Interpreting Authentic Resources: A Core Practice of World Language Teaching

Lucas Hoffman, OFLA Treasurer
Sylvania Southview High School

This is part four in a series of articles about the nationally developed core practices of world language teaching.  In 2015-2016, I started sharing some of the new nationally recognized core practices. As a reminder, core practices are researched-informed best practices that should be mastered practices by any beginning teacher in world language education.  In previous articles regarding these core practices, I wrote about 90% target language use, using research-informed techniques when giving students feedback, and using the backward design model.  

Core Practice: Guide Learners through Interpreting Authentic Resources

What does this mean for you?
An end goal of any communicative world language program is to eventually prepare learners to interact with authentic resources.  When and how are certainly up for debate in many circles of world language teaching.  Sooner and with teacher-scaffolding are generally good answers, however.

If you are not already familiar with ACTFL’s resources on the interpretive mode, please check out these ACTFL resources housed on the Ohio Department of Education website.   You have two helpful planning documents: a template to design your own interpretive assessment and an accompanying rubric.

To borrow from another core practice of  “planning with the end in mind”, do just that.  Before your next quarter or unit begins, identify an authentic text you want your students to be able to interact with.  Identify the keywords they will need to know and begin planning lessons and learning activities, with similar types of authentic or authentic-like texts that can help prepare your students.

As you plan your learning activities and your learning targets, keep these types of tasks in mind:

Literal comprehension

  • Identify keywords
  • Detect main idea
  • Detect supporting details 

Interpretive comprehension 

  • Guessing meaning from context
  • Organization of text
  • Inferences
  • Author’s perspective
  • Cultural perspective/comparisons

What does this mean for your students?
When teachers offer students the opportunity early and often to interact with authentic texts, they build a readiness and comfort with working through challenging texts.  These same texts can oftentimes be more engaging given the embedded cultural context that is sometimes left out of authentic-like texts.

Some examples or resources to consider:
ACTFL Interpretive Tasks Template
ACTFL Interpretive Tasks Rubric
Implementing Integrated Performance Assessment

What is the take-away?
If you want students to become better readers and listeners in the target language, let’s get them reading and listening to target language texts now, by interacting with a variety of learning activities.

Want more information about Leadership Initiative for Language Learning (LILL) or the core practices?

If you are interested in learning more about these core practices, check out the ongoing conversation on Twitter.  Other fellow LILL participants have started the work of sharing out about the six core practices.  For example, see Wisconsin LILL participant Andrea Behn’s thoughts here.

More information on the LILL Institute can be found here.