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1/7/2015

AuthenticMaterials:AnOverview

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AuthenticMaterials:AnOverview

byAlejandroG.Martinez,M.A.,MexicoCity
TherearemanyreferencestoauthenticmaterialintheELTliterature.Booksandjournalscontainthoroughexplanationsofwhyitshouldorshould
notbeincludedinlessons,andhowitistobeusedorbestexploited.Butthoseauthorswhosupporttheuseofauthenticmaterialhaveincommonone
idea:"exposure".Inotherwords,thebenefitstudentsgetfrombeingexposedtothelanguageinauthenticmaterials.
ThedefinitionofauthenticmaterialsusedinthispaperistakenfromPeacock(1997):materialsthathavebeenproducedtofulfillsomesocialpurpose
inthelanguagecommunity.
Widdowson's(1990)differentiationoftheterms"authentic"and"genuinematerial"hasbeenaseminaloneinthefieldsoIshouldliketomentionit
here:AuthenticwouldbematerialdesignedfornativespeakersofEnglishusedintheclassroominawaysimilartotheoneitwasdesignedfor.For
example,aradionewsreportbroughtintotheclasssostudentsdiscussthereportonpollutioninthecitywherelearnerslive.
Mostofthetime,though,thismaterialisusedinagenuineway,inotherwords,notinthewayitwasintended,butinasomewhatartificialway.For
example,anewsarticlewheretheparagraphsarecutupandjumbledsostudentshavetoputthembacktogetherinthecorrectorder.
Anotherviewisthedifferencebetweenartificialandauthenticmaterials(seeShortall,2001).

Advantages
Usingauthenticmaterialintheclassroom,evenwhennotdoneinanauthenticsituation,andprovideditisappropriatelyexploited,issignificantfor
manyreasons,amongstwhichare:
Studentsareexposedtorealdiscourse,asinvideosofinterviewswithfamouspeoplewhereintermediatestudentslistenforgist.
Authenticmaterialskeepstudentsinformedaboutwhatishappeningintheworld,sotheyhaveanintrinsiceducationalvalue.Asteachers,we
areeducatorsworkingwithintheschoolsystem,soeducationandgeneraldevelopmentarepartofourresponsibilities(Sanderson,1999).
TextbooksoftendonotincludeincidentalorimproperEnglish.
Theycanproduceasenseofachievement,e.g.,abrochureonEnglandgiventostudentstoplana4dayvisit.
Thesamepieceofmaterialcanbeusedunderdifferentcircumstancesifthetaskisdifferent.
Languagechangeisreflectedinthematerialssothatstudentsandteacherscankeepabreastofsuchchanges.
Readingtextsareidealtoteach/practiseminiskillssuchasscanning,e.g.studentsaregivenanewsarticleandaskedtolookforspecific
information(amounts,percentages,etc.).TheteachercanhavestudentspracticesomeofthemicroskillsmentionedbyRichards(1983),e.g.
basicstudentslistentonewsreportsandtheyareaskedtoidentifythenamesofcountries,famouspeople,etc.(abilitytodetectkeywords).
Books,articles,newspapers,andsooncontainawidevarietyoftexttypes,languagestylesnoteasilyfoundinconventionalteachingmaterials.
Theycanencouragereadingforpleasurebecausetheyarelikelytocontaintopicsofinteresttolearners,especiallyifstudentsaregiventhe
chancetohaveasayaboutthetopicsorkindsofauthenticmaterialstobeusedinclass.

Disadvantages
Thedisadvantagesmentionedbyseveralwritersare:
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AuthenticMaterials:AnOverview

Theymaybetooculturallybiased,sounnecessarilydifficulttounderstandoutsidethelanguagecommunity.
Thevocabularymightnotberelevanttothestudent'simmediateneeds.
Toomanystructuresaremixedsolowerlevelshaveahardtimedecodingthetexts.
Specialpreparationisnecessarywhichcanbetimeconsuming.
Withlistening:toomanydifferentaccents.
Thematerialcanbecomeoutdatedeasily,e.g.news.
Therearemanyheadlines,adverts,signs,andsoonthatcanrequiregoodknowledgeoftheculturalbackground.Instancesofthisaboundinthemedia,
suchasheadlinesthatmanytimesuseabbreviations(P.O.W.,M.I.A.,G.O.P.andsoon).

