You might be asking yourself, “why is there a post about foreign language teaching materials in a technology blog?” The reason is that (to me) this is the foundation of providing an authentic foreign language learning environment for your students. It is also the first step to incorporating technology into your foreign language classroom.
Sure, you can find a lot of good material out there! In fact, many teachers generously share the wonderful materials they themselves develop for their classes. But if you ask those teachers, you will find that no material out there will fit your particular students and your teaching (their learning) goals better than your own material will!
Now, this does not mean that you have to spend hundreds of hours creating teaching materials
In fact, technology plays a major role here! But it is not only in the making process that technology is useful. It is also in the delivery and the receiving of the material.
Where to start? Always start with the goal in mind!
I am sure you have many goals and expectations set out for your students. But the key question here is: what is that one thing you want your students to achieve by the end of the year? And I want to emphasize ONE. So, give it a thought….grammar may cross your mind, and reading, and even vocab…… I say it is communication! Yes, you read correctly! Communication…..Authentic Communication!
Let’s put ourselves in the students’ place. If you are taking a foreign language course, what is the ONE thing you would like to be doing after a year? My answer is communicate! I live in Uruguay at the moment and I give private English classes to parents. I always ask them for their objective/goal during our first class. And guess what? It is communication! Therefore, the number one goal of a student should be being able to communicate in the target language. And the number one goal of the class…
Now, you might think this one goal is too broad for your classes. But, the trick here is making that one communication goal specific for each of your classes/levels.
For example, my goal for my Ab Initio students (novice) is: “during this, year I want my students to develop linguistic fluency (not simply linguistic accuracy) so that they can communicate effectively about the prescribed topics.”
Whereas my goal for my B SL students (intermediate) is: “during this year, I want my students to further develop their communication skills so that they can communicate effectively and more accurately in a range of different contexts and for a variety of purposes.”
And it is around this one goal that you build your materials and of course lessons. Here, we can bring in the language skills. If I want my Ab Initios to achieve the above goal by the end of the year, then what do they need to be able to write, read, speak, listen to? This is where we also bring in the curriculum we need to deliver.
What exactly is an “authentic teaching material”?
My favorite definition of “authentic material” was given by Dr. Tom Garza:
- News videos
- News texts
Aren’t authentic materials already made then?
Well sort of! Sometimes materials need a bit of “massaging” (as Dr. Garza puts it) to fit the students’ proficiency level. But you also need to think of what you want students to achieve with a particular material. For example, if you choose a certain text, do you just want them to read it? Or is there something more you want them to achieve/demonstrate/work on while/after reading it? This is when technology comes in handy as well! Because it helps you create the rest of the material that goes along with the authentic resource.
An example? Here is an amazing one: Teaching music for communication by Amy Leonard. In her material and explanation you can clearly identify the authentic resource used, the teacher’s “creation” and the expected outcome.
And so the answer to the question that started this post…
No material will engage, motivate, challenge and fit your students better that the one you create with authentic resources!
Try it! Bet your classes will shift and feel awesome! You’ll notice the difference!
Some interesting resources to find out more about creating materials and the use of authentic resources:
- Short video of Dr. Tom Garza talking about authentic texts
- Using authentic materials in the beginning language classroom
- Wiki – Collection of Spanish authentic resources
- A Japanese teacher’s (John Cadena) reflections and ideas on using authentic resources and creating his own material
- Cultura y Civilización blog created by Spanish teacher Kara Jacobs where she shares her amazing self-made materials. All based on authentic resources. She also has the very useful blog Teaching Spanish: Thematic and Authentic.
- Looking for ideas on creating authentic foreign language teaching materials? Search the hashtag #authres on Twitter. New to twitter? Here is how you can you can use Twitter to research.
What are your thoughts on creating your own authentic foreign language teaching materials?