Why not edit the text?

Why not edit the text?

Many teachers tout the phrase edit the task not the text from the book by Shrum and Glisan.  I know the meaning behind it, and I believe that it can be valid.  First, I want to evaluate why teachers want to use authentic resources in class.

  • It can be very powerful for students to use authentic resources which are designated for native speakers.  They give a real world purpose to speech since they are used by native speakers.
  • These resources are also valuable because they have culture embedded in them.  They can also be current and relevant.
  • In addition, I have been able to teach more literacy skills via many of these authentic resources.
  • These can also be good models for presentational writing.
  • Finally, I like that authentic resources use more “authentic” vocabulary instead of the neutral vocabulary that our textbooks use.  For example, our textbook uses lavaplatos.  All of the resources that students saw used “lavavajillas.”  While some students will stick with lavaplatos, some of my students who notice this will remember both terms.

In addition, I would propose that there are very basic authentic resources that can be used in the very beginning levels.  I enjoyed using a TV schedule when students were using days of the week due to the number of cognates in TV show names.  You can check out this as an example.  As many teachers state, infographics are also a great use of authentic resources for beginners due to the use of pictures and text.

However, there are some problems with using authentic resources:

  • Students can quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of text that they do not understand.  Many teachers have noted this especially when they switch to authentic resources after not using them.  This can quickly cause students to become disengaged.
  • Not all vocabulary is always relevant or would be used for beginners.  If you want to support all of the article, you may have to teach too much irrelevant vocabulary.
  • Some of the sections may be relevant for students whereas other sections are superfluous and too difficult.
  • If you are using an authentic resource, it may have a lot of good information, but it may end up being really long.  I found this when I was using the AirBnB website for a travel housing unit.  With only some sections of the website, it was still five pages long!
  • Unless you are going to dissect it over many days, you can’t cover everything, so your questions would not address the whole prompt.  Therefore, a large part of the authentic resource isn’t even needed by students to do the interpretive activity or to do something with it.  I know that I can be guilty of this!

Instead of eliminating authentic resources or continuing to frustrate students, there is another solution!  EDIT the TEXT.  Why?  I believe that students can still get all of the benefits from an authentic resource and eliminate a lot of the disadvantages that also exist.  Using my new, current top favorite authentic resource of AirBnB, you could easily use different sections for different levels:

For a novice level, you could give them the charts.  There are images and a chart:

AirBnB #1


In a more advanced level, you could look at the description:


Studying more about vacations and the city?  Include information about the area around the apartment:

AirBnB 3

Checking out how to write reviews?  There are plenty here!

AirBnB 4

In reality, there are 192 reviews.  You can easily pick a few that your students can understand.  I believe that from these small clips of the text, you are getting all of the benefits of an authentic resource.  If you look at the rubric for the interpretive mode, you are also able to evaluate a students’ work.

What do you think?  Do you ever edit the text?  What are the disadvantages of editing the text for novices and even intermediates?




12 thoughts on “Why not edit the text?

  1. I edit the text alll the time to make sure that my students do not have to deal with too many unknowns. I have used infeigraohics in the past, and they great, but you have to be willing to spend at least 4-5 days on one infographic. This is fine, if one has the time. I think both the task and text need to match students needs and level.

    1. I totally agree! I believe that while authentic resources are great, and I have found a lot of success with them, others just use them because they are authentic resources. And they don’t manipulate them in any way because “you can’t edit the text!”

  2. When I hear “edit the text,” I think of changing the words myself to use vocabulary from our unit. I think that doing this takes the power and legitimacy out of the resource. I think that what you’re suggesting (paring down a text to keep students from being overwhelmed) is a great practice because we can focus them on the parts they will be able to comprehend and be successful with.
    Thank you!

    1. Glad that you found this useful! I think you are right that if we change too many words to make them “like the textbook” you might as well give them a textbook reading! Part of the benefit of using authentic resources are to have that “authentic” language.

  3. I like this idea a lot. When you edit the text and give the students only a small part, how do you keep the context for it being an authentic resource? Is it important for the students to see it in the original context (website, newspaper, etc) for it to be as meaningful, or does it have the same effect if the teacher re-types or screenshots just a portion of the text?

    1. I would show them the title to help with context. I would stray away from only showing one part for an assessment but use it more for practice- and especially with novices. For example, I may just show one part of an infographic. As far as it being meaningful, I believe that authentic resources aren’t helpful if students become too overwhelmed. I edit out the parts that I don’t need to increase student motivation while working with authentic resources.

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