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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Creative Strategies for Reading Authentic Texts in Other Languages

Creative Strategies for Reading Authentic Texts in Other Languages

Related Tags: World Languages
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8 Replies 1615 Views
Dear WL friends in Edutopia-land! A colleague wrote to me this week about an interesting idea. She would like some creative ideas to support her students in doing Free Reading in her WL class. Here is her specific query: "My AP students have a period a week to browse through the classroom library and find reading material that tickles their fancy. We use a reading log so that we can track progress. I give reading quizzes a couple of times a month, but I'm interested in more creative ways to approach that sweet spot of losing oneself in a good book." I thought that all of us might enjoy a discussion on this topic. We need not limit our discussion to what we might do in an AP class. Some strategies could easily be tailored to the novice level, as well as to intermediate or even advanced fluency levels. The input I would like to give is this: How can we offer multiple strategies to engage our WL students with authentic resources in the target language, without changing the texts themselves, but rather by changing the tasks we ask students to do? Of course, we also need to be selective about the authentic resources as well - we don't hand beginning Italian students a copy of Dante's Inferno, nor do we give more advanced level French students a copy of Frère Jacques! We do need to select appropriate texts, but we don't need to change the texts, just the tasks we ask them to do. With that in mind, let's have an on-going discussion! What ideas can we share with one another? Have fun! Cheers, Don

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Anna Cartwright's picture
Anna Cartwright
Eighth Grade French Teacher, Buffalo, NY

I'd encourage students to start with a text that they are already familiar with from their native language. Harry Potter comes to mind as being being well-translated into French, or possibly consider reading something like l'Etranger in English first, and then in French. Get started rereading something that you know in the target language and you can get going quicker and gain some confidence before tackling brand new material.

Nicole Naditz's picture
Nicole Naditz
Teacher of French, levels 1-AP, near Sacramento, CA

I also do weekly free-choice reading. We do it in French 3, but only for a small part of the period each week. In order to engage my students in written communication after their weekly free-choice reading in French 3, I provide a menu of activities from which to choose. Each sheet has 8 or 9 different, short activities to do that allow them to process the reading in a variety of different ways. Each week, they pick a different activity to do from the menu. The students choose their own reading material, from novels and magazines to children's books with only a sentence on each page. All are authentic (written --or translated in a few cases) by native speakers for native speakers). Some students select the same book or magazine each week and try to make progress over the course of the year and others pick something different every time. I purchase new books and magazines whenever I travel based on my students' interests and even their requests. The activities include things like "write a tweet about what you read. Include at least one hashtag"'; write a note back to a character from your book or article; imagine what happened one week, one month or one year after the scenes/segments you read today, etc.

I also engage students in other types of authentic readings for which I plan more precise lessons. We work with chunks of material that are interspersed with interactive and cognitive processing activities that I organize using online tools such as Mentormob and BlendSpace. Students analyze a series of infographics on one topic (such as hunger in the world in French 2) and then choose the five statistics they find to be the most powerful to create their own infographic.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator 2014

Thanks to Nadine and Anna for your suggestions. I look forward to see others' comments as well.

I always prefer to use authentic texts in the target language, rather than translations from other languages. I am sure students enjoy Harry Potter in the language they are studying, and for free time reading that is certainly a fine way to engage kids and motivate them, so no critique on that point! However, part of the WL curriculum is to expose our students to the cultural contexts of the readings we may choose as well. Translated texts don't bring that element forward as well.

Also, rather than read texts in English first, then in the target language is not my preferred approach. Again, it is certainly a personal choice for each teacher to make. That being said, I want my students to learn to read in the target language as my primary approach. I acquired more fluency in the languages I have learned by doing extensive reading in those languages. It is worthwhile teaching students how to read in the language of instruction with strategies to scaffold for understanding. For example, teach students to mark up the text with close reading strategies. They will need a photocopy of the text and some colored pencils. First, have them number the paragraphs so when you discuss the text, everyone knows where you are. Then have them choose one color to mark the cognates in the text. Have them use another color to underline key words or phrases, and another to underline challenging words for discussion. I like to build a word wall of challenging words, define them in the target language, and work with them as we learn to tell and retell our own stories using the words. Also, students can write questions about the text in one margin for later discussion, and then a summary statement in the other margin. This approach scaffolds the text deeply, and I have found students really do understand what they are reading as a result.

It is also a great idea to scaffold debriefing of the text with a class discussion. Have students do a think/pair/share activity. They can start by doing this for each paragraph. Have the students think about what they want to share, pair up to practice, then share out to table groups and whole groups. This is very engaging.

I appreciate your contributions, everyone! Let's keep this chat going!

Cheers,
Don

Nicole Naditz's picture
Nicole Naditz
Teacher of French, levels 1-AP, near Sacramento, CA

I agree about the importance of authentic cultural sources that convey both culture and language. We work extensively in class with authentic documents beginning in French 1 specifically to expose students to language and culture in context. Some of our French 1 documents include menus songs, report cards from French schools, short poems, schedules for shows, and Web sites with weather reports and other material. Often, I design pre-reading, listening or viewing activities to prepare them to work with the document. The task is always modified for their level of proficiency. The best recent example was with online weather reports. Their task was to look at the weather and give me three sentences: is is hot, warm, cool or cold (based on their understanding of the Celsius temperatures) plus two sentences about weather conditions, such as windy,sunny, rainy, cloudy (based on the icons for sun and clouds and the short phrases they could understand with the words "precipitation" followed by a percentage and "force du vent" followed by wind speed). The French 1 classes (traditional schedule) were able to do this two weeks ago and did a great job demonstrating their understanding of the online document using the French that they know and are comfortable with. At more advanced levels, the documents--and the tasks--are more varied and complex. I look for multiple opportunities for students to interact with a text while listening, reading or viewing, as well as ways to make connections, comparisons and analyses across multiple texts treating a similar topic. For example, in French 2, students examine several infographics (in French) on hunger in the world. In groups, they choose the five most important statistics from the infographics (their opinion) and then they create a new infographic with just those five statistics. They use online tools such as Ease.ly to create the infographic.

BreeStillings's picture
BreeStillings
High School French Levels I - AP, China Grove, North Carolina

Two Ideas -
From the very beginning of French 1, I like to start exposing students to authentic texts. One that I like to do very early is movie listings and showings from a website such as http://www.cinemabalzac.com/public/affiche/film_semaine.php#film_542. I print off various movies for students or do a class discussion on the Promethean board asking: 1. What information can you interpret form the movie listing? 2. What cognates can you identify? Two very simple questions that start getting students to participate in digital literacy skills and authenticating the new language that they have just learned for days of the week and times.

The second idea is for more advanced students. One strategy I like to use before beginning a new chapter (Le Petit Prince, Les Trois Mousquetaires, etc...) is Possible Sentences. This pre-reading strategy is a great way to introduce the new vocabulary, or hard vocabulary. I choose 8 - 10 vocabulary words from the reading and list them into two columns, nouns and verbs. Then I display the words for the students and ask them to write three sentences that use two or three of these vocabulary words that they think may possibly appear in the selection to be read. I ask students to present these either verbally or on the board. The rational is that students not only learn the meaning of the vocabulary, but they are also looking at different conjugations and forms of the words and using it to synthesize not just understand. Then students read the passage looking for their words and to see if anyone in the class 'guessed' right. Students have a lot of fun with this, because some of their ideas are just funny.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator 2014

@Bree and @Nicole
Super ideas! Thanks for sharing! REally super ideas. Looking forward to more from others - who has more ideas to add?

Cheers,
Don

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