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Authentic English Language & Literacy Activities & Tasks for ELL Students

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  • 0:03 Definition of…
  • 0:26 Basic Guiding Principles
  • 1:13 Activities and Tasks
  • 5:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

As an ELL teacher, you often want to give your students activities and tasks that encourage them to use language as they would in real life settings. This lesson gives you a guide to some fun activities based on authentic language sources.

Definition of Authentic Language

Anne is an ELL teacher who focuses on using authentic language sources. Authentic language is the set of sources of information that members of a language group use to communicate with other members of their group. In other words, we use authentic language when we use material that isn't specifically designed for ELL students. Let's explore the use of authentic sources.

Basic Guiding Principles

Keep in mind these basic guiding principles, which are the set of considerations you should make regarding authentic language resources.

  • Choose context-appropriate material. For instance, for Anne's restaurant vocabulary lesson, she brings a set of menus from real restaurants to the class.

  • Check for comprehension. For example, Anne makes sure that students are comfortable with all vocabulary on the menu. She focuses on words like 'gravy,' 'dressing,' and 'parsley.'

  • Finally, design tasks to fit the language level of your students. For example, Anne's ELL students are intermediate. She gives the students the task to act out a spontaneous dialogue in which one student is the waitress or waiter and the other is a customer who orders from the menu.

Activities and Tasks

Authentic language material come from a variety of sources. Let's learn about them.

Authentic Text Activities

Let's first take a look at authentic text activities. Texts that are written for English-speaking audiences vary widely, but here are some great sources for your ELLs:

  • Short stories: The key is to choose stories that hold a surprise or fun events. For instance, Anne chooses the story 'Kung Fu Monkey Style.' It's appropriate for all ages and has a lot of dialogue. Students read and answer some comprehension questions Anne prepared. Then, she sits with her ELLs in a circle, and they spontaneously talk about what they liked, what they didn't like, etc. If you see your students are at a level that shows they're ready to read other literary works, don't hesitate and give them more to read.

  • Cartoons: Witty animations are very engaging for ELLs. For instance, Anne shows students a few old Snoopy cartoons in which the dog displays an outgoing attitude. Her students immediately get a kick out of the cartoons and talk about why Snoopy is funny. Anne then encourages her students to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of being outgoing.

  • Textbooks: ELLs often struggle with subject textbooks because of the specialized terms they include. For this reason, you can always use the very same textbooks ELLs use for science, math, or literature to review subject-specific vocabulary. This way, you not only use authentic materials in class but also provide practical help to ELLs with their academic progress.

  • News: Printed or online media is a great source of authentic material focusing on current events. For example, Anne chooses an article that talks about a lion that escaped from the local zoo. After reading, the students talk about what they would do if they saw the lion. The key idea is to talk about a current event through genuine conversation.

Listening and Video Sources

Now, let's take a look at listening and video sources. Here are a few ideas on using video:

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