Keith Morrow, an ELT consultant and trainer, reflects on how ‘authentic’ activities can provide an effective learning and teaching experience in the ELT classroom, ahead of his webinar on the subject.
Two buzz words in one title. Not bad! How authentic are you feeling today? Will the real you be going into class to do real things? And are you feeling autonomous? A free spirit or a cog in the machine?
For a long time we have thought about ‘authenticity’ mainly in terms of materials. Let’s use real material from the real world in class. Down with stilted dialogues about John and Mary, up with real texts from magazines – or of course from the Internet. They are bound to be more interesting, because they are real. Umm, well – are they? Last weekend I got a notice from the tax authorities reminding me that I owe them some money. This was pretty boring even for me, but for a learner of English in a classroom anywhere in the world, being made to read my tax demand would be absolutely deadly. It has no connection to their world, and so they how could they engage with it? To use a distinction that Henry Widdowson made nearly 40 years ago, the text is ‘genuine’ – but the only person in the world for whom it is ‘authentic’ is me.
I think that finding ways to make activities ‘authentic’ for learners is at the heart of good teaching. But what does this involve? How can we do it?
Comments and suggestions are welcome. I’ll be exploring this and making some suggestions in the webinar I am leading next week on Tuesday 15th July and on Wednesday 16th July, so please come and join in.
And while you are at it, what about ‘autonomy’? What can we do in the classroom to help learners to take charge of their own learning? And equally intriguing – what can we do to help teachers to develop their own skills? Again, please share your comments and suggestions.
In the webinar I’m going to be drawing on two articles from ELT Journal to illustrate some ways of doing both of these, and I hope to be able to share links with you so that you can access the articles free of charge.