Published 21st October 2015

No matter in what situation or context you are teaching, chances are there is a coursebook or textbook that you need to follow. While coursebooks are generally good and easy-to-use, you may sometimes find that it is necessary to bring something extra into your classrooms to make your lessons more interesting and fun. Using authentic materials wherever possible is the perfect way to help students relate to topics in coursebooks and make the language come to life.

While you may think this is only necessary for Young Learners, when you think carefully about what authentic materials are available for you to use, you will realise that authentic materials are appropriate for older learners too. The thing is, there are so many different options for what you can use as authentic materials, that you could find materials to suit any class and any lesson. Let’s look at a few popular topics and some suggestions for authentic materials you could use:

  • Food: Roleplay a restaurant scene using menus from a variety of local restaurants. The menus can then be used for a discussion on local restaurants and recommendations
  • Directions: Use maps of the area and let the students direct each other to local places of interest. If you have an interactive whiteboard, use Google maps to show these places, or to demonstrate giving directions
  • Crime. While using a newspaper to read an article discuss a crime is quite common, why not use a video clip instead? There are loads of different crimes series that you can utilise (CSI, Law and Order, for example) and there’s no need to use an entire episode. Rather use a short clip which summarises the crime. The students can then debate who the perpetrator and the motive is, which can be confirmed with another clip
  • Family. Nothing beats bringing your own family photos to a lesson on family or relationships, but again you could turn to technology to provide a stimulus. There are a number of famous families who have TV shows (the Simpsons, the Kardashians) which you could show clips of in order to prompt a discussion on family. Or you could use a celebrity family that your students are familiar with to stimulate vocabulary or conversation
  • Education. Finding photographs of classrooms from around the world is a great way for students to consider the different educational contexts there are around the world, and there are a lot of extremes which can provide the basis for discussion. Another fun activity is to have a general knowledge quiz with questions relating to different school subjects

Authentic materials are a way for us to bring the real world into our lessons and link the language used in our classrooms to our students’ lives outside the classrooms. They provide a break from the coursebook and are often really enjoyed by the students.