I find this time of year challenging for many reasons in my Spanish I class. The students are anxious for some sun and exercise, and they begin to lose their enthusiasm for language class, as the novelty of the material has begun to wear off. Some of them are beginning to feel frustrated by the fact that they can't speak fluently (certainly an unrealistic goal, but one that many people in the US seem to have), and others are frustrated that they still don't understand one of the topics that we have covered. To beat some of the winter blah's I try to have my students read more. Reading authentic texts both allows them to connect with the target culture, and I find that it can create some enthusiasm as the students know that they aren't reading "baby texts."
Here are some of the items that we read in my class: menus, real estate advertisements, subtitles on commercials such as car and household appliances, where students can quickly see cognates like velocidad. Other slightly more challenging reads include: riddles, tweets and facebook posts. Then, for the students who are really certain that they can't learn Spanish and never will, I will pull in articles on teen perspective from People in español and articles from National Geographic children. Hopefully even the most reluctant student is now feeling more inspired about his or her abilities.
While I know that I am still starting small, I find that students can figure-out the majority of the meaning of each of the above items, when scaffolded and encouraged. Take riddles for example, many of them actually include rather simple vocabulary and the answer is often a simple word as well!
Articles from People and National Geographic can be more challenging. I admit that I have had greatest success with the ones from National Geographic, as I can choose articles that relate to science information that the students already know. Additionally, many scientific words are cognates in English so students can often recognize the majority of the words in a passage without needing to look-up key terms.
Once my students have read an article, obviously we need to do something with it. I find that making graphs, charts, Venn diagrams, or word webs are all realistic tasks for a level one student. Sometimes, I will have the students survey their classmates as to which product they would buy, if we read advertisements. These tasks do not ask them to produce complex language structures, nor do they need tons of vocabulary.
What do you do to beat the winter blahs? What do your students read?