RAT (Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 3)

I am suggesting a possible template for this reading of authentic texts, subject to change and approval from the group. It’s a first attempt to make this discussion useful in the hands on way for us in our classrooms:

1. Find a text that is compelling. It could be, probably should be, part of instead of all of some novel or poem or song or whatever. Why part of and not all of? Authors hit streaks just like athletes. In Saint-Ex’s case, the entire Petit Prince is a masterpiece. But even great authors get boring at times. So the authentic text could be from one sentence long to an entire book.

2. Take the first sentence and project it or write it on the board. That is your clay.

3. Establish meaning. Just explain what any new words mean in English. Don’t go off on any grammar jags except for four second pop-ups that always take only the form of _____ means _____.

4. Once the kids know what the first sentence means, start working with it using simple yes/no questions and choral responses. This is the Reading Option A work as per the asterisked portions of:


5. Make sure you get good GROUP responses as per:


6. Ask enough yes/no questions to where you see each student’s face get engaged. If any student who wants to learn doesn’t have enough reps, give them more. Make the fast dogs wait. Tell them that they are hearing and understanding French and that is your job and they must listen in that way even if they don’t want to because you have to teach everybody in the class so to get over themselves.

7. At a certain point of this narrow and deep yes/no discussion, move the discussion off of the yes/no questions into PQA questions, just as you would to set up a story. Get as many PQA reps as you can until things start to drag on that part of the discussion.

8. Go to the next sentence, rinse and repeat.

9. At the end of every paragraph or so, or maybe at the end of a page, just recycle. Start with the first sentence and move through he paragraph, this time at a faster pace. Always keep your students focused on the message and not the words.

8. Skip over, or just spot translate anything that doesn’t warrant this RAT process. There is nothing wrong with doing that. We obviously can’t do this process with an entire book (unless it warrants that) because of time and so moving quickly through to another more interesting paragraph is just fine.

That’s all I can think of, but I know that I personally need these templates and acronyms to follow because I am right brain dominant and auditory/kinesthetic and so I will print this and have it next to me when I do upper level RAT classes. If you find things to add or subtract from this please let me know.



10 thoughts on “RAT (Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 3)”

    1. Really it’s a reading lesson so I don’t use any props or anything. The work is in meeting them eye to eye for the 30 minutes. (Remember the ten min. of SSR on the simpler Blaine novel to start class and the ten min. of L & D on a French painting to start the fifity min. class.)

      Yes James on the simplified language. I find myself just switching into replacement verbs to keep things varied, but they are verbs the kids already know. It’s cool to see them process a sentence from the text and then here it in another form and process that.

  1. Sabrina Sebban_Janczak

    Ben and all,

    I thought you may appreciate this.

    Going back to teach after a 4 day interruption was tough. The kids came back to class with a long face, and not wanting to be here.

    And I read your answer to James. I like it because it is at the core of what we do.
    Technology, props, visual are great, but when we don’t have those to fall back on we can measure what true teaching is IMHO. Just like in plain communication, all that it involves is a set of ears, eyes and willingness to listen. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST DEMAND OUR KIDS, THAT IS WHAT RIGOR IS…. And yes, it is very hard.

    So you wrote:
    “Just the book and my eyes and their eyes and the board behind me.”

    That is indeed all you need. Today, after battling their apathy and rowdiness, I just said in the target language

    “les yeux regardent le professeur, les oreilles écoutent le professeur”, ou ……….. ( long pause,
    j’appelle la sécurité! C’est clair? Je répète, c’est clair?)
    ( the eyes are looking at the teacher, the ears are listening to the teacher, or………. ( followed by a 7 second pause) I call security! Is it clear, I repeat is it clear?”

    Yep, I felt like a drill sergeant, never felt like that before, but guess what: it worked!!!
    Well for a little while it worked. but I’ll use this more, until they get it and they will. Since I have a total support from my administration on this (I can call security anytime the kids interrupt my instruction to get them removed from my class!) I m going to use this.

    I m just sick of confronting apathy, lack of motivation or else. I m not here to entertain these kids. Sooner or later they will have to show up, whether for a job interview or else and better they learn now then later.

    I m telling you, I taught a two hour class at the University last night, a class that was extended another four weeks at the requests of the students (adults from various backgrounds) and two hours felt like 15 minutes of nonstop laughter.
    Then I contrast it with a bunch of kids this morning who are unmotivated, lethargic, and unruly.
    It is a sad state of affair….

    There, I vented, feel better about it and I can go back to teaching with a huge smile on my face, like always , because I need to model what a good behavior is…

    Have a great day.

    1. Your university class sounds like a dream job! I hope you’ll tell us more about it, too. It sounds like an ideal environment for CI.

  2. I read an article the other day that may or may not be pertinent to our students’ lives. It’s called, “My daughter’s homework is killing me.” You can find it at http://tinyurl.com/daughters-homework. The journalist’s daughter was doing on average 4 hours of homework per evening in the 8th grade – and by the way, her Spanish course must have been just-oh-so mind-numbingly scintillating! The message the administration, the teachers, and some of the parents wanted to send to these children was, “We are doing you a favor by preparing you for the real world.”

    If I were a middle schooler under the current circumstances, I, who more than 30 years ago happily bought into an academic life of books, would succumb to total alienation and probably a good deal of self-destruction.

    I know our students come to our classes and don’t want to participate like the adults do at the university, but for us teachers, it is worth remembering that we need to try to see the world from our students’ viewpoint. I don’t believe CI teachers are contributing one iota to students’ alienation from school, but they can only provide a tiny safety valve in a massive steam engine of fear and ugliness.

  3. …I don’t believe CI teachers are contributing one iota to students’ alienation from school, but they can only provide a tiny safety valve in a massive steam engine of fear and ugliness….

    n’est-ce pas….

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