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The Use of Authentic Materials to Help Students Develop a Broader Language Base

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Using authentic materials helps students develop a broader language base and provide real-life examples of language used in everyday situations. Not only can authentic materials be used to add more interest, they may be more relevant and visually stimulating while at the same time targeting multiple learning styles. By evaluating your student’s needs and interests, materials can be selected that will greatly improve engagement. The biggest advantage is that authentic materials can be found from a multitude of sources from the internet to print sources such as newspapers and magazines.

I have chosen the authentic text “When It Comes to Climate Change, the Ocean Never Forgets”. The reasoning behind this choice is personal as it is a subject which I feel quite strongly about. It is a topic that shares no cultural or geographic boundaries and is relevant on a global scale. Having a mixed nationality class of 12 Advanced C1-C2 adults (7 women, 5 men, age 20-40 years) the text is challenging yet appropriate for this level of class. It introduces students to new vocabulary and language in context and is excellent for critically thinking skills.

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The dictionary activity is a simple game that requires little preparation which could be used as an excellent vocabulary pre-teaching activity or for later vocabulary development. It invokes practice of all four main skills in a fun and lively way familiarizing students with using a dictionary at the same time. The second or follow up activity “Look left, look right” provides further practice with vocabulary and grammar. Whilst encouraging the use of online resources, in this case, the Cambridge online learners dictionary. The activity “Climate change – Discussion Statements” can be used in a later lesson to stimulate freer speaking practice and critical thinking by use of the student’s own thoughts and opinions whilst utilizing the subject of the reading text.

Finding authentic materials on the internet can be quite challenging. I searched various news sites as well as other online publications such as National Geographic or Business Insider for a text that I thought may be interesting for the class. A lot of texts are of inappropriate length or incorrect level containing unsuitable language. However, once a suitable topic has been chosen the search can be narrowed down or if necessary appropriate texts can be adapted to suit the class. On the other hand, finding an activity which requires students to use online resources in today’s connected world is relatively easy. Many resources such as Google, online learners’ dictionaries such as used in my activity described above can be used or incorporated into lesson planning. Alternatively, there is a multitude of resources dedicated to ESL teaching.

Though the internet use in ESL learning has brought certain advantages, it carries some disadvantages as well. Students are able to do and search for whatever they want, teachers cannot control students completely. They may chat online, watch movies etc. Geographical location of the ESL classroom may also prove to be a disadvantage such as power outages or very poor internet connectivity may affect learning negatively. Moreover, it can be very exhausting and time-consuming. It is also easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and students don’t have control over the quality and accuracy of content.

Despite these disadvantages the internet is vast and has plenty to offer the teacher from authentic resources and materials to prepared lesson plans. This means lessons can be tailored to students’ interests and needs. Material is modern and up to date. Students enjoy using the internet in their free time and will appreciate its use in class.

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