If you are a French or Spanish teacher who is teaching remotely, you may want to check out a fairly new online book series made by Teacher’s Discovery called Voces Digital. In the past, I have spoken about how much I don’t like textbooks because they are not designed specifically with comprehensible input (CI) teaching in mind. And while I still prefer to teach without a textbook, having pre-made activities to do with my students thanks to Voces Digital has saved my sanity during both remote and hybrid instruction.
Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Teacher’s Discovery or with Voces Digital. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students.
Voces Digital has two different series in both French and Spanish for levels one through four. One series is a traditional textbook series and the other is a CI series. The French CI series is called Notre Histoire and the Spanish CI series is called Nuestra Historia (Voces also has a series for ESL, which uses a combination of CI and traditional approaches, and other language series are in the works). Here’s just some of what the series offers:
- Six units, each one based on one of the AP language themes (Families and Communities, Contemporary Life, Personal and Public Identities, Global Challenges, Beauty and Aesthetics, and Science and Technology).
- Four short stories and four long stories per unit, each with vocabulary to pre-teach and multiple post-reading activities to reinforce and demonstrate comprehension
- Multiple texts about the French and Spanish speaking world designed to reinforce intercultural competency
- “Pop up” grammar explanations
- Embedded videos and audio recordings
- Safeguards to prevent students from cheating
- End-of-Unit Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs)
- An online gradebook that automatically corrects multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false activities
- The ability to edit pages to tailor the content to the ability levels and individual needs of students
And these are just the features I was able to think of just off the top of my head! If that entices you to investigate further (and I think it should), you can sign up for a free two-week trial and explore the program yourself.
So what’s the downside? First, the cost may be prohibitive. I have one-year access to and unlimited student accounts for one title (Notre Histoire 1) and it costs $500 a year. That’s a hefty chunk of change for many school districts. But the good news is that teachers can get a decent discount if they purchase multiple titles (and let’s face it…if you teach high school, it’s highly unlikely that you only teach one level of language).
In addition, I don’t find the program to be naturally intuitive (When an online program needs nineteen videos so teachers can learn how to use it, one has to wonder…is this the absolute best design possible?). I don’t recommend that you ask students to use the program independently until you have demonstrated how it works with them. And since the program is still a work in progress, it has some glitches here and there (I repeatedly tell my students that if they can’t complete a single activity after working on it for 30 minutes, they should stop and notify me that they had an issue in case it is due to a technical problem). But the good news is that the creators of this program are extremely receptive to emails about technical glitches and suggestions to improve the product and are willing to work with schools or individual teachers as needed.
As the pandemic continues, I have no way of knowing if and when I will be back to business as usual. But until that happens, I’m very grateful to have this program to access for CI readings and activities. Mind you, I don’t use it every day, but I still like knowing that I can rely on this when I need to!