The slippery slope of 100% authentic resources

I love authentic resources. I use them every day in my classroom but I have trouble accepting that non-authentic resources (made for learners by learners) are not valuable. I’ll give you 3 reasons and welcome you to challenge them if you disagree.

1. Saying that all language must come from 100% authentic resources devalues ME because I am not a native speaker. I’m non-authentic! I think that good teaching comes from good relationships with students and from understanding how students learn language. The ability to teach language is MUCH more reliant on these things than the background of the teacher! Natives AND non-natives can be equally effective!

2. Superstar students can handle grappling with language/ambiguity in reading, but the superstar language learners are an anomaly. It is so easy to get caught up in the great performance and proficiency of the select few who are natural language learners that we forget they are abnormal! Most students fall in the middle and if we gear our curriculum toward the superstars, we are completely discounting those middle kids and especially their slower processing counterparts. The idea that we will change Americans’ views on language learning is dependent on changing our views on students’ ability to learn language! If we believe that upper level language is only for the select few, we are never going to create a generation of language learners/lovers. (Retention rates in upper levels are so telling of the health of a language program.)

3. We teach emerging L1 readers with materials designed to build their literacy, why would L2 be any different? Good stories, written to recycle key structures and to guide students with reading strategies, are just good practice. Visit a college literature class and ask some of the undergrads how they get through those “authentic texts”… It is with a lot of guessing and heavy reliance on the dictionary. Maybe what they need are bridge texts that teach them to read a novel before they make the full transition? I got my Master’s degree at SIUE and one of my professors (a Spanish native who taught my Spanish Civil War class) is using my novel La hija del sastre with his intermediates to bridge that reading gap!

Whether native or non-native speaker, the push for 100% authentic resources implies that we can’t create curriculum that is appropriate for our learners where they are today. As another tool in our (buzzword) toolbelt, authentic resources are so powerful… but they’re even more powerful when preceded by instruction that makes them accessible to all students!


A real “who-dunnit” sub plan….

ACTFL was so much fun but it also took a lot of planning to leave a sub ready for 3 days in a Spanish classroom. There is no one in the district who speaks enough Spanish to handle a lesson so I have to leave “virtual me” when I am gone if I want to keep moving forward.

In Spanish I I left lessons I created on the iPad with educreations and 30Hands. We are working on climates here and everywhere as part of our stories so I started with a review and then a short story…
In Spanish 3 and 4, I left a murder mystery. I pretended that Virtual Me was going to teach the class but as the video began, a masked stranger entered and we suddenly had a murder to solve! Here is what students saw on Day 1… It includes some “hallway gossip” between our English teachers and even the librarian as they try to figure out who might have committed the crime!? My friend, Martina Bex, created an AMAZING looking worksheet (from my plain old word docs) that students completed as they collected evidence over the three day project! (If you make something similar, watch out, a couple of times I unconsciously used informal when I had been interviewing with Ud)Murder worksheets

Day 2: Using witness testimonies on video and transcripts made by Martina, students listened to the two prime suspects’ description of what happened. They made notes on their worksheets as they gathered evidence to solve the crime.

The other Spanish teacher’s testimony:
The English teacher’s testimony: (Kids liked watching their other teachers struggle with using Spanish!)

Day 3: Students received an evidence folder with pictures of the evidence EvidencePhotos
and a video of the officer who collected it. (Me in my neighbor’s outfit and an uncle Sy beard)
They also saw this expert testimony from the chemistry teacher and handwriting analyst, Mrs. Lingley.

The murder mystery filled the 3 44 minute class periods and the kids did a lot of great writing as they theorized who might have done it and why. One negative is that they didn’t pick up on the biggest piece of evidence and so they were pretty evenly divided about who they thought the killer was… It was interesting to see them support their choice and I think they had some great points! I wish I had made it more obvious that there was one person whose timeline didn’t match everyone else’s! Another negative is that it took a LONG time to make and edit the videos! But the positives SO outweighed the negatives. They got lots of great input and did lots of great written output as they solved the crime!

Adapt as needed for your classroom!

We are all Ayotzinapa

Surely, you have heard something about this story. And hopefully because of you, your students have as well. Because if it’s not taking place in our own borders or in the middle east, the traditional media doesn’t give much attention. But this issue is so important, we must not let it go unnoticed.
Ayotzinapa Students“The 43 Mexican students who disappeared in southern Mexico in September were abducted by police on order of a local mayor, and are believed to have been turned over to a gang that killed them and burned their bodies before throwing some remains in a river.

There are plenty of ways to teach this horrific event in your classrooms. The best source is actually from social media, such as twitter and instagram, were you are going to find resounding and powerful images.

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