Tips for Using Authentic Materials in the World Language Classroom


As a middle school World Languages Spanish educator with over ten years of experience, I have learned many effective ways to have my students get accustomed to interacting with authentic materials. Here are some strategies that have helped my students master the content over the years.

  1. Whole Group Presentation with Closed Captions
    Presenting the content via video on the smart board and then using closed captions on YouTube helps students both see and hear the content. I also provide a copy of the translation to help students draw connections between what they are hearing and seeing. I’ve found that if I just play an authentic news clip, the students get overwhelmed by the pace of it and feel defeated. If we can provide many support systems to help students along the way, it will help build confidence and mastery. Also, when the content is being presented to the whole group this helps build community with all students so that we are beginning to interact with more challenging authentic texts together, rather than feeling isolated individually.
  2. Peer to Peer Collaboration
    Another tip that has helped me throughout the years when I present authentic texts is to provide peer-to-peer collaboration time. Usually, I can pair a bilingual student with another student and this helps both students immensely. The bilingual student can be spotlighted and help the other student with words, pronunciations, meanings, etc. This helps both students be able to learn from one another and allows me to circle the classroom to help as many students as I can. I also find that students have more of a “buy-in” when it comes to the subject matter when it comes from their peers rather than their teacher at times. A lot of students can break down the material in more student-friendly ways with easier steps.
  3. Incorporating Visuals
    Incorporating visuals with authentic texts can help a student understand better. As the saying goes, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. The visuals can also help make connections between the material and the students’ daily lives. If the article is about a country, the weather, a festival, or food, the pictures help students interact with the material by showing them what the article/clip is about. For example, when we are learning about the weather in Spain we can pick up on the weather conditions through the graphics if there is a cloud, rain, sun, etc. It’s always a nice teachable moment to talk about the metric system vs the imperial system.
  4. Whole Group Read-alouds
    Additionally, working into the mix a whole group read-aloud can be very effective with students. By speaking in Spanish with the entire group I can model correct pronunciation, and be able to adjust my pacing depending on the overall comprehension of the class.

Overall, I think it is very important to give as many opportunities for students to interact with the material in various ways and social settings. By incorporating these various strategies of using authentic texts, students will begin to master the content with confidence and ease.

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About the Author

Laura Boyd

Spanish Teacher