How to incorporate authentic texts into English language learning

Using Authentic Materials for Teaching Listening and Reading

Using Authentic Materials for Teaching Listening and Reading

05.04.2023

1145
3
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  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

As language teachers, we often hear that authentic materials should be used for teaching listening and reading skills. But what do we mean by “authentic materials”?

According to Nunan (1999), authentic materials are spoken or written language data that has been produced in the course of genuine communication, and not specifically written for purposes of language teaching.

Actually, I’d rather use the word ‘text’, not ‘materials’. ‘Text’ generally refers to any spoken or written language. ‘Materials’ is a slightly broader term that includes texts but also, for example, may simply be a set of pictures without any language.

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Pros and cons

Nowadays, with the abundance of authentic texts available on the Internet, it’s not necessary to search for hard copies of menus or cut out articles from newspapers. Written and oral texts on a wide variety of topics are waiting to be used.

However, authentic texts often contain:

  • difficult language, 
  • unneeded vocabulary items,
  • complex language structures. 

Sometimes they are not teacher-friendly, and you may need to spend several hours reading or watching videos until you finally find what you need to use in your class. 

This raises the question:

Should we bother using authentic texts?

The answer is yes

Authentic texts have several advantages, such as having a positive effect on learner motivation, providing authentic cultural information, exposing students to real language, relating more closely to learners’ needs, and supporting a more creative approach to teaching. After all, our students are learning the language for real-life situations outside the classroom.

Developing listening skills is a key to successful communication

10 activities

While course books provide listening and reading passages prepared for teachers to use according to the level of their students, authentic texts could be more relevant to their interests and motivations. 

For example, a course book may provide a listening task about a weather forecast for winter and blizzards, but if your students are sitting in the classroom on a sunny day with green trees outside and a temperature of +27, listening to an up-to-date weather forecast would be more engaging.

Classroom use

So, how can we incorporate authentic texts in our teaching of listening and reading skills?

First, choose a text that is relevant to the class you are teaching. You need to know what the students are interested in, and the course book you are using might not satisfy their needs. Be aware of the length of the text and the complexity of the language. Authentic texts could be used with any level of class. However, with an elementary class, you might work on menus or travel websites, whereas with an advanced class, an article from The Economist could make the learners excited.

The stages of your listening or reading lesson should be the same as the lesson based on the course book:

  1. Lead-in
  2. Pre-teaching the blocking vocabulary
  3. Reading/Listening for the main idea
  4. Reading/Listening for detail or specific information
  5. After-reading/listening activity

For both reading and listening texts, create appropriate tasks. The lead-in is needed to engage students. Next, you need to pre-teach the blocking vocabulary. The words should be chosen carefully to enable the students to complete the tasks. The text might contain quite a few items of new vocabulary for your students, but the teacher needs to pre-teach only a few words necessary for the completion of the tasks.

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Your next stage is reading/listening for gist. Create a task that will allow the students to understand the general idea of the text, such as matching paragraphs with their headings, and set a short time limit.

Detailed reading or listening tasks might be tricky because the teacher has to create questions or true/false statements that really check deep understanding of the text. It involves paraphrasing, using synonyms, and paying attention to detail. 

The teacher should know the class quite well to make the right choices of the topic and words to pre-teach. I’d advise using authentic texts with the classes you know well.

In conclusion, using authentic materials for teaching listening and reading can be a powerful way to enhance language learning. By choosing texts that are relevant and engaging and creating appropriate tasks teachers can help learners to develop their skills and gain confidence in using real-world language.

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Article authors & editors
  • Helen Taranenko

    Helen Taranenko

    Author

    CELTA, CELT-P/S Course trainer, International speaking examiner

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