In the ESL/EFL world, we often find ourselves with students that have very specific goals in mind. However, the opposite is also true: English learners often find themselves just to learn English for no apparent reason (academic or business). They just like to learn English and find it important to their lives.
As English language “facilitators” we definitely want our prospective students to enjoy a meaningful class, regardless of their goals. An excellent appendix to our classes has to do with authentic materials. That’s right: materials that were created (or someone else made them for us and we simply have a subscription that allows us to use them) to provide an insightful English class. Even though, as an ESL teacher, I believe that materials are the backbone of the student’s development, I assume there might some aspects that could be put to the test, that necessarily won’t please our students, for some reason.
Please find below some pros and cons of using authentic materials in class.
The world at your fingertips
Could this be considered one of the “pros” and “cons”? Maybe. Why? We are talking about the Internet, of course. Countless resources can be found and used to teach our students. However, there might be two downsides:
1) The quality of the contents;
2) The interest of the students. The teacher needs to make sure that the materials are of high quality and suitable for the student’s level. If you are like me, you will find yourself struggling to have enough time to look for meaningful and precious materials that could be used. But time runs so fast… On the other hand, the students might just want a simple article, mixed with a talking point and keyword discussion.
The student wants a personalized experience
A tailored experience is hard to get. We all strive to get the best when we buy something, don’t we? I’m sure that our students think the same when considering English classes. If they look at their English adventure as an investment, they will likely privilege having progress checkpoints, and even perhaps a tailored course plan made just for them. How much should you charge for a premium and tailored experience? It´s up to you! My experience tells me that the students that reserve my classes prefer this approach. This is what I offer. I’m holding no secrets! My advice is: Personalize your experience and accompany it with quality and extraordinary performance AND authentic materials.
We are living in a world of distress
Recent events that are unique to our generation have taken place, so the whole world Is being affected. The English language industry is no exception, however the need to learn English is still there, regardless of their reasons. A hands-on class in a conversational style might just be what they want or… what they can afford. I’m confident that we, as teachers want to do our best to serve our students, and I’m sure we will serve our students according to the best of our abilities, but at the same time we can’t forget our own goals.
Pros and cons of using authentic materials in class
The student doesn’t want a personalized experience
That’s right. They just want to talk. Some students just want to focus on the idea that, by speaking, they can improve their English skills. I’m confident that you will assist the students, maybe with just a simple topic, and then go on from there. In that case, I think there’s no need to have authentic materials. The students merely want to focus their attention on conversational English, and that’s ok. We just need to keep discerning what’s the right path to go.
Want grammar rules? Here you go!
What do you think? Would it be practical to have authentic learning materials (“homemade” or licensed to be used) for these students? Likely, having a tailored course plan, maybe with a couple of lessons that follow a certain pattern might just be what the student wants!
So, what now?
What is the best way to see if we should use authentic materials in class or not? In my opinion, a direct answer would be: please ask the student. They’re the judges and the investors of their time in this endless quest; a magnificent journey, striving for an exquisite proficiency level in the wonderful world of the English language! I would like to pose a challenge. Which of the subtitles mentioned above are considered “pros”, and which ones are considered “cons”? Please leave your comments. You be the judge!
Thank you. I wish you well in your endeavors!
- Teacher Henry