Creating MaterialsCreating materials adds interest to lessons and helps teachers to think more creatively. It gives an enjoyable approach to learning and helps students to relate to the english language. Materials need to be created properly to look professional and be robust enough to be used repeatedly. Authentic or real materials (realia) can be used in three main areas: for descriptions (e.g. plastic cars, trucks, etc. to describe methods of transport); as props in drama (e.g. business clothing to do a job interview and talk about appropriate clothing for different situations); for creative thinking exercises (e.g. using a broomstick as a person to dance with, as a lamp post, or as a horse).
Young learners and adult students need creative materials to assist with learning. Students remember things better when colorful, creative materials are used to relate real life with language. Learning comes in three different ways: when a person hears about something, when a person hears and sees something, and when a person experiences something personally. The most effective learning is when all three ways are combined, so that a person hears, sees and experiences something personally. Using creative materials, or realia, can be that third way when used properly in a classroom. It is always easier to remember a word or concept when it is learned with the aid of a picture that relates to real life.
Materials must be durable and be capable of being used for many lessons and context ideas. Pictures from magazines and game cards can be covered with clear stick-on covers or laminated. Materials should be colorful, attractive, recognizable, legible, and large enough to be seen clearly. The materials need to apply
to the concepts of the lesson. Backing a picture or several pictures on poster board can make then stand out and look professional. Many materials can be used and the supply is unlimited in materialistic countries. Teachers need to be aware that the supply of materials is quite different in english speaking countries compared to some other countries. Having access to a computer and the Internet is invaluable for finding ideas and creating colorful, fun games and exercises. Students can be asked to bring some materials (e.g. magazines, photographs, travel souvenirs, and clothing). Getting to know students can help to know what is possible and realistic for them.
Four types of course materials that can be created are: graphic and visual aids, technical aids, three-dimensional objects, and games. Graphic and visual aids are easy to create from: pictures in colorful magazines, old Christmas cards (and cards from most occasions and customs), art and poster paper, poster board and cardboard, fabrics, colorful pens, display boards, photographs, brochures and materials from the media. Cookbooks, poems, songs and children
’s picture books can be used. Adapt materials from commercial sources or create and develop own materials. Talk books and flash cards can be used for most lessons. National geographic magazines have good pictures to use in a talk-book. A two or three panel, fold out display board can be covered with fabric (felt material is good as it adheres naturally to itself) and shapes and figures are cut out of the fabric and placed on the board. It can be used to teach weather conditions (e.g. cut out clouds (white, grey, and darker), sun, rain drops, people in rain coats and boots, etc.) or used in most any context. Pictures can be glued to the fabric to make it look more authentic. I have found this to be a really fun teaching aid and students enjoy changing the scene on the display board. Different colored backgrounds can also be used. Text or letters can be put onto it and it makes a change from a white or black board. The Internet has colorful graphics that help to make materials stand out more. Graphics can be printed onto thin card and then laminated to make flash cards.
Technical aids can be created by designing transparencies for use on an overhead projector. Transparencies can save time as the teacher does not have to write on the board and can talk while showing the transparencies. Students work can be put onto transparencies and corrections can be done as a class. Power point presentations can be done and stored on the Internet or on the Intranet if students have access to one in their school library. The Internet has lots of interesting information and materials that can be adapted to suit the lessons.
Three-dimensional objects are a favourite learning aid. People can be made from ice-block sticks. Use measuring cups to talk about measurements and make play dough to create different shapes for a world globe, animal shapes, or to talk about round, square, triangle, oblong, etc. Students can have fun making the shapes themselves. Any plastic shapes such as animals, cars, fruit and vegetables are good for making the lessons come to life. A microphone is fun to use for free-speaking activities. A ruler is good to tap on the desk when learning stressed syllables in pronunciation. To develop listening skills, speak a sentence into a bottle then put the cap on the bottle and tell students the sentence is in the bottle Open the bottle and say one word at a time. Let a student say a sentence into the bottle then pass it to other students who say a word each until the sentence has been said in correct order. Passing a ball around from one student to another is a good way to keep a continued story going.
Many different games can be found on the Internet and adapted to the lesson or made from materials. Cardboard and colorful pens are all that are needed to make board games. Select a theme for the game then draw a road from beginning to end of board. Students can add to the board as they learn new vocabulary until there is a road story on the board. Colorful pictures can be added to the board. Card games are fun and easy for students to pass around to each other. Word puzzles, jig-saw puzzles, crosswords, and word find can be adapted to suit the new language. Commercial board games such as Pictionary, Clue-do, Scrabble and Monopoly are fun for any age. There are many more games.
Fun materials are all around us and teachers are only limited by their imagination. Getting to know our students helps to know what materials they will relate to and what will be appropriate for them. As teachers we need to continually be thinking of the best way to teach a language point and to make the lessons as fun as possible. Students retain the information better when fun material is presented with the language.
S. Chiarantana (2005). Realia. Retrieved April 7, 2011 from http://www.usingenglish.com/weblog/archives/000228.html
S. Mumford (2005). Using Creative Thinking to Find New Uses for Realia. Retrieved April 7, 2011 from http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Mumford-Realia.html
Games for the classroom can be found on: