So, if you follow very many world language teachers on Twitter, you may have noticed the hashtag #authres. Authres is short for “Authentic Resources.” Authentic resources are so abundant thanks to youtube, online magazines, twitter, and more. In my experience, students are excited to use authentic resources in their own learning. I do think there are a few caveats for teachers to keep in mind.
1. Adapt the task for the level of the students.
There is no such thing as the “perfect authentic resource” for level 1. Many times these resources will be way over the heads of most of our students. However, this doesn’t mean they cannot be enjoyed and exploited for language acquisition. For beginners, the focus won’t be anything close to total comprehension. They might be listening for some key words, or a main idea, or even some cognates.
2. Don’t worry about the level of the resource, but you might consider shortening the length.
A full-length feature film would be fairly useless in terms of language acquisition for a beginner, but a carefully chosen 2 minute clip might really enhance the acquisition experience! A magazine article might overwhelm a beginner, but an infographic next to the article might work really well.
3. Language acquisition might actually take place in the “space surrounding” the authentic resource.
Often I will have students look at, watch, or read something authentic very quickly, and then exploit that resource to provide my own comprehensible input to my class. For example, if my students watch this video, I will describe the video to them verbally and discuss it with them using vocabulary they know (or that I have deliberately pre-taught). The authentic resource serves as a high-interest item which then gives us something to talk about.
4. Don’t be a snob.
Your students don’t need a steady diet of authentic resources in order to successfully acquire language. Teacher-provided input, embedded readings, and items created specifically for language-learners like this shameless plug are completely useful for language acquisition! Even non-target culture items such as this can be really great and motivating resources! Yes, we want kids to be comfortable functioning in the target cultures, but sometimes, especially with teens, motivation is key. Likewise, when you do select authentic resources, they can and should still be appealing to your students. Save the Borges for the university!
5. Just try it.
You will make mistakes, choose things kids don’t always like, or make the task impossible. Approach #authres with an open mind and a willing spirit. If it flops, just laugh along with your students and try again the next day! And when you do find something that works well, be sure to share it with your twitter PLN using the hashtag #authres!