I teach English in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and my job is to assist students in preparing for the IELTS exam. There are books that focus on the types of tasks performed on the IELTS test, but I often found it difficult to choose textbook materials at the right level. In nearly all cases, the vocabulary was far to rich for students, as their earlier studies had all but ignored vocabulary building to focus on grammar instead. To meet this challenge, I used authentic material to adapt the lesson to my students’ needs.
Teach English in a Meaningful Way!
I always used authentic material that related to the students’ areas of professional and academic specializations, and my purpose for selecting them was to show the students that they had come far enough in their study of English grammar to begin to use the language to communicate about their areas of specialization. The main thing that they had been missing was certain vocabulary.
Working with a newspaper’s online slide show, comprising photos with captions of 50 words or less, was an excellent confidence-building exercise for one student. The student was able to guess the meanings conveyed by the captions even when he didn’t know all the worlds. Using such authentic materials also offered opportunities to review grammatical structures. For example, one government report looked towards the future and the sorts of problems the technology “could” alleviate or “might” solve, offering a good opportunity to review modals that express degrees of certainty and making recommendations. Honing in on this grammatical point, I asked the student to find the modals and identify their function. In this way, I built on his earlier study of grammar, showing how it was relevant to communicating about his area of specialization.