Is it Worth Using Authentic Materials?

What are authentic texts? Are they the texts created by native speakers?

Any text that has not been created for intentional use in the classroom is an authentic text. For example, we can say that an email from your colleague, which is obviously a text that wasn’t designed for classroom use, is authentic. It does not matter whether your colleague come from the UK or Switzerland.

In my humble opinion, our learners are likely to be exposed to at least some authentic texts on a regular basis as there are basically everywhere – online, at work, in public places and English is the lingua franca in many countries. This means that it is silly not to use them in the lessons.

A Piece of Cake

Second, it is really easy to find authentic texts that will be appealing to your learners. Have a look at some possible sources of authentic texts:

  • Articles from newspapers, magazines and social media
  • Discussion threads and chats on social media
  • Songs, TV shows, films, YouTube videos and podcasts
  • Leaflets, brochures, maps, menus, public noticeboards and signs
  • Literary genres

@teachup_conference_rzn speaker @daria_talanova reminded us of some advantages of using authentic videos and gave some tips on designing this kind of lessons. She highlighted the importance of preparing learners for tasks, increasing the level of challenge and gave some specific examples of activities for different levels of English proficiency.

Possible Tasks for Using Videos:

  • Sound off
  • Video off
  • Dictogloss
  • Predict the events
  • Split viewing

How about Low-level learners?

Some skeptical teachers may say that it’s hard to design a task based on an authentic text for low-level learners. The solution is to choose the text that can be used to do a manageable task. We need to design authentic tasks according to the genre so that learners are involved in something meaningful rather than artificial. For instance, choosing and ordering dishes will be an authentic task based on using a menu. Similarly, you can ask the students to read restaurant reviews to choose a place for eating out and then follow the instructions on the website to find the place.

Building Good Learning Habits

All in all, developing a habit of reading authentic texts as well as listening to some sources will contribute to raising genre awareness, add variety to our lessons based on coursebooks and prepare learners for real-life skills. If we create and set up appropriate tasks, they will be able to identify the features of different genres and apply appropriate strategies to extract necessary information.