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Using Realia for Real Teaching

It’s impossible to forget Ms Dowry’s hamster Hammy, or Mr Eaton’s suspension bridge model. Why? Because these clever teachers knew that showing their students physical objects would grab their attention and help them learn.

As an English as a foreign language teacher, realia is your number 1 tool to make your lessons fun, memorable, and achieve your lesson objectives.

What is realia and why is it beneficial to my English teaching?

Realia are objects from the real world that learners can use while practicing the language to make a classroom feel more like a real-life setting. It allows students to see, feel, smell, hear, and perhaps even taste the target language being taught. Using realia is a powerful way to enhance the overall language learning experience for students of all ages, and appeals particularly to kinesthetic and visual learners.

How to use realia in my ESL lessons?

There are numerous ways to incorporate realia into your lesson plans. Here are five suggestions to spark your creativity:

1. When reading stories or texts, use objects such as puppets or a common item in the story to illustrate or teach target language. For example, passing around a plush rabbit for learners to feel brings Peter Rabbit to life.

2. Show and tell – Assign learners to bring an object from home that they feel represents them. Allot time for the learners either to share all about their item, or have them describe it to the others to guess the object.

3. Act it out – When roleplaying, provide props such as household items or clothing for the learners to use. For example, dressing up as a police officer is more memorable than seeing a picture of one!

4. Crafting – Save the planet and teach effectively by gathering recyclable supplies for learners to make their own realia for a specified list of vocabulary, such as cereal boxes for aeroplanes, or tubes for musical instruments.

5. Comparisons – Show learners objects from a particular category, such as farm animals or flowers and plants, to teach size, weight and comparison vocabulary. Used effectively, realia encourages participation, TPR, vocabulary development, oral language practice, writing support, creativity and provides cultural and sensory experiences.

At iTTi South Africa, our face-to-face or online TEFL courses will guide you on how to use realia to improve the quality of your ESL lessons to be that teacher with a lasting impact.

Learn more about our courses here.