Authentic materials have become a must-have of every teacher. All English courses nowadays feature a video, magazine article or a brochure. Authentic materials contain interesting, natural language used by native speakers. And it can be a great supplement to the coursebook language.
What are authentic materials?
When we think authentic materials, the first thing that comes to mind is a YouTube video. But there is so much more available: articles, restaurant menus, weather forecasts, business brochures, shop catalogues, and many, many more.
How to choose the best one
With such a big selection, a problem arises: how to choose the best one? When choosing an authentic material to use in your classroom, always ask yourself these questions:
Why do I want to use it?
What’s your objective for using this material? Does it have some interesting language that you could cover? Or maybe it talks about important issues you could discuss with your students?
Are the students going to understand it?
Make sure most of the language in the material is at your students’ level or slightly above it. If you’re using a video, take into account the way the people talk in it – is it not too fast? Is the accent clear?
Will it suit my students’ interests?
Choose the material that your students can connect with. Make sure it’s appropriate for their age. Also, make sure it fits the course type if you’re teaching any kind of ESP.
How can it benefit my students?
It might be easy to use a video just for the sake of using it, to fill in 30 minutes of the lesson. And that’s OK to do, as long as you don’t do it every time. Ask yourself: what will my students get out of this material? The benefits don’t always have to be language related. Sometimes, you may want to use something, just because the topic is popular at the time. And it gives your students the chance to discuss it in English.
Is it not too long?
Videos and online articles tend to be quite long. So choose wisely! For a video, anything around 5 minutes or shorter should be OK. And for articles, most of them are not suitable for use in the classroom because they’re too long. But read on to find out what else you can do with them.
How to use them in your classroom
Depending on the type of material you choose, you can approach it in different ways. Below we’re going to discuss using videos and articles, as these are the most popular ones.
Think about these 3 stages when using a video in your classroom:
Before watching. This is a stage when you can introduce the topic, pre-teach more difficult vocabulary from the video.
While watching. Give the students a reason for watching the video. They can do some gap-filling or answer comprehension questions. Don’t forget about the visual side of a video material as well. You can ask about the sequence of events, or you can pause a video and ask the students to describe the scene.
After watching. At this last stage allow the students to reflect on the video and discuss the topic in more detail. This is also a good time to practise any language that was in the video and is worth remembering.
Articles tend to be too long to use in the classroom. But you can divide working with them into 3 stages:
Main issue. Introduce the issue that the article is discussing. Build your lesson around it instead of the article itself. You can choose a few single statements from the article and use them as your introduction to the topic or discussion starters.
Language. In this step, you can pre-teach some of the most interesting vocabulary from the article. Choose the phrases which will be useful for discussing the main issue. At this stage, you can also choose parts of the article for language work. Choose paragraphs or quotes that have interesting or useful phrases.
Homework. Ask the students to read the full article at home. Give them some comprehension questions and maybe some language-related activities.
Check out this article for more ideas on how to plan a lesson using authentic materials.
The issue of copyright can be a bit tricky, but really can be summed up in one sentence: Whenever you use materials which were not made by you, check the licence. This will tell you what rights the owner is giving you. Usually, it is OK to use videos and articles in the classroom if it fits the curriculum. It means that you can use it if it’s going to benefit your students in the area that you are currently teaching. With articles, it is also usually OK to use a limited part of the text (like quotes or short paragraphs) without displaying the full article. But don’t forget to credit the author and the source!
Unless it is otherwise stated by the creator, you should never:
- download the video and play it in your classroom
- print and copy articles which you found online
- photocopy brochures, catalogues, and other printed materials
And remember! You should always play the video or use the article from its original source (i.e. the original link).
This article doesn’t exhaust the topic of using authentic materials in the classroom, and we’ll definitely have more for you on that. In the meantime, we hope you got inspired and had some questions answered!