Course materials A balanced approach to using a

A balanced approach to using a combination of created and authentic materials can be beneficial to both the students and the teacher in an ESL classroom.

Created materials can be either a previously published course text or something the teacher has specifically created to supplement a lesson. Often students will expect some published materials such as a course book and view it as a form of security as well as a way to gauge their progress, i.e. how many chapters of the book they have completed. Published course materials have generally been tried and tested before release and thus are graded to a level suitable for the students and contain a balanced mix of vocabulary, grammar and skills exercises. As well, they can be very useful in pointing out certain structures or language patterns that may be important for students to learn. For instance, a chapter in a course book on the past tense will contain many examples of the same structure, which will help the students infer how that structure is used.

For an inexperienced teacher, published materials such as course books, are also a form of security and provide many good ideas and save them time in designing a course syllabus from scratch.

To add variety and stimulus to a text book lesson, teachers can find numerous books and internet sites on the subject of teaching with supplementary course ideas and materials such as prepared quizzes, games, worksheets, etc., which are available for free or for a nominal fee. Many teachers will create their own, or obtain these supplementary materials, to replace certain unsuitable chapters of a course book or to add interest and prevent boredom in the classroom.

However, as created course materials, even those designed by a teacher with the students' particular interests in mind, often focus on the grasp of English skills in a classroom setting, many teachers add authentic materials to their syllabus as a motivational tool, especially for adult learners to see how their reading, writing and speaking skills apply outside of the classroom.

As young children are often not in the classroom out of choice, they are generally less concerned with how their English language skills apply to the world outside of the classroom and are more stimulated by, and interested in learning through communication games and fun activities. Young adult and adult learners on the other hand, may be more motivated to see how they can use the English language in the 'real world' out of necessity and even possibly peer pressure if they are in an English speaking country.

Teachers and learners are surrounded by authentic texts and can work together to bring materials into the classroom. As authentic texts are not geared towards a specific level of learner, teachers must be conscientious in their choice of materials. Newspapers, applications, flyers, brochures, schedules, assessment reports, election materials and fiction and creative writing, are all examples of authentic texts that can be used in the classroom to promote language skills. In some cases, authentic texts can serve a dual purpose in that students could, for example, use a real TV schedule for its 'real world' and primary purpose of finding the time of their favourite shows but in another secondary exercise, focus on the use of capitalization for proper nouns. As well, depending on the level of learner, an authentic text could be approached in a variety of ways. For instance, lower level students may begin by just reading captions below photographs whereas more advanced learners could tackle the accompanying news story.

Many students may embrace the use of authentic materials and the value of the 'real world' purpose. However, for students who are more accustomed to a traditional approach to reading and writing through course books and tests only, an explanation from the teacher may be required, as to why authentic materials and activities such as creating real shopping lists, filling out real applications, reading real food labels or medical reports, are taking up class time.

Therefore, in consideration of all levels of learners, all backgrounds of learners, and with possible time constraints on both the teacher's part and the duration of the course in mind, using a combination of created and authentic materials creates a mutually beneficial approach for both teacher and students in meeting the language needs of most learners.


Jacobson, Erik, Sophie Degener & Victoria Purcell-Gates, 2003. Creating Authentic Materials and Activities for the Adult Literacy Classroom. National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy.

Julio Foppoli. Authentic Vs Graded Material in Second Language.

International TEFL Teacher Training. Course Books and Lesson Materials. ITTT 016.

Bergquist, W.H. & S.R. Phillips, 1975. 'Getting Students Involved in the Classroom'. A Handbook for Faculty Development. Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges.