How to Research, Develop, and Implement Materials in the ESL/EFL Classroom
There are many resources for use in the classroom at the disposal of an ESL/EFL teacher. Broadly speaking, these are divided into two categories: authentic materials, and non-authentic (or created) materials. The distinction between these two categories is that authentic materials are those that have been produced in the world for a purpose that is not teaching, while non-authentic materials have been created expressly to teach language students. Authentic materials would include company brochures, advertisements, television and radio programs, realia, newspapers, and magazines, etc., whereas non-authentic materials include created worksheets (e.g., crosswords, word search puzzles, gap fills, etc.), flashcards, picture story cards/games, and role-play cards, to name but a few! Both authentic materials and non-authentic materials are usually created as supplements to an ESL/EFL course book, as-coursebook not always tailored to the specific needs of each student in a class, and require supplementation, lest the course becomes unengaging and create a sense of boredom amongst the students.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jan S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Authentic Materials vs. Non-Authentic Materials
The advantage of authentic materials, over non-authentic ones, is that authentic materials are actual examples of language created for the use of native speakers without regard to language learning. They are therefore realistic, unpredictable, interesting, and engaging for students to work with. However, this does mean that the ESL/EFL teacher must select these materials carefully, as they are not designed for specific student levels. A teacher must take care to choose examples of language in authentic materials that are appropriate to the ability level of the students in that class. Nonetheless, because authentic materials are real, students will naturally be more motivated to understand the language used in them.
Non-authentic materials, on the other hand, can be designed specifically for a particular group of students, with their English level in mind. Games and activities created with the use of non-authentic materials can be tailored specifically to the exact language needs of students and can be used to target areas for improvement.
There are four considerations when designing non-authentic materials. First, a teacher should have a clear idea of what language non-authentic materials will prompt students to use. What language structure (either vocabulary or grammar), or “teaching point” will be targeted? What phase of the lesson (e.g., Engage, Study, or Activate) will the materials be designed for use during?
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Implementation on the lessons
The second consideration that a teacher should bear in mind is how the materials will be used during instruction. The teacher should ask herself how the students will be organized to conduct the activity (e.g., in groups, as individuals, in pairs, etc.). Will there be an assessment to see how students are doing? How will the teacher see to it that all students are participating? Are there any backup plans in case something goes wrong?
Third, the teacher must consider how she will explain to the class about the use of non-authentic materials. How will she let them know how to complete the activity associated with the non-authentic materials? How will a demonstration be conducted?
Finally, the ESL/EFL teacher should have a clear idea of the level of students those particular materials will be most appropriate for. Both the language used to explain the activity, and the language of the activity must be appropriate for the level of those students.
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By following these recommendations, both authentic and non-authentic materials can be sourced, designed, and implemented during lessons.
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