of their strategies for introducing authentic resources. @KrisClimer proposed preparation in the form of “vocab / expressions / grammar / pre-viewing.” Instructors also call upon students to make predictions before exposure to resources. @CoLeeSensei said, “I like to have students ‘predict’ what they might see [or] read based on the context.” For listening activities, @Marishawkins suggested that instructors “have students brainstorm words they might hear.” @alenord agreed that “anticipation guides are good, predictions, brainstorming, surveys are other great ‘pre’-activities.” @alenord also kindly shared examples of how she designs lessons around and introduces authentic resources, which can be accessed here:

Once again, participants emphasized the importance of making materials interesting for students from the start. @alenord wrote, “I always start with an engagement piece to connect with [students’] interest, experience.” @srtajohnson13 encouraged “discussion questions about [students’] personal lives to make [the] topic at hand relevant.”

Question 3: How do you decide what outcomes you want while and/or after your students interact with the authentic resource?

When considering desired outcomes, @trescolumnae observed, “So much depends on the proficiency level of the [students] involved!” @crwmsteach shared her basic outcomes by level: “[level] 1: word recognition; [level] 2: [simple sentences about the material]; level 3: [students express opinions about materials]; [level] 4: [students make] cultural comparisons.” @CoLeeSensei aims for what she calls ‘realistic outcomes,’ asking herself, “what would people in [target language] want with the resource?”

@ProfeCochran emphasized the need to consider outcomes before using authentic materials: “I feel like I should know what outcomes I want BEFORE I ever even use the [authentic resources].” @KrisClimer strongly agreed with this point: “AMEN! Or [before instructors even] select [authentic resources].”

Question 4: How do you help students connect personally with the content of authentic resources?

@tmsaue1 wrote that instructors need to capture student interest from the start: “starts with the pre-activity. [You] have to have [a] purpose/context for wanting to continue to work with [authentic resources].” Again, numerous participants touched on the urgency of making materials relevant to students (@KrisClimer: “part of the choice process was in making it something they would connect to”;
@alenord: “[In my opinion,] I think we have to do more than just have them interpret [authentic resources]. We need [students] to connect personally to them”; @srtajohnson13: “Pre-activity – i.e. discussion questions about THEIR lives that make content of [authentic resources] relevant [and] create a connection”; @trescolumnae: “For novices in particular, you need to know your [students] well enough to know their interests/passions: connect [authentic resources] to those”). @CoLeeSensei again considers speakers of the target language, writing, “one way to [get students to] connect [with material] is to select [authentic resources] that are ones teens in [target language] would see.” @alenord shared an additional strategy to capture student interest: “select things with a high emotional connection. Make them want to react!” Other participants reiterated this point, encouraging selection of materials on controversial or emotionally charged topics.

Question 5: How do you adapt tasks based on the same resource for different proficiency levels?

@KrisClimer advised reflecting on the “length of [authentic resources and] complexity of [the] task [assigned to a particular level of students].” He directed instructors to Bloom’s taxonomy, and @tiesamgraf shared a useful summary for foreign language teachers Langchatters suggested using the same authentic resource for multiple levels of students, with level-appropriate tasks. (@tmsaue1: “[The beauty of [question 5] is that it allows you to work smarter not harder. [Think] about using one [authentic resource] in all classes ([with] different tasks)”; @tiesamgraf: “it makes the most sense to use the same resource for many levels! [This is efficient and] easy to adapt – change [the] questions/purpose”). As expressed by #langchat comments, this strategy can work to save instructors time when searching for authentic materials. When designing level-appropriate activities, @trescolumnae urged language teachers to “think carefully about what [students] at different proficiency levels can DO with a text [and] develop a relevant task.” Finally, @CoLeeSensei prompts instructors to welcome feedback from students following a lesson: “solicit feedback on ‘how it went’ – [This] helps me redesign for next time!”

Question 6: What do you have your students do as preparation to speak to each other about the content of an authentic resource?

@tiesamgraf advocates for use of “GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS!,” adding that they “give [students] tools to interact after listening/reading.” @KrisClimer prompted instructors to model ways of speaking about resource content in the target language: “Model it, model it. Talk to them, in [the target language], ALOT.” @tmsaue1 agreed that this is the “most important first step!” @alenord refers to student reflection on and engagement with authentic materials as “processing,” and she shared a link to her thoughts on an ‘authentic lesson’:

Question 7: How do you hold students accountable (or do you?) for cultural awareness after using an authentic resource?

@tmsaue1 urged instructors not to “wait [until] after [an activity],” asserting that “opportunities for ‘interculturality’ start the moment [students] encounter [authentic resources].” @trescolumnae asks students to take note of cultural-specific content they observe: “With interpretive tasks, I always include a section for them to list cultural products/practices/perspectives they find.” @axamcarnes calls upon students to reenact cultural material through performance activities: “I expect [students] to use/integrate cultural info learned through [authentic resources] in their performance based activities.” @ProfeCochran reiterated this point, writing, “Have [students] use the learned customs in interpersonal communication assessment, [e.g.] business interview, restaurant, “on a date” etc.” @KrisClimer expressed that increased cultural awareness and language learning go hand in hand: “I think I take the cultural awareness as inherent to the language. We preach differences as awesome.”

Question 8: Do you modify authentic resources or support to make them more comprehensible, if and when necessary? If so, how?

Participants shared advice on how to make authentic resources comprehensible for different levels. @srtajohnson13 wrote, “Basic step 1: pre-teach new vocab, may be as simple as defining terms [within the authentic resource itself].” Again, Langchatters overwhelmingly agreed that tasks, not materials, should be modified. @tmsaue1 said, “gonna sound like a broken record here: change the task not the ‘text.’ ([This] certainly applies to [authentic resources]).” @ProfeCochran instructed language teachers to “never modify, always scaffold according to [students’] level.” @trescolumnae advocated for the use of embedded readings “if there’s a whole lot of new/unfamiliar vocabulary in the [authentic resource].” He finds them to be a valuable tool, as they “SUPPORT [and] SCAFFOLD but don’t ‘modify’ [authentic resources].” [Never heard of an embedded reading before? This link should get you started:] Finally, @KrisClimer highlighted the key role of the “[teacher] as facilitator/teammate/parent. Standing in the gap, bridging to each learner, but helping them cross on their own.”


Langchatters offered a wealth of advice on how to scaffold authentic resources for different levels of students. Overall, they drove home the importance of modifying tasks–not texts–and making resources relevant and interesting to students. Participants welcomed student involvement in choosing resources and recognized the importance of student feedback on activities.

Thank you

Thank you again to Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Kris (@KrisClimer), and Laura (@SraSpanglish) for moderating #langchat Q&A style! Due to space limitations, some tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share, do not hesitate to do so. If you haven’t done so already, we invite you to share your thoughts on #langchat’s Q&A format, as well! Finally, 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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