Capitalize on students’ natural curiosity about the world around them.
At the beginning of your language-learning journey, what drew you in and kept you studying that language, year after year? I’m betting it wasn’t memorizing verb tenses. If it was how the language allowed you to connect to people and places beyond your own world, you’re in good company.
The path that led me to teaching high school Spanish for seven years, as well as as to my current roles as an adjunct Spanish professor, reader for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, and Director of Instructional Design in World Languages at Carnegie Learning, began when I was in elementary school, when I befriended Ricardo, a Brazilian exchange student. I was fascinated by his language, accent, and life experiences. We were pen pals for years, and today, we stay in touch on Facebook.
1. How do you find high-quality resources?
The first challenge we face is finding resources. It sounds relatively easy, right? Videos, articles, blogs, songs, and infographics abound on the internet. But all of us have experienced going down the rabbit hole of searching for hours on end and vetting resources that end up being inappropriate or unusable.
One solution is to get access to a curated library of authentic language resources.
If you’re using our Spanish, German, or French programs, you already have access to a library that has been reliably vetted. iCulture, our cultural immersion resource, provides authentic language resources in the form of travel videos, lifestyle videos, news articles, and karaoke songs. We continually update the content in iCulture, so you’ll have access to new resources monthly or even weekly (in the case of news articles) throughout the school year, as well as archives of materials going back more than ten years.
Are you fully harnessing the power of iCulture?
2. How do you design level-appropriate tasks to make the best use of the resource?
Having the resource is only half the battle—now, how do we use that resource effectively? You might be tempted to modify it for fear that it may be too difficult for your students, but resist the urge! Learners will benefit from being exposed to a variety of resources, even at lower levels.
How? Adjust the task, not the text.
The trick to designing level-appropriate tasks for any authentic language resource is to focus on the ACTFL Performance Descriptors and Can-Do Statements. With specific tasks and appropriate scaffolding, learners will rise to the occasion and learn at their level, no matter the input.
Here are some specific tips you can share with your students when working in the interpretive mode to optimize their learning experience:
3. How do you differentiate learning with the same resource?
Another challenge is how you can meet a wide range of student levels with authentic language resources.
The good news is that you can take any resource and use it with multiple levels of students by differentiating instruction. By creating activities for novice, intermediate, and advanced learners using the same resource, you’ll spend less time finding resources!
Let’s say you are going to have the students watch a video about how the pandemic and quarantine have affected young people’s lives. Below are three videos from iCulture that you can use in your class! (On the iCulture platform, you have access to additional features, such as subtitles and comprehension and discussion questions.)
Here’s a sample template of how you can differentiate tasks for all of your students using the same video, whether it’s one of these three above or one you find on your own!
I love everything about learning a language and getting to know people, places, and cultures. That is what I want to foster in my students, as I’m sure you do. Focusing on what people do and how they do it is a surefire way to keep our students fully invested in their language learning journey.
Implement these approaches to effectively and efficiently utilize authentic language resources in your class this year, and if you are already using Carnegie Learning’s world languages solutions, I hope that you put iCulture to good use! Let us know how it goes and share your own tips and tricks with our Language Is Limitless educator community on Facebook.
Janet's teaching experience is in Spanish, having taught all levels, both AP Language and AP Literature, dual credit courses, and native Spanish speaker courses. After seven years of teaching high school Spanish, she joined the Carnegie Learning team, but she still serves as an adjunct Spanish professor at Lone Star College in Houston, as well as an AP Reader for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. Her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish is from Geneva College, and she learned my Master’s degree in Spanish focusing on Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys traveling and experiencing new places (when there isn’t a pandemic). She also loves presenting at local, regional, and national world language conferences on a variety of topics from differentiated instruction to cultural biases and how they impact the classroom.Explore more related to this author