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Authentic materials in EFL classroom

Using authentic materials in EFL classes will engage students and keep them exploring and playing with English in a way that will help them improve the language, and will also prepare them to use it in real life situations.

In this post I described two aviation English lessons I designed for upper-intermediate level students a few years ago, in which I used the authentic materials from the Internet.

This post was also part of an assignment I completed for a Serbian online seminar (which I attended this school year) about developing information and media literacy in our schools.

LESSON 1

This is a video-based Aviation English lesson for upper-intermediate level students.

The aim of the lesson is to revise the Aviation English vocabulary related to emergency landing, and to practise and improve listening and speaking skills.

You can find the Lesson plan here.  

1.  Teacher writes on the board: What / When / Who / Where / Why / How

Show the video “U.S. Air Cockpit Audio Tapes “We’re Gonna Be In The Hudson” and ask your students not to write anything while they are watching the video. After the video is finished, ask the students to sit in small groups (three or four students) and discuss what they watched, when the accident happened, who the pilot was, why the crash happened, and how it all ended. Teacher checks the questions, and then encourages her students to ask each other the questions, and share opinions.

2.  Students read the text and do vocabulary exercises (in pairs)  

You can find the text and vocabulary exercises here.

3.  Teacher provides her students with the links of some reliable web sites and asks them to read some news articles about the airplane crash for homework.  

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7832191.stm

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/01/15/new.york.plane.crash/

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/archive/Plane-Crashes-in-Hudson-River.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/4269765/New-York-plane-crash-Twitter-breaks-the-news-again.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/17/hudson-plane-crash-pilot-sullenberger

4.  STUDENTS’ REFLECTIONS

Students discuss in small groups what they liked / didn’t like in the lesson, what they found interesting / not interesting / difficult / easy, etc.

Hand out your students small papers with the following questions:

  • Did you like the choice of the video for the lesson about emergency landing?
  • Did you find the activities challenging / interesting / useful?
  • What did you find difficult about this listening practice?
  • Explain in a few sentences what you have learnt in the lesson.

Students discuss the various answers in their groups and then with the teacher.

5.  TEACHER’S REFLECTIONS

My notes about the lesson:

Students were motivated and engaged in the lesson. They found the video interesting, they thought it was a well-chosen video clip from Youtube (and good that it’s not too long), vocabulary was not difficult for upper-intermediate level students.

Some students couldn’t understand it very well while watching it for the first time (because of the fast connected speech of the native English speakers).

The activities raised students’ interest and curiosity, and they wanted to listen to the video clip again when it was much easier for them to understand.

The tasks were purposeful and engaging, and students found the activities very useful for revising aviation English vocabulary.

As students always struggle with making questions, it was a very good idea to check the questions before Ss practised asking Wh-questions in the first activity.  

What I need to improve:

  • organise group work better (think about how to engage a few shy students who are not willing to participate in speaking activities)
  • ask some additional questions to ensure that some (weaker) students know what the task is about

 

LESSON 2

Reading and speaking lesson for upper-intermediate level students.

The aim of the lesson is to discuss the presentation of the same news in different media, and to encourage students to use the Internet as a simple source of authentic materials for learning English outside the classroom.

1.  Students compare the presentation of the same news on a few different newspaper web sites:

  1. Which presentation of the news is the most interesting / sensational / accurate, etc.?
  2. What do you think about sensational news reports and articles, do you prefer when the reporting of accidents is intended to be shocking and exciting rather than serious?
  3. Which media was more effective in reporting the accident: TV news (video clips on Youtube) or news articles on the Internet?

2.  Students revise the aviation vocabulary through various vocabulary exercises

[collocations: emergency landing/exits, flight deck, cabin attendant, bird strike, control tower, life vest; and the aviation terminology related to emergency landing procedures: urgency and distress messages: PAN PAN, MAYDAY, etc.]

3.  Speaking practice (group work)

Students choose (in small groups of 3-4 Ss) to prepare:

  1. Emergency landing announcement, or
  2. A short news report about the accident of A320 and the pilot ditching the plane on the Hudson River

4.  STUDENTS’ REFLECTIONS 

Students discuss in small groups the following questions.

  • Did you find the activities challenging / interesting / useful / difficult…?
  • What did you learn in the class?
  • Which website was the most interesting?
  • Are you going to read regularly the news on the Net?

5.  TEACHER’S REFLECTIONS

My notes about the lesson:

Students found the lesson interesting, especially speaking activities.

Reading the news articles was a little daunting, but the exercises were graded according to the students’ abilities.

My advice about dealing with unknown vocabulary was to try to ignore it if they could complete the task without it.

Students were much more interested and motivated than when we used the course book in classes.

It might be a good idea to record the students’ announcements / accident news reports (by a phone or camera) and get students to discuss the recordings later, e.g. they can discuss the vocabulary used, what they liked / didn’t like / what should be improved regarding pronunciation.

They can also discuss some grammar points here, like: Which tense is usually used when we want to announce news? Why Present Perfect? (Because we want to emphasize the news as a present fact, we then switch to the simple past to give the details.)

What I need to improve:

  • develop students’ confidence at coping with the unknown vocabulary when reading articles on the Net
  • as most students are focused on practising English in the classroom only, encourage them to use some good educational sites, and other reliable web sites for learning English:

e.g.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/witn/ep-150610

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/

http://dreamreader.net/

http://freerice.com/#/english-vocabulary/1401

I think that using authentic materials in the classroom can be stimulating and rewarding for both teacher and students. Technology is the educational tool, and it is useful only if it is used to foster meaningful learning. I also wanted to point out in the post the importance of reflection and dialogue in EFL class because teacher and students are joint decision-makers who reflect on learning and discuss learning together. 

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

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