How to extend authentic resources

I love using authentic resources in my thematic units because when students read or watch a text from another culture, they make cultural observations. When you find a good authentic resource you will want to get as much out of it as possible, that is you will want to extend that authentic resource. In this post I want to remind you of ideas for communicative activities in all three modes to use to get the most out of authentic resources.

– For a reading, ask questions to lead the students to scan the text for words or to read the text to gleam the main idea.
– The first time you show a video, show it without sound and ask students to write three sentences to say what happened in the video. Then, students share what they wrote. Next, play the video with sound and afterwards ask students to compare what they understand now with what they thought the video was about.
– Make a script of a short segment of the video. The script can be the straight transcription of what was said or the script can be a simplified retelling.

– Have students make personal connections to the text by asking them questions about themselves that relate to what was explained. Ask questions and give answers either in pairs or groups.
– Discuss details on the topic of the reading or video, first in pairs and then in the large group. Then do a “shared writing” where students and the teacher construct a paragraph of linked sentences and the teacher acts as a scribe to write down the sentences on the white board as they go. As a final step, the teacher reads the sentences to the class while they read it from the board silently to themselves.

– If personal connections were explored in the interpersonal activity, then students can write about their own practices as they relate to the topic to explain them to a penpal or to offer explanation for a student who is new to school. Or, have students explain these personal connections in a video as a vlog post to share with students from a different country.
– After a “shared writing”, have students write a summary of what was said during the conversation. They can repeat what was written down by the teacher word for word, or change it to simplify it. Students can then be asked to elaborate on the topic by writing their own sentences.

To give you an opportunity to try out these activities here are a couple authentic documents that might be of interest to your students. I used them in my unit on describing family and friends.

La famille de l’émission Magic: Website and Questions
Brebis et Chiens: Video and Reading

To better understand how I am using these activities in the unit on Describing family and friends, check out the unit plan in this post.

Unit Plan on Friends

Thank for you all of the feedback on the two other units I posted. As teachers are scrambling to plan for the month ahead, I have a third unit plan to offer to others as an example, this time on the subject of Friends. This unit has taken me months to plan as I wanted to make the topic relevant to my students, connect with cultures of the Francophone world and speak to students about important acts of activism in as diverse countries as France, Belgium and Canada. For some reason before this I haven’t had a unit on description that I really liked and with a little extra work this week now I am pleased with the product. I would love to see activities and unit plans from readers for description. Please share generously if you have something to add and benefit without guilt if you want to use something I have included.

Unit Plan on My Day at School

When teachers share work on Twitter or other social media platforms, one great way to communicate how to promote student learning in a language is to share a unit plan. Leslie Grahn’s template for unit plans on her website is visual and shows how the components of a unit integrate, so I like to use it. I had great response to the first unit I shared earlier this week and so I have decided to share a second unit, this time on the school day.

Here is link to a unit plan on My Day at School. It is my hope that through sharing online other teachers will be inspired to take this unit plan and make it their own or incorporate some of the resources into their teaching.

Unit Plan on the School Cafeteria

When I have time to reflect on teaching and pull back to the big picture, I like to work on unit plans. For different teachers this takes different forms. I favor unit plans that are visual and show how the components work together for student learning. Leslie Grahn offers on her website my favorite unit plan template as well as great resources for activities that promote student learning. I want to make sure that teachers flood the Internet with examples that can inspire other teachers, so in this post I am offering a sample unit plan, this one is on expressing your opinion on meals at the school cafeteria.

Unit Plan: School Cafeteria

Photos to discuss in the World Language classroom

Images can be rich and compelling. Looking at them, language learners are encouraged to speak. For looking at photographs and talking about them, there are a few pointers for how to choose an image.

For discussing images, I employ Visual Thinking Strategy. I was trained in this method, but can give you an overview to get you started and then you can research it further. In a nutshell, ask your students the following questions:
– What is going on in this picture?
– What do you see that makes you say that?
– What more can you find?
Most importantly, validate student interpretations as they go. Every comment is an important addition. Point at what students mention as they say it. Repeat back to students their comments.

