The daunting task of collecting authentic materials

My district’s curriculum coordinator is encouraging language teachers to find their own authentic materials instead of using ones from a publisher that are written for the second language audience. Authentic materials are culturally rich and tend to rely less on stereotypes than textbooks. The task of collecting them is made a little bit easier because I have been working at it for the last four years, but I still find it daunting. In this post I would like to share what I’ve learned so that others can collect authentic resources more quickly than I did and get on to the next step of using them.

My goal has been to find authentic videos and texts that are of high interest level to my pre-teen students and are accessible at the novice level. These materials also need to fit into the themes that are taught in the first years of French class and need to be geared toward social justice, as per my district. Where do I go to find such texts and video clips?

I will start with my favorites. My best resource is TV5Monde. Click here to see my blog post about this gold mine of a resource. In addition, I have found some individuals who collect authentic resources. There is a new site called Le vrai de vrai that has just come online in the last month and is a game changer for French teachers. It is a collection of authentic materials leveled for novice and intermediate students. Another great collector, Catherine Ousselin, on behalf of AATF has created a You Tube channel called AAT French that is a rich source for videos. The materials from these three sources figure prominently in my instruction.

Beyond these sites, I rely heavily on materials other French teachers have posted to Pinterest and Twitter. On Pinterest, French teachers have adopted FLE, Français Langue Étrangère, as their designation for French materials. Do a search with the terms “FLE” and the theme that you are searching for, such as “FLE nourriture”, then click on “boards” to find boards with multiple pins on the topic. You will be led to many short video clips, info-graphs and articles. Not all of them will be authentic, appropriate, interesting and accessible so you will need to sort through with a critical eye. You can check out my boards here, as a starting point. Pinterest is, by the way, a great place to store for future use the authentic documents you gather. On Twitter, the shortcut to authentic documents is #authres and if you add in #french you will see the latest tweets for authentic French resources.

Media outlets from France that write content for children are a great resource as well. Best would be to subscribe to magazines like GéoAdo and Okapi, but online you can get some good resources from these magazines as well as from 1jour1actu and P’tit Libé, which have both been excellent for me.

What to do with the clips and readings you have found? Once I have found a video clip, I want to be able to call it up quickly when I am using it with my students, so I want to take out the hassle of unreliable wifi and advertisements. Also, I frequently want to use just a segment. So, I use a clip converter to download the segment. And I store both the clips and the readings that I have found in my Google Docs, which seems to have enough space for all my content.

These hints have taken me four years to assemble. I wish you happy collecting. May you move more quickly than I did.

The Gold Mine : TV5 Monde

Looking for relevant video clips to use in teaching language takes time. I have been wishing for one site where video clips would be curated, labeled by topic and proficiency level and presented with activities. TV5Monde does all that. Allow me to give you a tour of this resource and pass on to you what I have learned about finding novice level authentic videos and rewriting the activities to make the clips even more useful.

There are three programs within TV5Monde that I have found especially useful: Première Classe, Paroles des clips and Parlons français, c’est facile! All three products use authentic clips with leveled activities to teach language. Of course you can use just the clip and make your own activity too.

I use each program differently. For Première Classe I use the videos and the activities just as they are presented. As the Première Classe activities allow students to work independently at their own pace, I have my students do them when we go together to the computer lab or borrow the computer cart. I find that there are enough activities per theme that the students can spend 30 minutes in the computer lab working independently on the topic of our current unit. I make a sheet to guide students to the activities I want them to try. As the program offers them feedback, I don’t have them record anything specifically about the exercises they have done, instead I have them keep a list of vocabulary words and phrases they learn while doing the activities.

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The music videos that are presented in program Paroles des clips are useful for whole group activities and I can often use the activities that are presented with the video by printing them as is. The class watches the clips together and each student does his or her own work on the worksheet. Then we come together as a class to discuss what we have understood. The music videos are invaluable because without them my collection of songs would be quickly out dated. Paroles des clips introduces me to new artists and saves me time by guiding me directly to songs that are slow enough for novice speakers and have vocabulary useful to the topics that I teach at the novice level.

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My approach to the program Parlons français, c’est facile is different yet again. For the clips I discover through this program, when I show a clip from the collection to the whole class, I have the class do an activity while I walk them through it. To this end, I look at the online exercises that are presented with the clip and rewrite them as an activity that I initiate with the whole class. These are the clips I can most often use for straight Interpretive Mode activities to evaluate students, often with the Interpretive Mode activity template from ACTFL.

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TV5 Monde has supplied me with authentic videos to teach novice students. These videos bring French culture into my classroom in a way that the text book videos didn’t. The authentic clips give me a lot of cultural material to discuss with my students. It is truly a gold mine.

Interactive Read Alouds and Partner Turn and Talks

Elementary classroom teachers read to their students in the whole group setting, either with a book they hold or one they project.  As the students work to understand the book, students get the support of the teacher.  When asked to discuss with partners, they get help from their peers and have time to process their thoughts as they aid their partner.  Reading aloud in the large group is an excellent method for beginning language students who are learning to read in the target language.

In Interactive Read Alouds, teachers read a book out loud and then ask students questions on the topic, but about themselves.  My class has enjoyed the book Mon Pull.  Click here Mon Pull for a PDF of the book.  I project the book and read it to the students stopping to ask them questions.  Click here to download the Lesson Plan Mon Pull.  The drawings are engaging and the questions are of interest to adolescents as they are personalized.  In addition the comprehensible input is accessible but a little challenging.  We read this book during the unit on clothing.

In Partner Turn and Talks, teachers have students turn to a partner and answer questions about the content book, then a few volunteers are called on to report to the large group.  My Middle School students were charmed by the picture book Je mangerais bien un enfant.  Click here Je mangerais bien un enfant to go a PDF of the book.  Click here Je mangerais bien un enfant for the lesson.  I project the book on the board and read.  At different points I ask the students to turn to their partner and discuss while I circulate to hear answers.  This picture book is accessible yet challenging during a unit on foood.

What if you have one copy of a range of French children’s books?  Students like to chose their own book and read it with the help of a French-English dictionary.  I have an Interpretive Reading Task Lecture de livre d’enfants for students when reading picture books.  I like to have them read individually because they go at their own pace.  Reading on their own I see students laugh and smile.  In addition they ask about French culture from something they read, i.e. “Do French moms talk very directly and not gently to their kids?  Is it different than in the US?”, which I love.

These techniques have been a great addition to my class.

More Interactive Read Alouds: Le chien de Lapin and the Lesson, Mon hamster est un gangster and the Lesson