How to use authentic materials with lower level students

How to use authentic materials with lower level students

Some teachers avoid using authentic resources since they consider them to be difficult. However, in all modern coursebooks there are lots of tasks which aren’t artificial: songs, short documentaries, texts suitable for much higher levels. It is done in order to prepare learners for real-life reading and listening.

What is an authentic task?

It’s an activity which is done by native speakers on a daily basis: reading news, watching videos, ordering things from the menu in the restaurant etc.

Scott Thornbury in his A-Z of ELT writes:

‘A classroom text is authentic if it was originally written for a non-classroom audience. A newspaper article or a pop song are thus considered authentic, whereas a coursebook drill or dialogues are not.’

Why should we use something that low-level students are not prepared for?

When you use unmodified texts in your classroom, you give your students a chance to explore language in real-life situations. Their motivation raises dramatically because learners can see how to implement new material in the future and that the things they learn are not out of touch with everyday life.

How not to scare beginners with authentic resources?

  • choose something simple. For example, a coffee shop menu can be read by people who has little or no knowledge of English because ‘latte’, ‘espresso’ and ‘muffin’ have become international words. In this menu, you can use only the first page to roleplay the dialogue ‘At the coffee shop’ with low-level learners.

  • grade the task not the material. For example, find an interesting article with lots of pictures.
    Ask beginners and low elementary students to choose a hotel which they like using a picture and ask simple questions: In which country is this hotel? How much is a room per night?
    High elementary and pre-intermediate learners can pick up more basic information to explain their choice.
  • try to choose videos with minimum words like advertisements or overviews. For example, ask them to watch the video and identify the kind of sports which they know or would like to try.
  • explain your learners that while watching a video or reading the text they don’t have to understand every word, just to grasp general idea.
  • if students avoid listening to real accents and work only with clear recordings made by speakers in the studios, it will be very difficult in the future to get used to ‘real voices’.
    What kind of authentic materials can be used in the classroom?

    • short videos,
    • commercials,
    • short interviews,
    • extracts from the TV shows or movies,
    • songs,
    • articles online or from newspapers,
    • menus,
    • timetables,
    • leaflets,
    • travel brochures etc.

Anyway, try not to overuse authentic materials in your classroom.  Scott Thornbury in his A-Z of ELT writes:

‘The fact that classroom texts, grammar and classroom interactions are artificial may actually be based on good sense. Learning a language requires that the content of instruction should be modified in ways that make it more accessible to learners.’

How to you use authentic resources in your lessons? Are you for or against using them with low level students? Share with us in the comments below!

Юлия Белоног

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