It can be difficult for ESL teachers to get students excited to learn at the beginning of a new lesson. EPIK, the public school program in South Korea, uses a series of textbooks called Cheonjae, which typically fails to get my students engaged at the initial stages of a lesson. Instead, I have found that using authentic material is an effective way of getting them motivated.
I find that my students are especially engaged when the material is tailored to my personal life. It doesn’t take a lot to get your students motivated. A picture or currency from your country don’t cost anything and can go a long way. This article will outline some how you can use personalized authentic material as a motivator in your lessons, especially those EPIK teachers using the Cheonjae textbooks.
Karina Dirstein completed the 250-hour TESOL Diploma with OnTESOL while gaining ESL teaching experience with EPIK in South Korea. For those who wish to qualify for English teaching jobs in South Korea and do not have previous ESL teaching experience, OnTESOL recommends combining the 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate course with the 20-hour Teaching English Young Learners specialist (Total 140 hours of TESOL / TEFL training! Save CA$199 / US$150
Using Authentic Material to Teach Simple Past
Both the Grade 4 and 5 textbooks in the Cheonjae series have a lesson focusing on the simple past tense that falls right after a school vacation.
Lesson 14 for Grade 4, “I Had a Great Time” falls right after the winter break, and Lesson 8 for Grade 5, “How Was Your Vacation?” falls after the summer break. They both focus on the theme of vacation, creating great opportunities for personalized authentic material.
For these lessons, I usually make a slideshow with some pictures of what I actually did on my holidays. I make sure to include lots of pictures, accompanied by simple sentences using the target language. For example, I recently went on a family vacation to Mexico.
In my slideshow, I showed my students a photo of myself from that vacation as well as a map showing where Mexico is. I included a short sentence saying, “I went to Mexico” at the bottom of the slide and read it to them. Immediately, my students started asking me questions about why I went there, how long the flight was, and if it was actually me in the photo.
Students were engaged and, from their questions, I also knew that they were listening and understanding. Students love seeing their ESL teacher in a more personable way. Not only does it help to build rapport with them, it also makes them more motivated to learn what we are trying to teach them.
For many students, especially if you are teaching this ESL lesson to those in Grade 4, this is their first time seeing the simple past tense. With authentic material, a simple picture is enough to cement the target language in their memory and orient them around the theme of vacations for this lesson.
Teaching Vocabulary Related to Money
In both Grade 4 and Grade 5 Cheonjae textbooks, Lesson 13 looks at money. The Grade 4’s chapter focuses on basic target language (such as “how much is the hat?”) and numbers while its Grade 5 counterpart reviews that same target language again with the addition of the plural (“how much are the pants?”).
A great motivator for this type of lesson is to show your students money from your home country or even other countries you’ve traveled to. I brought my students’ money in various denominations from Canada. At the very beginning of the lesson, I first made a slideshow showing pictures of money from different countries and had my students try to guess from which country the money was from. They had a lot of fun trying to figure this out. After a few countries, I showed them a picture of Canadian money, and after having them guess the country I showed them a couple more pictures and explained how much different bills and coins are worth.
It’s at this point I revealed to them that I have brought real Canadian money for them to see. My students always get very excited to see the money and reluctantly give it back to me when I tell them it’s time to move on. The use of foreign currency is a great tool for those who are teaching English abroad, as it is likely your students’ first time seeing money foreign money. The Cheonjae Grade 4 and 5 textbooks use US dollars, not Korean won, so seeing and holding real dollars helps authenticate the lesson and place it into a context they can relate to better.
There are many ways to use personalized, authentic material as a motivator in your ESL lesson plans. As a visitor in another country, we have the advantage of bringing new and interesting material into our classrooms to catch and keep our students’ attention. When we make that authentic material personal, it instantly makes our lessons feel more personal to our students as well.
I find that when I make the effort the include this type of material in my lessons, my students will make positive references to it when we move deeper into the lesson and are studying the new vocabulary and grammar, signaling to me that they are recalling and referencing previous knowledge. I encourage you, too, to also insert your own motivational authentic material into your lessons and to help form a bridge between the classroom and the real world.