Context and Meaning, Teaching Grammar

Smooth:  It would be easy to bring in realia in order to teach this word like silk or leaves and contrast with rough things like sandpaper, bricks, or other rough material.  The teacher can use phrases like “not smooth” when holding or showing these items.

Harmful: A teacher could print out a danger sign, skull and crossbones, sharp things, poison etc.

To dance:  This one is easy to teach visually just by dancing.  If the teacher is uncomfortable dancing they could ask questions like, “what do people when they listen to music?” or ”when people play music sometimes people (wait for them to realize it’s the word dance than say dance).”

To go out on a date:  This example can be taught by drawing.  A simple scene of a man and women sitting in a restaurant could be drawn.  In order to make the example clearer thought bubbles containing hearts could be drawn above their heads.

Silverware:  Could easily be demonstrated by bringing in realia.

Watermelon:  A watermelon could be drawn on a board if the teacher is a good enough artist to not confuse students.  If not they can bring in a picture of a watermelon.

There are both positive and negative aspects to using authentic material in teaching.  One advantage of using authentic material is that can better prepare students for real world use of English.  Not all English is tailored to beginners in its vocabulary and structure.   Slang or common usage is likely to be found in authentic texts allowing students to learn in context.   Ability to read authentic texts can be an enormous asset to students.

There are also disadvantages of using authentic material.  Uncovered grammar points may confuse and frustrate students.  Students may then lose interest in the main point of the text.  Already discussed vocabulary with alternate meanings and nuances may force students to reexamine what they’ve already learned instead of focusing on new material.  Another downside of authentic texts is that even if all topics and vocabulary are coverable the teacher might have to invest large amounts of time in order to properly prepare the material.

Story taken from

Liz was excited. She was going to Asia with her mom. Neither of them had ever traveled out of the United States before. They were going to fly to Hong Kong. After staying in Hong Kong for three nights, they would travel on their cruise ship to Shanghai and Beijing.

“Beijing is inland, so we have to take about a two-hour bus ride to get there from the port. I forget the name of the port. Anyway, we’re going to see the Great Wall, the Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City. It’s going to be so cool!” she told her neighbor Jane.

From China, the cruise ship would go to Pusan in South Korea, and finally to Tokyo. From Tokyo, they would catch a flight back to Los Angeles.

“The trip is going to last three weeks. It’s only going to cost us $2,800 each, IF we can control our urge to shop,” she laughed.

“I hope your trip is more fun than mine was,” said Jane. “I took a cruise to the Bahamas, but almost all the passengers got sick. I caught some kind of virus that made me throw up for almost three days. They gave us a discount that we could use on a future trip. Ha! No more cruising for me.”

“We’ve heard about those disasters,” said Liz. “Mom and I are going to be washing our hands every 30 minutes, and we’re bringing surgical masks with us.”

Cruise ship:  a picture of a boat could be drawn on the board.  In order to show that it’s a cruise ship, music notes, food, and the word fun could be drawn on the side of the picture.

Inland:  A picture of an island could be drawn with an adjacent smaller island.  Two small dots labeled “city.”  The one on the main island could be labeled, “inland” and the city outside could be labeled, “not inland.”

catch a flight:  The word being taught would be the usage of the word “caught.”  A teacher could write on the board similar sentences showing that the word ‘caught’ refers to using a mode of transportation.

He caught a taxi cab.

He caught a bus downtown.

He caught the local train.

virus:  A picture of a virus could be brought in.

surgical masks:  It would be great to bring in realia to teach this word.