Using Realia With Your Students

Are you looking for ways to spruce up your ESL lessons? Have your students requested more practical lessons that will improve their understanding and level of conversational English?  Why not use realia in your classes?! Don´t know what realia is? Fear not, we will introduce it to you and give you some ideas of how to incorporate it into your classroom.

So what exactly is realia?  Realia is everyday objects, such as newspapers and train tickets, used in the classroom to enhance the students´ learning process in the target language.  These authentic materials aid the teacher in delivering the most realistic and useful lessons possible.

Why is realia important in the classroom? How many times have you been forced to memorize a list of odd vocabulary in a language class?  You might have thought that reviewing words like ¨snorkel¨ and ¨asbestos¨ was an absolute waste of time.  However, the vocabulary learned from realia emphasizes essential words that the student would encounter in the country of the target language.  The use of realia with your students will not only be fun, but it will also provide a practical and interactive approach to learning English.  You students will immediately find relevance in the lesson by navigating through the vocabulary on things like bus timetables, signs from airports, listings online, and receipts.  Additionally, students are more likely to remember the vocabulary presented in realia as they recall the real contexts where they learned it, and your kinesthetic learners will benefit from the tangible examples you provided for them.

How to use it in the classroom:  There is no doubt that your students will be curious and eager to explore –the authentic materials you bring to class
Below we have a few ideas of how to integrate realia into your classroom:

Realia rotation: Put your students into groups of two and give each group a material and a set of accompanying comprehension questions.  Set the timer for 7 minutes, and when the time is up, discuss what the material is and review the answers to the questions.  When the discussion is over, distribute the next material and repeat the cycle.  Continue until you´ve facilitated conversations (in the target language!) for at least four different materials.

Realia recreation: A fun way to let your artistic students shine is by recreating the realia you have presented to them.  Spend at least 10-15 minutes distributing realia and discussing each piece.   As you review each piece, be sure to write useful vocabulary on the board for the students to reference later on in the class.  Next, pass out materials such as paper, scissors, markers, colored pencils, etc. for your students to use to make their recreations of the realia.  Check each student´s work to make sure they are using proper vocabulary.  BONUS ROUND: Foster a bit of a competitive environment by rewarding the student with the best and most accurate recreation with a tasty treat or a ¨get out of homework¨ pass.

As you can see, it doesn´t take much to prepare a lesson using realia and it will go a long way.  Students will feel accomplished when they successfully recall useful vocabulary and you will feel proud when your student comes back from vacation bragging about how they fearlessly conquered the tube in London thanks to your practical lessons! J

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