Authentic Materials

Slidecast

Learn about an activity with Foundation Phase learners that involved creating a visual map of downtown Calgary.

Authentic materials are any materials that exist in the real world for native speakers in English. Examples of authentic materials include:

  • Newspapers and advertisements
  • Bills and receipts
  • Official letters and forms from governments or businesses
  • Maps and directions
  • Prescriptions and instructions
  • Written notes and messages

Depending on the level of your learners

  • Use the actual text or document as it is in real life.
  • Modify it so your learners can use it successfully.

Benefits of authentic materials

  • They build background knowledge by exposing learners to new ideas and content from real-life.
  • They help learners transfer their literacy skills from familiar formats to a variety of other formats they may encounter.
  • They increase learners' confidence to deal with the literate world around them.
  • They motivate learners by showing them that the literacy skills they are learning are valuable and useful for living in an information-age culture.
  • They prepare learners to deal with real-life situations outside the classroom.
  • They support learners' transition and integration into the world outside the classroom.

Challenges of authentic materials

  • They are made for the mainstream literate public and not geared toward language or literacy learning.
  • It takes creative thinking for instructors to imagine what kinds of authentic materials may suit the language and literacy objectives of the classroom.
  • It can be too complicated and difficult for learners to use authentic materials in their original format.
  • It takes time and effort to modify authentic materials to suit the literacy and language levels of learners and to fit the theme, strategies, and content of the class.

Tips for using authentic materials

Adapt before using with learners. Keep the materials as authentic as possible, but change all language content, including vocabulary and structure. Break down the activity into a series of smaller, interconnected tasks:

  • Provide background information.
  • Rewrite the material.
  • Reformat the writing in terms of font style, white space and font size.
  • Consider the quantity of material.
  • Consider the layout on the page.
  • Consider expectations of tasks.
  • Be consistent.