Authentic material is any material in English that was not created for use in the English language classroom. It includes not just newspaper or magazine articles but also songs, TV shows, movies, podcasts, leaflets, menus etc. The wonderful thing about using authentic materials is that it is everywhere, which makes it easy to find and simple for learners to use on their own, encouraging autonomy and accountability.
Using authentic materials can be very engaging, imaginative and motivating for learners they should reflect a situation learners may face themselves in an English-speaking environment. This helps them transition into a world where English is the norm. They are exposed to real English, allowing them to see they can perform tasks with real materials. It also generates genuine responses from learners and encourage learner talk time.
Examples of authentic materials include: maps and brochures of an area; menus; leaflets (delivery pizza, take away menus, etc.); newspaper inserts; in–store adverts; yellow pages and phone directories; flyers; tickets; bus and train maps and timetables; hotel registration forms; any application forms (e.g. ask at a local shop); post office information; museum information; local television and radio listings; tourist information; radio station; recipe pages etc.
Authentic materials are easily obtained, portable and useful. The best thing though is authentic materials are (generally) free! Learners are very motivated and interested in finding out about overseas countries so any authentic materials are bound to create a stir. They also provide a good resource for practicing language occurring in the classroom text. Be on the lookout as well for resources your younger learners would like too or things you can use to stimulate a young learner class.
How do I use authentic materials?
Authentic materials can be used to stimulate discussion, role-plays and activities about culture in the lesson. Primarily they can be used to practice all four skills in the classroom. A good tip is to laminate materials you may want to use more than once as these suffer from lesson wear and tear. Also choose materials that are colourful and attractive as well as having clearly laid out information. A dull and confusing leaflet is not going to be as stimulating for your class. Ensure learners have enough information to use the materials effectively.
Recipes are a great stimulus for discussing food and culture as well as being a good resource for information sharing and giving instructions.
Use the materials to encourage role-plays or discussion in the classroom. An authentic menu or listings page can be used to stimulate a role-play that involves decision-making, stating preferences and other language functions.
Timetables can be used for stating obligation (I have to get the 10.30 train) and the present simple (The Brighton train leaves at...) Even using a page of services from the local yellow pages can launch a role-play involving a telephone conversation.
For example: Restaurant menus:
Menus can introduce learners to some of the common dishes in English-speaking countries so they will be able to order with confidence. Many restaurants have online menus.
Menus can be used to…
Go through the menu and have learners guess what the meals are, or what they would order. You could use different menus for each course. Learners could use the menu in a role-play, one is the server and one is the customer. Learners use the menu to calculate the cost of orders and how the bill would be split between consumers. They could be asked to work out tips, to mirror being in a real restaurant.
These activities focus on different skills and so can be sued in a variety of ways to develop/practice different skills/language points.
Set comprehension tasks; have learners compare information and choose the best/worse…; learners decide where they will go; what they will do on a day out; choose best trips for different people; compare information with their country; continue the story; what happened before or after; alternative endings.
For example: Information Gaps
Make 2 copies of the text and remove different information from each one. Learners in pairs ask questions to complete the relevant information. This can also be done as a listening activity. It can even be extended into pronunciation practice/focus.
Radio programmes are a wonderful source of natural English as well as providing interest in the authenticity of materials however native English speakers do speak very fast and can often confuse learners. News items or weather reports can be used to good effect.
Radio adverts can be a great source of authentic English as well as being very entertaining. They are usually easy to understand because the key message is often very clear. The activities mentioned above in “Reading” can also be used here, also learners can be asked to predict what the advert is for; best/worst etc and be extended by having them write their own adverts.
For example: Songs
Listening to English songs is a very enjoyable way to boost listening, pronunciation skills as well as confidence. Have learners discuss their favourite/least favourite artists/music; leaners predict how the song starts and then listen (or watch) and see if they are right; or give them some lyrics with some mistakes and they listen and correct; listen to the song for phrases, vocabulary and expressions that would be useful. Some songs tell a story, some convey strong emotions and these can be used to help learners establish a connection with the language. A quiz could be created
Leaflets can be used as stimulus for learners (in pairs/groups)to write their own about the local area or even produce a brochure on a local attraction or even a shared hobby.
Application forms are very useful for any learners who may be going abroad at any point and may actually be faced with a form in English to complete.
Job advertisements or items for sale in local newspapers would involve both reading and writing. For example: take a few local ads and cut them up, learners engage in jigsaw reading and then write a response to one of the adverts. Recipes can similarly provide a clear model of organizing a text as well as providing lots of incidental language for quantities, measurements and verbs (stir, whisk etc.)
How do you use authentic materials in your classes? What are the best materials?
Sophia McMillan Nov 2019
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