At a conference a few years ago -I can’t even remember which, I think it was Central States in Indianapolis- I attended a workshop by an AP teacher who gave out a worksheet she used to help students through reading authentic materials. I liked the basis of what she’d done so I took it and tweaked it and aligned it with prevalent AP standards from the College Board and came up with my own. I really wish I had her name so I could give her credit, but since I don’t, here’s a thank-you shout-out to the AP teacher who had this idea.
Let me just run through the questions and features I think you and your students should be looking for in an authentic resource so you can make your own guide in any language, then at the end of this post you’ll find a link to my document.
- Identify the title, author, and source
The title, who wrote it, and where it’s from can help students prime themselves for increased comprehension. They know a short story is different from a news article, is different from a radio interview.
- What type of source is it?
Authentic resources come in many types – visual, audiovisual, print, audio. Identifying the type, for one thing, helps you figure out what contextual clues you’ll have. None at all (radio)? Pictures? Just print?
- Key words
The key words from the title and first few minutes (audio) or paragraph topic sentences (news) or headers (infographic) can greatly increase comprehension of the greater content.
- Idiomatic phrases
Identifying, understanding, and using idiomatic phrases fosters a big push in proficiency. They are also the single greatest barrier, in my opinion, to student’s comprehension.
- Author’s purpose
This is a big AP question – who was the author writing to? Why? What are they trying to accomplish?
- Author’s point of view
Can you tell what the author’s opinion on the subject is? No one is truly objective.
- Facts vs. opinions
I love this distintion because it’s a life skill to be able to distinguish what’s a fact and what’s the author’s opinion.
- Distinctive characteristics
What characteristics make this piece what it is? Short paragraphs and bullet points (blog post)? Graphs and large-print numbers (infographic)? Dialogue (short story)? Supporting quotes (news piece)?
- Cultural aspects (products, places, history, etc.)
It’s so important for students to identify what in the authentic material is culturally specific and then…
- Cultural comparison
…compare what they find to their own culture. (AP goal here!)
- Aspects from other disciplines
Why not throw a core content connection in there and identify what in this piece helps me understand other disciplines like science (global warming) or sociology (poverty issues)?
- My opinion
It pushes students’ proficiency to ask for opinions. It also encourages critical thinking.
- What helps me understand
Help your students identify the tools that help them increase their own comprehension. Headings? Cognates? Photos? Quotes?
You can find my Interpretive Guide in Spanish here.