Incorporate Authentic Tasks

Text Me
Appeal to students’ digital literacy by teaching them SMS language (i.e. texting abbreviations; e.g., http://www.zadorspain.com/spanishblog/?p=112). Create a cell phone image on a piece of paper with a large screen. Student A sits with desk facing Student B and the teacher gives them each a task (e.g. make plans to get together Saturday night). Now the classroom becomes a texting only/no talking environment and each writes a greeting on their “phone.” The papers are then swapped and replies are written until the plan is finalized and/or time is called. Students may then orally share their plans with the class along with any questions or comments about the SMS language. [For greater discussion of texting in the classroom, see González-Bueno and Pérez-Sotelo (2009), Language Educator, 4 (5).] 


Taking a Trip
Developing creative material for an authentic, real-world task can be highly motivating for students. Explain to the students that they will be, in small groups, creating a promotional flyer for the Office of Tourism in the (target country/city). They should begin by doing research on their country/city focusing on landmarks, food, culture, shopping, etc. (It may be easier for each group to focus on only one or two aspects.) and think about why they would want to visit that destination. As a group, they should then create an attractive promotional flyer with photos, links, copy, etc. to show to the class. The class will vote on the best promotional flyer, which will then be sent to the Office of Tourism in the (target country/city). 


Letter Writing with Classroom Stationery
There is nothing more rewarding than writing a class newsletter or a letter to someone on homemade stationery. Give each student a small post-it note. Ask them to write down adjectives that describe language class or draw an image of something that reminds them of Spanish class. Stick the post-it notes around the border of an 8 x 11 sheet of paper with the name of you class/school at the top. Then, photocopy the sheet to create your polished class stationery. With the stationary, let each student write a letter to their parents explaining what they have been learning in Spanish class or to a Spanish pen-pal in another class or city. Teach them how to open and close letters in the target language. Give them writing frames if necessary to assist them with letter writing. 


Group Résumé
Writing a résumé is a useful skill to have in any language. But depending on the country, cultural practices vary and students need to be taught both the preferred format and the specialized language. In addition, students may have very little work experience, and therefore filling up a blank page, or comparing one’s experience with someone else’s, can be intimidating. This activity helps students practice writing a résumé more easily. First, teacher can show a model résumé from the target country and from the students’ home country. Students can compare both and learn what a résumé should be like. Students are then directed to an authentic list of job ads and asked to select one for which they’d like to apply. Then they reflect on what skills they should emphasize if they were to apply. Finally, students are organized in groups of 4 or 5. Each group selects one job ad and builds a group résumé. For example, if in a group of 5 every one has had 1 year or French, they should write “5 years of French” in their résumé. Between 4 or 5 students, there should be enough varying experiences to write an interesting résumé. At the end, job ads and résumés are displayed. Groups must read them and decide if they would hire the candidate for the position.