What do you notice about these two ducks?
One is the real thing and one is not. Now think about the types of tasks, texts and experiences you provide for your students in the L2 you are teaching. Which duck do they resemble most? Of course there are times when it is appropriate to use language that is designed for teaching purposes, and simplified for our students' level, but if our students never encounter authentic language, will they recognize it and be able to use it when they do?
Today I want to share with you two experiences in which students are encountering authentic language. One in the form of authentic tasks and texts, and the other in the form of community interaction with native speakers, practices, products and perspectives.
What is authentic text? ACTFL defines authentic text as "written by members of a language and culture group for members of the same language and culture group" (Galloway, 1998, p. 133). To learn more about authentic texts, click here.
Sometimes we don't have the opportunity to take students into the community to experience authentic communication with native speakers of the language, or to interact with texts and other resources that were designed for native speakers of a language. In this case, resourceful language teachers bring the community into their classroom, and that is exactly what Mandy Domenech (WKHS) did for her Spanish students last week. She set up stations around the whole classroom as if they were in different parts of town. At each station, she created a task that students had to complete using the authentic texts that she has gathered, either through her travels, or from fellow teachers who loaned her their resources, or from local businesses who publish materials in Spanish.
What do we like about this activity? It is task-based, it requires students to interact with authentic texts, it is student-centered, and it self-directed. It's also challenging and fun at the same time.
What is challenging about this activity? It requires a lot of time up front to prepare the tasks and collect the materials. You also have to teach the unit vocabulary and structures in such a way that students will be able to apply what they learned in class to the tasks and texts at hand.
Is it worth it? This is a very simple way to show students that the language they are learning in the classroom is actually used in the real-world, and that there is an entire population of fellow human beings who use this language regularly in their daily lives. It is also empowering when students are able to accomplish a task using their newly acquired language. By adapting the tasks she required students to complete, she was even able to use the same texts for Level 1 and immersion students. So in my opinion, it is well worth it!
In addition to authentic texts, we can also motivate students by exposing them to culture. For example, students from the Chinese immersion program and Chinese Levels 1 and 2 classes at MGMS got to experience authentic language, products, practices and perspectives on a recent field study to the Confucius Institute at USC. Susan Wang and Na Zhang described the event so that I could share it with you here.
Our first immersion class has recently been working on the topic of famous people in China. We started from Kongzi (Confucius) first. Our students learned some information about Kongzi's life experience, his achievements and his philosophy through teacher created presentations, online video clips, and guided self-study online.
In order to help students understand the profound influence Confucius had on today's society, we designed a field study to the Confucius Institute for our students in the immersion class and regular Chinese language class as well. Considering the students' L2 skills, we organized the students into two different groups, Higher level- Immersion class + level 2 class and Lower level: Novice A+ level 1 classes. Therefore Professor Yetan's presentation content also varied depending on the two levels.
In the photos you see Professor Ye Tan, the director of the Confucius Institute at USC, who gave us a presentation on Confucius. You also see Ms. Liyue, the deputy director of this organization, who guided us on a short tour of the Institute, and showed us some Chinese calligraphy works, authentic Chinese items used for Chinese New year celebrations, as well as Chinese textbooks, and extended readers. The students also had the opportunity to see a Taiji presentation, and practiced Taiji with Mr. Zhang and Mr. Tang.
What do we like about this activity? Students are immersed in authentic language, cultural practices and products, as well as experiencing Chinese in the community.
What is challenging about this activity? The time to set it up, making connections in the community, and funding for the trip.
Is it worth it? Susan states, Overall the students had a very good experience from this trip. They came back did a Field study reflection in small groups, and shared out their thoughts in class.
Is it more fun to learn about Taiji, or to actually learn Taiji? I suggest that the time and investment required to provide these opportunities for our students is well worth it!
Mandy, Susan and Na, thank you for letting your students hold a real duck, instead of a fake. Your hard work is noticed and appreciated.
World Language Teacher Support Specialist (and Language Enthusiast)