Season 4, Episode 5: Authentic Resources for the Interpretive Mode with Elena Spathis

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for season 4, episode 5. As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations to #inspiredproficiency. Don’t forget that Ashley and her podcasts are also on Facebook in the group “Inspired Proficiency Teacher Collaboration” with lots of great ideas for the classroom.

Download the episode here or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here or find it wherever you listen to podcasts! 

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Our presenting sponsor Wayside Publishing invites you to share your language teacher story here so that we can work together to show policy makers the importance of world language education. Some of the videos might be used at ACTFL to promote how wonderful it is to be a world language educator.

Today’s episode is about authentic resources for the interpretive mode with Elena Spathis. Ashley is still looking for panelists to discuss bringing culture into the communicative classroom. If you or anyone you know is interested in being on this panel then please contact to share your knowledge on the podcast.


Ashley met Elena through her blog post with Wayside Publishing. Elena Spathis is a Spanish teacher from New Jersey in her fifth year of teaching. She has taught all four high school levels and is also certified to teach ESL. She regularly blogs for Wayside Publishing and Edutopia. yZGs53yb_200x200

Why is it important to use authentic resources?

  • Serve as the basis of culture
    • Shouldn’t culture be the basis of everything?
    • Piques student interest to use culture and authentic resources

Where can we find them?

  • Infographics
    • Pinterest boards with lots of ideas
      • Great way to organize digital information into digital boards (like files)
    • Images help students interact with higher level texts and information
  • National Tourism Sites
    • Elena grabs texts, maps, travel information to use in the classroom
    • She was teaching about traditional meals and meal times and on a tourism site there was great information about this exact topic for people looking to travel to Spain
    • Great way to acquire information about different destinations
  • Newspapers and websites
    • Novice students- focus on the headlines or use summaries and pictures
      • Not overwhelming
    • Intermediate students- news websites and current events
      • Important to be exposed to current events in the world, especially the Spanish speaking world
      • Paired or group activities with articles to dig into the details of certain sections and then put back together
      • Read in pairs
      • Read as a whole class
    • Makes the lesson interdisciplinary when involving the reading of what’s happening in the real world
  • Target Language Commercials
    • Popular among teachers during the holidays
    • Super Bowl commercials
    • Food related ones in unit on food and health
    • Using in the class
      • Slow down the rate of speed on Youtube
      • Play more than once for lower levels
      • Follow up activity with questions the kids can answer, not necessarily the new vocab they just saw but older words they can recycle
  • Songs and playlists
    • Lots of premade ones on Youtube and Spotify and other streaming applications
    • Spotify
      • Elena used the free one and made the switch to premium when weird advertisements popped up and she did not want them to play during class time
        • Still a student or in grad school? Get Spotify half off
      • Look up Spanish class premade playlists
      • Listen to what’s popular in different countries right now
      • Lots of variations to switch up music selections in class
      • Elena’s Spotify playlists
        • Great way to connect with students in their own world because it’s popular with many students
  • Google Maps
    • Real map with a route from starting point to destination
    • Involve lots of community places to point out to students
      • Great vocabulary practice
    • Search provides lots of pictures and a 360 degree view for students to feel as if they are there


How to make this comprehensible?

  • Use backwards design
  • Start with the end goal in mind
  • She looks for readings that cover the vocabulary and the structures she wants to focus on
  • Then give them the resource
  • Students read in groups or partners or whole class discussion with the resource
  • Then they can read something bigger and harder after they’ve been exposed (building up)

How do I do this in my classroom?

  • Actively search
    • Invest the time now to find something awesome you can use over and over again
  • Pay attention to what colleagues are doing
    • Be open to collaborating and seeing what other teachers are doing
  • Look at Twitter
  • Find Infographics
  • Meet your students where they’re at
    • If they don’t remember everything from Spanish 1 then meet them where they are in terms of remembering and simplify the comprehension task to make sure they are getting exposure to authentic texts
    • You don’t need to know every word to understand the main idea

Game Segment with Sarah Breckley:

  • Statues/ Baby Bronco Backpack
    • From Youth Group Collective
    • Brain break or a longer comprehension game practicing certain vocab
    • Divide group into teams of 2
    • There is touching involved
      • Pick someone you don’t mind touching
      • Or a chair
      • Or a stuffed animal
      • Comfort levels need to be addressed for students if they don’t want to touch other students!!!
    • Partners are on opposites sides of room from each other in lines
    • Teacher yells either baby, bronco, or backpack
    • Students run to each other and create the scene you just named
      • Baby- one jumps into the arms of the other like a baby
      • Bronco- one student sits on the floor and the other pretends to side saddle sit on them like a bronco
      • Backpack- one partner gives a piggy-back like a backpack
    • Last pair moving is either out or earns a golf point
      • Points are bad
      • Freeze frame like a statue in the scene the leader called out
    • Every game play can be new words related to story or whatever you’re doing
    • Or use the three words and write stories about the three scenes you’ve created
    • Other ideas
      • Bachelor- down on one knee hands on cheeks
      • Bacon – pig eating from a trough hands in a circle like the trough
      • Baggage- wheelbarrow partners
      • Bait- fish and fishermen
      • Bike- a rider and pedals
      • Beach- shark and swimmer
      • ENDLESS options based on new vocabulary words or what you’re doing in class
      • Have the students brainstorm!

Resources and links mentioned on the show:

  • How to slow down a Youtube video
  • Spotify Premium for students
  • Elena’s Spotify playlists
  • What is backwards design?
  • Elena’s Proficiency Talk with Wayside Publishing


  • Elena Spathis on Twitter @ElenaSpathis and her Pinterest page
  • Sarah Breckley on Twitter @SarahBreckley

Season sponsorship brought to you by:

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Episode sponsors:

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