Supplementing ESL Textbooks with Authentic Material

OnTESOL TEFL Course ReviewIt is quite tempting to rely solely on an ESL textbook under the assumption that it works well for our students because it has been tried by professionals. The reality is that the material in the textbook often looks or sounds forced and unnatural, so it becomes necessary to supplement the textbook with authentic material. In this article I will tell you how to choose authentic material for each level.

 -The 250-hour TESOL Diploma will teach you how to improve the curriculum with authentic material-

What is Authentic Material?

Anything that was written or recorded in English without the purpose of teaching English as a second language is authentic material. The following is a compilation of authentic material sources; however, it is not an exhaustive list, since more and more material gets created on a daily basis.

  • Ad Banners, advertisements, billboards
  • Catalogues, college and university brochures, flyers, travel brochures
  • Movies, scripts, commercials
  • Radio shows, newspapers, Internet websites, magazines, TV shows
  • Social media, You Tube, Phonebooks
  • Ticket stubs, manuals, menus, maps
  • Greeting cards, horoscopes

The English used in authentic material is natural and its sole purpose is communicating whatever the material was created for, rather than teaching a particular structure. This can make the overall language in the material a little challenging, especially for students in beginner or lower intermediate classes; however, authentic material is an excellent source of new vocabulary. In fact, the interest level rises so much when students are presented with authentic material, that their need for comprehension compensates for the difficulties they encounter.


Some people argue that authentic material should be used with higher-level students only, but a menu, flyers or even a newspaper (if you only focus on the headlines or certain words) can be used with beginner students. The key is to make sure that the instructions and activities are aimed for the correct level. A simple ‘word search’ where students have to find words they already know and highlight them, or cut them out of a magazine for example, can expose beginner or lower intermediate students to authentic material in a successful way.

Using Authentic Material to Supplement ESL Textbooks

Authentic material can be used in many different ways. Here’s a very short list of suggestions. More can be found in future blog posts.


Activity / Task


Flyers & Catalogues Vocabulary and Bingo games Beginners
Menu Practice ordering / Role-play Beginner – Low-intermediate
Horoscopes Future Tense / Conditionals Intermediate
Ticket stubs & Travel Brochures Writing a travel journal or a short story High intermediate
Advertisements Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary and Media study Advanced

In conclusion, authentic materials have an indefinite number of uses for all kinds of lessons and levels. When we include authentic material in our ESL lessons, the way students learn is more natural and resembles acquisition of the language rather than forced learning of certain grammatical structures.

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