SourcesofAuthenticMaterials
Intoday'sglobalizedworld,examplesabound,butthemostcommonlyusedperhapsare:newspapers,TVprograms,menus,magazines,theinternet,
movies,songs,brochures,comics,literature(novels,poemsandshortstories),andsoforth.
Iwouldliketolookatsomeauthenticmaterialsinabitmoredetailandthenmoveontoavarietyofsampletasks.
Literature
ThereasonforusingliteratureintheclasshasbeenstatedbyPound:"Greatliteratureissimplylanguagechargedwithmeaningtotheutmostpossible
degree."(EzraPound,HowtoRead,PartII.).Ofcourse,thefocusshouldbeonteachinglanguage,notliterature.Inotherwords,theideashouldbe
usingliterarytextsasonekindamongothertexts.Withthatinmind,thetasksshouldaimatmeaningandnotform,especiallyliteraryformor
stylistics.
ComputerSoftware
SoftwarethathasbeenspeciallydesignedforEnglishinstructionhasreceivedsomecriticismparticularlyfromteacherswhobackupahumanistic
approachtolanguageteaching.Theystatetheyseenoreasonwhyexercisesthatcanbedonewithatextbookshouldbecarriedoutwithacomputer.
ThisideastemsfromsoftwaresuchasGapkit,GrammarmasteryIIandothersthatarereallycomputerguideddrills.Thispositionisquite
understandable.However,togetherwithTenseBuster,andothersthatdrillsarenotallcomputershavetooffertoEFLteaching.
Generalsoftwarecanbeusedinclass,beitinagenuineorinanauthenticway.AnexampleisWhereintheworldisCarmenSandiego?by
Broderbond,whichgivesstudentsopportunitiestointeractnotonlywiththecomputerbutwithotherstudentsaswell.Thereareotherexamplesof
adventuregameswherelearnersneedtodiscovercluesandunravelmysteries.Thesegamesusuallyinvolveagoodamountofreadingandwiththeuse
ofmultimediatheyinvolveagoodrangeofsounds,speakersofdifferentagesandaccents,andexcellentimages.Studentscanplayinpairsorthrees
anddiscusswhattodonext,sothattheinteractionthattakesplaceisalsoapartofthelearningprocess.Anotheradvantagethesegameshaveisthat
theypromotecomputerliteracy,abadlyneededskillinthemodernworld.
TheInternet
WiththeadventoftheWorldWideWeb,teachershaveattheirdisposallargeamountsoftexts,visualstimuli,newspapers,magazines,liveradioand
T.V.,videoclipsandmuchmore.Thereareendlesslistsofusefulmaterialsforthelanguageclassroom.Ishouldliketofocusmainlyonnewspapers
andradiostations.Aswithothermedia,thereisnopointinaskingstudentstojustgotothewebandreadsometextorother.Thereneedstobeatask,
preferablyoneinwhichmeaningiscentralandhassomeconnectiontotherealworld.Treasurehuntsandotherinformationsearchingactivitiesare
probablythemostuseful.Moreandmoresiteshaveinteractivesections.Forexample:http://www.bbc.co.uk/communicate/whichcontainsmessage
boardsandwherestudentscanchatwithnativespeakers.
Otherusefulwebsitesare:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian/
http://www.nytimes.com
http://www.google.com
Task
Thetask,orwhatstudentsaresupposedtodowiththegivenmaterial,iswhatoftenmakesallthedifference.Thereismaterialthatcanbeusedfor
beginners,intermediateoradvancedstudents,providedthetaskthatcomeswithitissuitable.Thistaskshouldrelatetothestudent'sownlifeasmuch
aspossible,asproposedbyClarke(1989).
SampleTasks
WANTADS
Aseriesof45wantadscanbeusedwithadultsinthefollowingway:beginnersareaskedtosaywhichofthejobstheycouldqualifyfor,
intermediatestudentscanwriteanapplicationletterorwriteaC.V.,andadvancedstudentsmaydiscusswhointheclasscouldqualifyforthejoband
why,rewritetheadsorroleplayjobinterviews.
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TREASUREHUNT
Studentsgetanewsormagazinearticleandasheetofpaperwithaseriesofquestionssothattheylookforcertainitems:dates,events,people
involved,etc.
MENUS
Ihavefoundmenustohavegreatpotentialasauthenticmaterial.Studentswillinglygetinvolvedinaroleplaywhereoneisawaiter/tressand23
studentsarethecustomers,providedtheyhavebeensuppliedwiththenecessaryfunctionsandstructurestocarryoutsuchtask,i.e.sentencessuchas:
"Whatwouldyoulike?","I'llhave...","Anythingelse?",andsoon
ADSINMAGAZINES
Guessingtheproduct.Inthistask,theteachercutsoutadvertisementsfrommagazines,hidestheproductsbeingadvertisedandshowsthemto
learnersonebyonetoseeiftheycanguesswhatproductisbeingadvertised.Topracticespecificvocabulary,theteachergiveslearnersthreeorfour
optionsperad.
Asecondexampleinvolvingmagazineadvertisementsisthefollowing:Studentsaresetingroupsof34andgetsome4adverts.Theyaretoimagine
theyareworkingforanadvertisingagencyandcomparetheadstakingintoaccountthetextsandthephotographs.Studentsaretodecidewhichisthe
bestandwhichistheworst.Thentheyredesigntheworstad,includingthetext.Adswithshorttextsareusedwithbasicstudents,whereasthose
containingmorecomplextextsareforintermediateoradvancedstudents.
THEAGONYCOLUMN
Fourorfiveletterstotheagonycolumnarecutinhalfandpastedontocards.Studentsworkinpairsorgroupsofthreeandmatchthebeginningswith
thecorrespondingendingsoftheletters,andtheymatchthecorrespondinganswertoeachletter.
TRAVELBROCHURES
Anexampleofhowtousetravelbrochuresisthefollowing:
Studentssitingroupsof45.Theyaregiventravelbrochuresofinterestingplaces.Theyaretodesigna"phoney"brochureofaninventedplace.Init
theyincludeamixtureofcharacteristicsofthatplace.e.g.spaghettiisthetypicalfood,youcanvisitathemepark,drinkvodka,etc.
FURTHERREADING:
Clarke,D.(1990),Communicativetheoryanditsinfluenceonmaterialsproduction.LanguageTeaching25/1,pp7386
Lund,S.(1992),GivingYourCoursesaDoseofReality.ELTForum3pp.1015
Richards,J.(1983),ListeningComprehension:Approach,Design,Procedure.TESOLQuarterly17/2pp.219239
Sanderson,P.(1999),UsingNewspapersintheClassroom.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress
Shortall,T.(2001),DistinctionsandDichotomies:ArtificialandAuthentic.EnglishTeachingProfessional,21,pp35
Ur,P.(1984),TeachingListeningComprehension.Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress
Widdowson,H.(1990),AspectsofLanguageTeaching.Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress

AlejandroMartinez2002.Allrightsreserved.

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