Where can you find rich and compelling photos? A resource that will be invaluable to you is the collection of photographs for educators to use for Visual Thinking Strategy from the New York Times. You can start with this slide show of 40 photographs.

For this discussion, I am going to use three photos from that collection to review some ideas for how to choose a photo that can be most useful for conversation. Here are three ideas to keep in mind:
Choose a photo that expresses multiple ideas. For example, don’t choose a photo that is a close up of one being. In this photo there is a parade, house, car and motorcycle. There is a girl in a dress and the color of that dress is compelling. There is emotion expressed in this photo.

From the New York Times

Choose a photo that lends itself to discussion using vocabulary that your students already have. This photo takes place in a classroom. There are students, a teacher, tables, chairs and they are looking at something. There is vocabulary that students have even at the novice level.

From the New York Times

Choose a photo that shows an aspect of culture or that lends itself to a social justice commentary. The last two photos showed two different themes for cultural commentary. The first was the celebration of a quinceanera and the second was a view into the setting of a school. Here is a photo of a human living in an exhibit in a zoo. This photo lends itself to a social justice commentary on habitats in zoos.

From the New York Times

Here are slides with the images I found so that you can easily copy the slide and use them in your classroom. Let me know in the comments what you keep in mind when choosing a photo to discuss in class.

Les héros

I am always trying to plug into topics that interest my Middle School students. My latest attempt is the twin topics of Heroes, meaning people we admire, and Super Heroes. I found excellent materials on a blog Les Crayons de Delf and modified the activities to create some lessons for Novices.

Here is a mini-unit to address heroes.

Essential questions: Who is a hero? What are their accomplishments?

Can do statements

  • I can understand descriptions of people and their accomplishments.
  • I can read about changemakers to inspire me to reflect on and take action to make my community and world a better place.
  • I can name a hero and what they do.
  • I can identify who is left out of the discussion of heroes.

Here are slides to use while teaching

Activities for lessons

Hook video: Soprano – À nos héros du quotidien Play first minute 20 seconds of the video and ask students to tell you what is the main idea depicted in the story of the video.

EdPuzzle: C’est quoi un héros ?

Have students do the reading on changemakers. Have students look for words for professions. Show slide with all of their pictures and say their nationality / occupation / un fait divers and students say who it is.

EdPuzzle Greta Thunberg

Talk about real life heroes. Ask students to identify a hero and say what they do:

  • ___ est un héro. Elle / il / iel est activiste / écologiste / journaliste.
  • Elle / il / iel… aide / sauve / donne / lutte pour / lutte contre / travaille (pour)…

Read two slides about superheroes

Hand out lyrics. Play song Super Mamie. Have students underline words they know.

Readings on Superhéros. Hand out first reading to groups of four. Play the Lucky Reading Game. Here are the questions.

Akinator: We are going to play the reverse guessing game Akinator, trying to get the Akinator to guess a Super Hero. We use the readings about the Super Hero for background information to help us answer questions. 

Kahoot: Les superhéros 

Students create a plan for their own superhero

Students in groups talk about their super heroes. Show students sentence starters on the slides to help them share the information from their charts.

Reading: Noms de rue Teacher reads out loud the excerpts on the slides. “Can anyone give a summary in English, not a translation?”  Ask the class to share five facts in French with their discussion groups. Share out to the class. Then, ask students to put the reading away.

Show students the pictures from the reading on the slide. Have a class conversation where they say as much as they can about the picture. “What do you see? What do you know about that?” Ask yes and no questions to help them along. Lead the class to what would make sense for them to talk about and what they have the vocabulary to talk about.

Shared Writing: Ask students to give sentences about what we discussed together. Teacher writes them down.

Shared Reading: Teacher reads the finished paragraph back to the students.

Put the paragraph away. Have students write sentences from what they remember of the group writing. Then have them write one sentence of their own. 

Online games that promote proficiency

When you want to play games with your students yet you want the games to promote proficiency, try out a few of these ideas.

