The use of authentic material in the classroom can boost a student’s confidence and introduce them to real life language, all while supplementing the text. Authentic material can bridge the gap between classroom language and real life language. It brings genuine and realistic linguistic situations and material right into the classroom setting.
Why Use Authentic Material
I use authentic material in my classroom to help my students prepare to use the language in an everyday setting. As an ESL teacher, you can see and understand the limitation that the text can have on learning. Supplementing the text with authentic material not only exposes students to real world English, it can also introduce students to the world of English culture. This builds their confidence in the four main skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
The Use of Realia
One of my favourite ways to use authentic material is through realia. Realia is a physical object that relates to the target language. It creates a memorable lesson linking the real life object to the word or phrase it represents. As you can imagine, material can be difficult to come by in rural Madagascar. Whenever I travel I pick up different real life English objects that are useful in a classroom setting such as maps, magazines, brochures, timetables, movie listing etc. Realia is used in many ways to supplement the text to guide students towards long lasting language learning.
Use a tourist street map with clear points marked on it. Have students listen to where you went on your vacation using prepositions of location such as, in, on, next to, across from, between, on the corner of, etc. Have them match each location on the map in numerological order. Then have students work with a partner. Give one student of each pair a location they have to reach. One student is the speaker and the other is the listener. Have the speaker tell the listener how to get there using prepositions of location. The listener draws the spoken path until they reach the desired destination. Then the listener repeats the directions to the speaker to get to the tourist attraction. The speaker corrects them, if need be. I used this activity to supplement the unit ‘Around the Neighbourhood’. This unit focuses on directions, places and prepositions of location.
Use a tourist brochure and ask students to work together to plan a trip for another group in the class. Give your students the length of the trip. Have students plan a daily itinerary using words and phrases related to suggestions and recommendations such as ‘should’ and ‘can’. They must create an itinerary of where to go and suggestions for what the group should do there. I used this activity to supplement the text unit “Fun in the city” with my high-intermediate level learners. This activity motivates students to speak with each other about the location given and where they should go first.
I’ve recently used realia for role play in the practice stage of an intermediate lesson and it was extremely successful! The Realia helped my students generate phrases. It also guided them to review and to use the essential vocabulary from the presentation and production stage. To supplement the text from a food unit “at a restaurant”, I introduced an English menu and photocopies to the students. With the menu, students take turns acting out a scene in which one student is the waiter and the other is the customer. Students were extremely motivated, as the realia helped to create a real life restaurant situation where they could practice their newly learned skills.
Preparing Students for the Real World
Use Authentic material, especially realia, in the classroom to create a link between the students and real life English situations or culture. As such, realia not only bridges the gap between the two, but it brings realistic linguistic situations directly to students who have never been exposed to them. This prepares students for real world English and introduces them to the world of English culture. If you haven’t used realia to supplement your text, I recommend it! You’re students will thank you!