Saturday, September 8, 2018

Infographics for reading comprehension

One of the struggles with working on reading comprehension with authentic resources for low-proficiency language learners is that a lot of stuff is just too text-heavy to be a really good reading comprehension activity...if you have to gloss most of the words for students to understand it, it's not really helping them learn to read in the target language.

One of my particular challenges this past year has been creating my own curriculum and materials for Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and Spanish 3/4 with 55 minutes of plan time every day. (Hint: This is not possible. I get to school before 6:30 every morning and usually leave after 5, and worked both Saturdays and Sundays most weekends last year.) This meant I had to work very quickly, and couldn't spend a lot of time scaffolding more complex reading assignments, but I still wanted to get students reading at least a little bit in Spanish. Enter the marvelous infographic.

I'm a big fan of pictoline (@pictoline) because I appreciate the artist's sense of humor, but the infographics are also great to use for teaching. They're created for native speakers of the target language, and since they're designed to be interesting, they tend to engage students more than other types of reading assignments. The use of visuals helps students figure out meaning from context, and the limited use of text keeps the reading from being overwhelming. During a food unit last year in Spanish 1, for example, I had students read this infographic about food coma. They were able to deduce that "mal del puerco" (translated literally: "evil of the pig" or "curse of the pig") meant "food coma" without looking it up.

To keep it simple, I put questions in a Google form, and I always have at least one question asking students to guess at the meaning of a word or phrase from context. Students get immediate feedback and can see how much they understood as soon as they submit the form, and I can see pretty quickly how much people understood (though the ability to do a question-by-question view would be really helpful, Google).  I don't take grades for them since we're working on building our reading comprehension skills, but I do check the Google forms to see how much they understood (and to make sure that they were staying on task...I use the form completion as part of my participation grading criteria).

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