  • Play Quizlet with fill in the blank instead of translation. Request that students play Match and Gravity. Here is an example on the topic of Mes Activités.
  • One of my favorites is Jeopardy on Factile. Here is a beginner’s version that I call Les Premiers Mois.
  • A Kahoot game is a way to circumlocute and ask students to guess from four options or it can be a regular trivia game. Here is a game for La Famille and another for Ma Journée and then a trivia game for Les Super Héros.
  • And finally, have students read in French about some super heros such as Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, Hulk, La femme invisible and Wonderwoman. Then play the reverse guessing game Akinator and see if the Akinator can guess the super hero.

Quick Start to using the Massachusetts World Language Framework

This year, in 2021, our state finally updated the World Language standards. You may be thinking about how you can align your teaching to these standards. If you were already following ACTFL’s World-Readiness Standards, you will find this document very familiar. But for some of us, the framework will mean changes in the way we teach. How to get started? Here is a short list of essential hints on implementing the new Massachusetts 2021 World Language Curriculum Framework.

  • The World Language Framework is online. You will want to bookmark it for easy reference. The framework was written by teachers here in our state. You probably know some of them, at school or personally. There are many voices who represent you in this framework, teachers who have classroom experience with real kids locally.
  • Where to start? When you are having an inclination toward big-picture thinking, read only the guiding principles. Think about what you are already doing. Don’t concentrate on how much road you have in front of you. You have already put some of these guiding principles into action.
  • A highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “Students become proficient in a language by using it.” This simple idea can be a guide for your classroom. Measure activities not by what vocabulary they practice, but by whether or not students are negotiating meaning through communication.
  • My favorite highlight from the Guiding Principles section is, “In effective programs, students use the target language to tell their own stories and to examine their own identities.” Intercultural understanding starts with understanding one’s own culture and talking about oneself.
  • A good start as you ease into or dive deeper into teaching for proficiency is to commit to teaching in a more interesting and effective way through using Can Do statements based on the Standards.
  • The Framework was written for each level to stand alone as a two-sided handout. Think about printing the level you are teaching (the one you are aiming for) and have it out at your workspace as you plan.
  • Pay close attention to the verbs in the Standards. They were used very intentionally to progress from level to level. You will recognize the verbs from Blooms.
  • To understand how to bring students one level up, look at the level they are at in a specific mode and then look at the level you are aiming for. You will learn what you need to do to extend their skills.

Consider printing out these pointers as a handout for you or your teachers and use it like a progressive checklist.

Teaching Intercultural Competency

While we are teaching students to communicate in another language we are also teaching them intercultural competency, so that students can learn to interact in other cultures. As I am currently planning lessons I feel fortunate that there has been a lot written on teaching culture and some of the guidance is available for free on the Internet. In this blog post, I will show you free materials that I borrowed from to build my toolbox to teach intercultural connections.

Two resources that I merged to make a pre and post assessment

A guide to co-creating classroom guidelines with your students and setting the tone the first day

Build rapport between the members of your class by having them divide into groups to prepare to teach the whole class playground games from around the world.

  • Article on playground games around the world

My favorite three activities / warm ups from: Intercultural Learning Toolbox of Classroom Activities

  • 2 visions for 1 reality
  • 60 seconds = 1 minute, or does it?
  • Drawing with 2 hands

Lesson plans for Lessons that address cultural competency

Along the way, students reflect by writing in a blue exam book that they keep as a journal. In addition, when we look at specific cultures, they write their thoughts. For some ideas of prompts, here is an ACTFL document.

Though all of these resources are in English, many of them are straight-forward enough for students to navigate in the language they are learning. I wish you great luck with the teaching of culture to your students. A deep understanding of culture promotes tolerance and justice. This is truly important work.

What are the resources you have found to teach Intercultural Competence? Please add to this post with a comment so that we can start a conversation.

Dollar Street: Images of families from around the world

“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic,” says Anna Rosling Rönnlund, the inventor of Dollar Street. “This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without traveling.” 

La famille Mbusya

In a unit on families, the images from Dollar Sense can give students information to answer the question “What is a family?” To get to that answer, students can observe families from different countries around the world.

To start, preview the site with your students. Then give them an assignment where they read about different families, think about the information and do some writing for themselves. The sample assignment that I linked here is for Novice level students.

How have you used Dollar Street in your class?

P.S. Thanks to the comments by readers, I was able to make a second activity that is similar using the site Là où je dors