Published 20th April 2018

It’s not groundbreaking news that authentic materials are beneficial for our English as a Foreign Language learners. We have all heard of people who have learnt English by watching YouTube videos or movies, listening to songs and reading books, even if they have had no formal classroom instruction. This alone should persuade you that authentic materials should be a part of your everyday classroom activities – and there are plenty of other reasons too.

Using authentic texts with higher levels is usually not a problem, as they have the level to deal with the majority of the natural language they will come across. Dealing with lower levels, on the other hand, can be a problem.

Why are authentic materials a problem for lower level learners?

To start, lower level learners may approach authentic texts with a certain amount of trepidation and anxiety. They may not feel confident enough to tackle natural language and this may result in a fear of even attempting to understand authentic texts.  Then, when they do engage with authentic texts, they may get frustrated with their lack of understanding or slow progress.

How to use authentic texts with lower level learners

Because of these reasons, lower level EFL learners need guidance and assistance when it comes to authentic texts. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to make use of authentic texts and when they are successful with them they will realise their usefulness and be more likely to use them again.

There are several tricks to helping lower level learners with authentic texts:

  • Adapt the text: The quickest way to making a text easier is to shorten it. Authentic texts can be lengthy and this can put off the most motivated student. Simply by cutting out any unnecessary sentences or paragraphs can make the text more accessible to learners. By doing this, even if the remaining text contains difficult language, your learners will have the time and energy to focus on decoding it.
  • Provide scaffolding: This is non-negotiable when it comes to authentic texts. You need to provide your students with any help you can give them in order to give them the best possible chance of being successful with the text. To scaffold, you can provide a glossary of challenging vocabulary or language, pre-teach vocabulary, pause the recording if it’s a listening or a video, include prediction tasks and activate background knowledge.
  • Be consistent: Don’t use one authentic text and never deal with another one again all term. Make sure you regularly include authentic materials in your lessons so your learners can get used to dealing with authentic texts and start to feel more comfortable with authentic texts.

Authentic texts are a treasure chest of language material and should be utilised as often as possible. Though they may be challenging for certain learners, if they are approached appropriately they can be used effectively and become an integral part of your lessons.