Using authentic materialsI. Introduction -
There is an endless list of materials a teacher can use in a classroom. Some teachers prefer to use course books while others like to make their own materials to replace or supplement the course book. Teachers are always searching for materials that will interest and motivate students, so why not use authentic material?
II. What is authentic material? -
Before going any further we should define authentic materials. Ferit Kilickaya from the Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey) says:
The definitions of authentic materials are slightly different in literature. What is common in these definitions is 'exposure to real language and its use in its own community'. Rogers (1988) defines it as 'appropriate' and 'quality' in terms of goals, objectives, learner needs and interest and 'natural' in terms of real life and meaningful communication (p. 467). Harmer (1991), cited in Matsuta (n.d., para. 1) defines authentic texts as materials which are designed for native speakers; they are real text; designed not for language students, but for the speakers of the language. Jordan (1997, p. 113) refers to authentic texts as texts that are not written for language teaching purposes.
The great thing about authentic materials is that they are all over the place. Besides newspapers and magazine articles (which are the most used), we can use everyday objects as well. Here is a list that provides a wide example of authentic materials: songs, radio broadcasts, films, leaflets, flyers, posters, all types of literature (books, magazines, comics newspapers), televisions programs, websites, train schedules, road signs, business cards, labels, menus, brochures, receipts, etc…
III. Why teachers should use authentic materials. -
As we have studied throughout the course students need as much exposure to the language as possible. Well, what better way than giving them actual real life everyday hand to hand material to interact with. Course books are edited to students’ level giving students a false impression of what they are really going to find in real life situations. Authentic materials are an effective way of bringing the english
culture closer to them. In most cases it will be as close as they will get to real life situations, besides actually going to an english
IV. How teachers should use authentic material. -
Most teachers agree that authentic materials are beneficial to the language learning process, but what is less agreed is when authentic materials should be introduced and how they should be used. Teachers should not base all lessons only with authentic materials, but use them as a reference or resource to keep students interested and motivated. Authentic materials give teachers a chance to teach with a creative twist making lessons fun and exciting.
When using authentic materials there are certain factors to keep in mind. Investigate before picking a topic. It is very important to find out what topics interest your students. There is no point in preparing material that will bore them instead of motivate them. Find out what reasons students have for studying the language, it can help give you ideas for lesson plans. For example: If they are planning on taking a trip to London, you can look for material dealing with this topic, (travel brochures, scenes from movies, recordings, web sites, maps, etc…).
Once you’ve picked the topic and the materials you are going to use, study them carefully. Authentic materials often contain difficult language, unneeded vocabulary items and complex language structures. This is one of the reasons many teachers think that authentic materials are only suitable for higher levels, but this is simply not true. Just keep focussed on the learning target. Regardless of the text written or recorded, you are grading the task according to your students’ abilities.
There is a general fear that students will panic when faced with large amounts of unfamiliar language. That’s why it is important to explain to students exactly what you expect from them. Prepare your lessons thoroughly. For example, if you use a newspaper article, highlight key vocabulary that is essential for students to understand the overall meaning of the article. The best way to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed is by pre-teaching unknown vocabulary, and assuring them that they don’t have to understand every single word.
V. Conclusion. –
In conclusion authentic materials are valuable resources in the reach of all teachers that highly motivate students. It gives them the opportunity to interact with real situations they may find in english
speaking environments. However, it should only be used as a supplement to course books or other materials. They should be carefully selected and thoroughly prepared.
Sam Shepherd, New Zealand TeachingEnglish, Using authentic materials, by TE Editor, Apr 2004
Ferit Kilickaya, Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey)
Sacha Anthony Berardo, The use of authentic materials in the teaching of reading.