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By Margaret Hurley. Co-writer You Can Teach Grammar
The benefits of using authentic material in the TESOL classroom are many. They generate interest, they are certainly more varied in range than the material embedded in textbooks, they can be extremely practical, they can be fun and they can be very current. Especially for teachers who are not in an English-speaking country, authentic material are an excellent way to bring the English-speaking world into the classroom. In this series, different specific ways of using authentic materials will be covered. This inaugural issue covers some tips for using (non-musical) radio or podcasts in the classroom.
There are many strategies in the Communicative Approach that ESL teachers could employ to teach language and culture at the same time. What’s important to keep in mind is that the two should be taught simultaneously and at all levels of learning. Learners begin by becoming familiar with the new culture, progressively moving toward comparisons between cultures, and eventually gaining an in-depth knowledge of both (Sellami, 2000). The classroom activities described below teach language and culture simultaneously; however, all language lessons have an element of culture in them.
Learners who have reached the Upper/High Intermediate level are familiar with the main structures of the English language and have acquired a very good level of fluency and accuracy. However, they still make mistakes in some basic areas: tense usage, prepositions, clauses, and verb forms (gerunds and infinitives, for example). They also have a good level of vocabulary and have a good command of the major skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. That being said, teachers can help learners at this level to progress by taking into account the needs described below.
A good dictionary is very helpful for studying a language. It helps students with meaning, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. It is a good idea to use a dictionary which shows all aspects of a word so that students can see how the word is used, and which uses the IPA (International Pronunciation Alphabet) to show how the word is pronounced. Always encourage your students to use an English-English dictionary, especially at a pre-intermediate level and above.
Sometimes it can be difficult in large ESL classes to get students to speak up and participate in class discussions, so teachers will often have students form smaller groups for speaking activities. There are occasions, though, when a whole class discussion can really take off if students are enthusiastic about a topic and are eager to participate.
Today, teachers around the world are able to access Internet technology for use in the language classroom. The availability and variety of internet-based resources for language study increases on a daily basis.
Bringing 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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If you are teaching writing, especially for learners with academic goals, it can be very helpful to explore some of the differences between spoken and written language with your class. Although misunderstandings in spoken communication can be negotiated and overcome, even small inaccuracies in written language can present barriers to effective communication. This need for grammatical and lexical accuracy is one reason why most L2 learners find academic writing to be the most difficult skill to learn.