Using and Adapting Authentic Materials to help motivate students
Using & Adapting Authentic Materials to
Help Motivate Students
Dr Richard Pinner – firstname.lastname@example.org www.uniliterate.com
This courseoffers an insightinto how best to select
and adaptauthentic materials to use with students
as a way of exposing them to other cultures and
ways of thinking. It has been shown that authentic
materials are more motivating for students
(Peacock, 1997) and thus the class will feature
practical demonstrations of ways in which
authentic materials can be used to help motivate
students. In the class, participants will look at,
observe and demonstrate tasks which utilise
authentic materials and participants will also have
the chance to a adapt materials and design their
own tasks in a
Defining Authenticity: The Debate
Authenticity comes from the Greek word authenteo which meant ‘to have full power’. The word is made of
two parts;auto- means ‘self’ and hentes refers to the doer or being, and thus has etymological roots with
autonomy (self and nomos as in law,self-governing).
Alex Gilmore (2007) identifieseight‘inter-related’meanings fromthe literature:
1. “the language produced by native speakers for native speakers in a particular language
2. the language produced by a real speaker/writer for a real audience, conveying a real message
3. the qualities bestowed on a text by the receiver, in that it is not seen as something already in a
text itself, but is how the reader/listener perceives it)
4. the interaction betweenstudents and teachersand is a ‘personal process of engagement’
5. the types of task chosen
6. the social situation of the classroom
7. the relevance something has to assessment
8. culture, and the ability to behave or think like a target language group in order to be validated by
Adapted fromGilmore (2007, p. 98)
Whichof these definitionsdoyou findthe most convincing? Can you see any problems?
In my own writings,I have further simplified this to Two Basic Strands
of the authenticity debate (Pinner,2016a).
What is the best way to link these two strands?
Authenticity is “the degree of congruence between one’s actions and one’s coreself-conceptions – consisting
of fundamental values, beliefs, and identities” (Vannini & Burgess, 2009,p. 104)
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The Authenticity Continuum
In order to incorporate the majority of the speakers of English
into the concept of authenticity whilst also allowing for such
important factors as motivation, autonomy and identity,
authenticity might best be considered not as a binary set of
absolutes, or even as a grey area with two extremes on either
side, but as a continuum with both social and contextual
dimensions. The horizontal axis represents the social
dimension of authenticity, at one end the learner or
individual and their needs, linguistic ability and motivation
to learn, at the other the target language use community.
This might bean L1 country such as theUSAorUK, orit might
be the international community where English is used as a
tool for communication in multilingual contexts, or it could
even be a workplace where English will be needed in order
to interact with colleagues. The vertical dimension of the
continuum is meant to represent the context of language
use. Thecontinuum presents thetwo contexts which arelikely
to be most relevant to language learning; the classroom and
the real world where the communication takes place (Pinner,
Useful Definition of Authenticity for Teaching
In this training workshop we will use Tomlinson and Masuhara
(2010, p. 400) definition which states that authentic materials are
‘designed not to transmit declarative knowledge1 about the
target languagebut rather to providean experience of the
Students need to authenticate (Widdowson, 1978) the materials,
which means undertaking “a personalprocess ofengagement”
(van Lier, 1996).
Here is anothersimple model foradapting/usingauthenticmaterials. Canyouaddany criteriato this
Comprehension Form Focused (vocabulary and grammar). This should be dealt with in as
interactive a way as possible – eg. Students could simply match up the numbers 1
-6 with a – e or they could check the words in a dictionary and teach them to
their partners. Consider scaffolding.
Engagement Once the main ideas of the materials areclear and students have been given
time to prepare and understand, have them interact in a personal (authentic)
way with the text/material. Eg. Asking opinions, debating, responding etc.
Materials need face validity
Reflection The students should be given a chance to reflect on the skills/language that they
have used and the purpose this has in their own learning. In other words,
Autonomy training. Students should know something about what and why they
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Domains of Authenticity: Authentic Tasks
Put a number (1 – 3) next to each of these examples to decide which you think is the most
Example A: The teacher brings an English language newspaper to class and has
students read the text and underline every instance of the present perfect aspect or
passive tense, and then asks them to copy each sentence out into their notebooks.
