Authentic Materials: How To Find Them And How To Use Them
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Menu’s. Newspapers. Instruction manuals. Timetables. Blogs. These are all examples of authentic materials.
Why should you use authentic materials?
Why should you use authentic materials? The question here should rather be, why are you not using authentic materials? Authentic materials are the perfect solution for your English as a Foreign Language lesson needs, for so many reasons.
- Authentic materials expose your learners to real language as it is used in the real world. It is not the language of coursebooks, which has been graded to a certain level. There is nothing wrong with the materials in coursebooks but there is a need to expose your students to language that is not graded specifically for their level.
- Authentic materials introduce our learners not only to real language but also real contexts and situations. They connect our learners to the English-speaking world. This makes them inherently interesting, and if the lessons are interesting, our learners will be more invested in the lessons and consequently learn more.
- Authentic materials are confidence boosters. EFL learners expect to be able to handle an ELT coursebook so when they do there is no cause for celebration. When they read and understand a magazine article from an English magazine, on the other hand, there is a real satisfaction in their achievement. Understanding an authentic text is no easy task, so your students will need help from you in the form of scaffolding, but with time and assistance it is totally possible for even lower level learners to interact with authentic materials.
- Authentic materials are usually free. It may take some time and effort to find appropriate authentic materials and you may need to adapt them slightly for your purposes, but authentic materials are, for the most part, free and readily available.
How can we use authentic materials in the EFL classroom?
The first step is to identify your students’ needs. Finding out why they want to learn English and specifically what language they need to accomplish their goals will inform what authentic texts you will choose.
Are they learning English to travel? Use real menus, tour guides or tourist information brochures.
Do they need to do business? Watch video clips which involve business meetings or find examples of real business emails.
Maybe they want to learn English to study in English. Find textbooks and websites which are more academically focused.
Once you’ve found your materials, consider the level. Some authentic materials naturally have a higher level of English than others. Don’t use an article from The Economist for your Elementary learners, just as you wouldn’t use a teen magazine for your Business students. You need to be realistic about your choice of materials, but that’s not to say that the text you pick has to be at the exact level of your students.
Instead, you will find that your text should be a bit challenging for your learners, no matter their level. If it’s too challenging, a simple way to lower the level without rewriting it is to shorten it. Also remember, it is the difficulty of the task that is more important than the difficulty of the text.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make extensive use of your materials. Authentic materials provide a wealth of learning opportunities and finding them can take time. Don’t make the mistake of using a text for a five-minute activity and then throwing it away. Find ways to increase the usefulness of the text to make them work for you.
This is the reason it’s such a good idea to use authentic texts in the classroom. They are interesting and engaging because we can choose what topics they will cover. Plus, once our students realise they can understand and make sense of authentic language, their motivation and confidence levels will naturally increase.
Read more: Top Tips for Effective Lesson Planning
Examples of authentic materials in the classroom
- 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
Having said all this, we must admit that sometimes the thought of using authentic materials can be daunting for teachers. First you have to find materials that are interesting and relevant. Then you have to make sure they are appropriate for your learners. Finally you need to assess whether you need to adapt them in any way – either by shortening them or providing a glossary or some other form of scaffolding.
So yes, while it’s worth it, it can be a lot.
But fear not, weary teachers, we have your back!
Here are four of our favourite ways to find authentic materials which will save you time and energy.
Use a public domain database
There are a few online databases which have authentic materials online. The Online Books Library, for example, has links to hundreds of different sources of free texts. If you choose to use a public domain database, it’s a good idea to search for a particular book, author or topic as otherwise you can find yourself going down a very long and winding road trying to find the perfect text.
Read online newspapers
Newspapers are another excellent source of authentic materials. Newspapers provide us with current, up-to-the-minute articles which, if chosen correctly, are interesting and relevant. You can choose to look up a local newspaper or an international one. Using an online newspaper saves you the trouble of finding and buying a newspaper on your way to school. To find online newspapers you can find the online version of your local newspaper or you can access national or international newspapers through their websites. Most newspapers allow access to a certain amount of articles online for free. World Newspapers is a website which has links to loads of newspapers from all over the world.
If you’re looking for videos rather than written text, look no further than YouTube. You can find practically anything you need on YouTube, it’s just a matter of looking for it. To make sure you don’t fall down a rabbit hole, it’s best to have a good idea of what you want before you start looking. Think carefully about what authentic situation would suit your lesson objectives, type in a keyword in the search bar and soon you’ll have thousands of videos to choose from. Just be sure to watch them in full before you use them so as to avoid any awkward situations!
Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are great for listening practice. There are podcasts on every topic imaginable and you can download them to play in class. You can find a podcast to suit your learners and, since podcasts are usually a series of episodes, you can use it as a regular feature in your lessons. The BBC is a great resource for podcasts so start your search here.
The internet is an obvious place to find authentic materials online, since the materials you can find can be very recent and up-to-date. However, although it is a magnificent resource of authentic materials if it is utilised correctly, it can also be a total waste of time so make sure you know where to look when you are looking for online materials.
Once you have found appropriate authentic materials, consider the best way to utilize them in your lesson. Think about the level of your students and the aims of your lesson. Think about the ways you can scaffold the lesson to make the materials accessible for your students and the lesson achievable. When you have taken all of these into account you can sit back and relax in the knowledge that you have an interesting and effective English language lesson planned. Bravo!
Have you ever used authentic materials in your lessons? We’d love to know how it went so let us know in the comments!
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- Your contact details. This includes your name, gender, address, phone number, date of birth and email address.
- Information from cookies and tags placed on your connected devices.
- Information from other organisations such as aggregated demographic data and publicly available sources like the electoral roll and business directories.
- Details of the products and services you’ve bought and how you use them.
We’ll send you information (about the products and services we provide) by phone, post, email, text message, online banner advertising. We also use the information we have about you to personalise these messages wherever we can as we believe it is important to make them relevant to you. We do this because we have a legitimate business interest in keeping you up to date with our products and services. We also check that you are happy for us to send you marketing messages before we do so. In each message we send, you also have the option to opt-out.
We’ll only market other organisations’ products and services if you have said it is OK for us to do so.
You can ask us to stop sending you marketing information or withdraw your permission at any time.
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.