In the beginning module ‘1. Contextualizing Language’, we focused on context on how important it is to teach language in real life communicative situations to immerse the student to understand the language. Here in this module we extend this focus further by finding and using authentic materials. Authentic materials are tools that teachers can use that student can use to further learn the language because they are actual interest and use to them.
The authentic materials help the teacher teach because the ‘tools’ are interesting, illustrate and help symbolize information in target language as much as possible.
In language teaching we can encounter a range of age groups each having their own different interest and attention level. Thus to create a lesson, teachers must choose appropriate authentic materials that is dependent on those levels. Luckily, most likely the authentic materials used will be easily found locally or globally of interest like mass media. Realia is a real life object used in language instruction. The real life object is tangible, relatable and of interest or even playful as shown below.
In a kindergarten class setting, dolls of different gender and names and sized as big as the students labelled and spoken about in English are a form of realia. As a kindergarten student, the realia are interesting and fun to see as most kindergarten students would play with smaller dolls or action figures alone or with other students in their own native language. The teacher is humanizing the realia dolls, repeating names, gender and associating, in the target language would entice them to interact and respond. This is a form of teaching language vocabulary at a very basic level. At higher elementary levels when students become more individualistic, they can start to bring their own realia and try to talk about them in the target language like “Show and Tell”.
More cognitive language strategies of in higher level learning with realia is using printed realia materials to create student personal projects that students can present. Students can use books, magazines, brochures, newspapers and the internet that the teacher has collected to provide; realia. The lesson is allow the student to explore a subject matter of interest to them and try best to provide details of the subject in English in an album (pictures with explanations) or a single page with picture of interest and explanation. A good example is to allow a group of students to create an album (brochure-like information) about the country, city or town they live in to show to prospective English speaking tourists or friends. This would be the most relatable subject matter that can have the most impact in teaching the students the target language because it demonstrates immediate skills for work as tour guides in their native homeland. It could be as big as a class project where students each have a part in making the album or even a tourist guide website if the students have resource access for technology.
There are many other different ways to demonstrate language learning strategies using other realia too. The teacher should have a rich accessible extensive library of English language materials that each and every student can pick and choose from. Student then can make vocabulary posters, calendars of local or global events in English. Walls and corners of classrooms should have such extensive English materials so students can easily refer or access knowledge from. The areas must be separated based on topics of interests like sciences, social studies, fiction and storytelling corners. It is good for students to move around and be active and find their comfort spots to digest the materials; realia for classroom use or even personal interest.
Besides the senses of touch, sound, taste and hearing, most students are visual learners in the beginning and explore the world through and learn using their eyes. So most relatable realia should be images. Images can provide an abundant of information just as the saying goes, ‘A picture can show a thousand words.’ Using examples of people, photographs, maps, charts, drawings, posters, bulletin boards, and comics can increase likelihood of captivating student interest to learn a range of topics in English. A good example is for students to write about their hero or famous person of interest to them in their own words and present it either in a poster or class presentation. More older and skilled students with enough language skills can read and collect job postings in newspapers or from the internet that require English language skills and post them in a bulletin board for English skilled job seekers. As an additional task, student can take imagery from their breaks and holidays are report them when they return to the classroom. This way they take their English outside the classroom.
In the world of the Internet, lesson integrating interactive multimedia tools can enrich the student language skills. There are so many tools available on the Internet that finding an interesting activity lesson that captivates sight, sound and interaction in English is easy. Depending on the curriculum and the resources available, some tools could be low-tech and some high-tech. Low-tech in the form of audio and high-tech in the form of interactive English language adventure computer games. As teachers we can try the best with the resources we have and allow every student to have at least some interaction with the fast-paced English language technology driven world we live in. Middle of the road multimedia tools would be video in the form of cartoons, movies, documentaries. Simple comedic video with fun appropriate dialog would be enough for class discussion after viewing.
In this module we talked of providing authentic materials to aid in language learning. Having a resource rich in every possible topic regardless of how low or high tech will provide students relatable materials so they learn English even without knowing because they are preoccupied in the materials.