Authentic Materials in Beginner Classrooms

Authentic material for ESL BeginnersBringing authentic materials into Beginner classrooms is important because this provides exposure to real-world language use.  However, Beginner students can become quickly frustrated with these materials if they find the associated activities too difficult.  When using authentic reading and listening material, consider the following strategies to help Beginner learners grapple with the difficulty of the language.

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1.  Ask students to consider general questions about the text which requires them to draw on their real-world background knowledge.  For example, ask questions about the topic, the characteristics of the speaker, or about the type of text they are reading/listening to.  Students should be able to answer these kinds of questions successfully without understanding all of details of the text.  This type of listening/reading skill (activation of background knowledge) is important for students to practice, and using authentic materials provides a good opportunity to do so.

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2.  When listening/reading for details with Beginners (scanning), use smaller chunks of authentic language.  Design activities which help learners to recognize patterns and characteristics rather than specific details and vocabulary.  For example, they can look for repeated words, listen for stressed words, and look for words they do recognize.

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3. Use recordings of authentic interaction or have your students listen to authentic interaction outside of the classroom in public places such as on the bus, in food courts, or in popular public areas.  Again, have students focus on generalities rather than all of the specific details of the text.  For example, the speakers, the setting, and perhaps what they guess the topic might be.

If you can design simple activities which lead to a degree of success for students and help them build their confidence, authentic materials can be very useful and motivating for Beginner students.

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Related reading:

Using Comics in the ESL Classroom

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