Example B: The teacher uses an ‘inauthentic’ text from a published course book
which was contrived specifically to practise reported speech and then discusses other
ways in which the speakers from the text could have said the same thing in a
Example C: The teacher asks students to use the internet to research about their
favourite celebrity or hero and then create a short presentation in English to the rest
of the class about that person.
World Englishes and Authenticity
It isno longerpossible tosaythatsomethingisauthenticjustbecause
it comesfroman AmericanorBritishnewspaper,anditisalsono
reasons. AsDavidGraddol says, “The future status of Englishwill be
determinedlessbythe numberand economicpowerof its native
speakersthan by the trends in the use of Englishas a secondlanguage” (2003, p. 157)
Do you agree with the idea of World Englishes?
Could you utilise World Englishes in your classes?
How doyou thinkyourstudentswouldrespondto this?
The 3Cs of Authenticity
Frieda Mishan (2005) advocates
the consideration of 3 Cs –
Culture (target and home),
Currency (as in time) and
Challenge (level+1 or zone of
All Englishesare equal,but
some varietiesare more
(Pinner,2016b, p. 69)
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Authenticity and Motivation
of engagement,[…] itisreasonable tosuggestthata teacher’sauthenticitymaystimulate
authenticityinthe studentsaswell.”(vanLier,1996, p. 128)
validationinthe learningprocess) whichleadstopositivemotivational synergy.Inthisway
authenticitycaneitherbe aBRIDGE or a GAP betweenthe teacherandstudents’motivation.
Energy Return on Investment (ERI)
Energyis fundamentallydefinedasthe abilitytodowork,and ERoI isvery
In termsof teaching,I applyERoIto referto the amountof energyateacher
investsinthe class,andhowmuch energy(work) isreturnedbythe students.
The Language Impetus Triad
Due to the close conceptual linksbetweenautonomy,motivationandauthenticity,itmightactually
be simplertothinkof themas part of an interdependentsystem, akathe Language ImpetusTriad.
Doesany of thisseemtrue to you fromyourown experiences?
Do youagree withideaof EnergyReturnonInvestment?
Have you everexperiencedsomethinglike this?
The relationship between studentand
teachermotivation can be “either
positively or negatively synergistic”
(Deci,Kasser,&Ryan, 1997, p. 68)
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Dealing with Difficulty
Authentic materials are more motivating – why? Perhaps because of culture and
relevance to the class. Perhaps because they are more engaging and feel ‘real’.
Authentic materials are more difficult – why? Because the language in the texts has
not been modified for our learners. These texts are not intended for learners. So, are
they only suitable for advanced students? No, we can either adapt them or prepare
our learners for them.
How can we overcome the difficulty problem? Teach our learners coping strategies,
such as the ‘panacea method’.
Context is the key to meaning. Remove the difficult words. Treat them like a
jigsaw puzzle. Ignore any words you cannot understand. Only focus on what
words you understand. Try other words to see if the sentence makes sense.
When you find a piece that fits, move on.
Provide a vocabulary glossary
Provide a straight translation
Give the students plenty of time but engage them in the process of unlocking
meaning. Make them work to understand the text as this will help them learn new
Choosing appropriate materials – what factors should you consider?
Age of your learners
Language ability of learners vs. difficulty of text (use Flesch-Kinkaid to evaluate)
Engagement / relevance of materials to the learners (and teacher)
Sensitive issues which may be inappropriate
Questions to help you select materials
Do I (the teacher) find this content stimulating?
Will my learners find this interesting?
Is it suitable for my learners (difficulty, age)?
How does it fit in with the other work we are doing in class?
Will this be useful to them? (assessment, future goal
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Task: Adapting Authentic Texts
Thisevaluationcriteriamighthelpyoutostructure how you adaptthese authenticmaterials.
Nowplease choose aspokespersonfromyourgroupand askthemto explain the lessonplanyou
Form small groups
You will be given an authentictext to use
Discuss the merits of this text in groups
Plan a lesson which you thinkwould be suitable forthis text
Try to create some comprehension questions, discussion points and
Explain your lesson plan to the class
• Age of your learners
• Language ability vs. difficulty of
• Engagement/ relevance
• Sensitive issues / appropriateness
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Authenticity forEnglish asa Global
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Synergy:A narrativeof language
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Thanks for your attentionand ‘keepitreal!’