Regale in Realia | TEFL Jobs London

Regale in Realia

by Donna Hutchinson
London based TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

Regale in Realia

By Thespiritofchristmas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Realia; using real resources and stuff in lessons. I love realia. I use it often and I vary it per level. I remember vividly, learning about realia on my CELTA and thinking, ‘what a nice word’, little did I know that realia and I would become such good friends.

One of my favourite resources of all time is the BBC news website and BBC iPlayer. I mean, I adore it. I can use it across levels, from radio clips for higher levels to video clips for lower levels, both usually accompanied with a text. The language in the articles can sometimes be a little difficult, and good for higher levels but it can also be used with lower levels just by breaking it down first. iPlayer can generally be relied on for documentaries. I have used many documentaries in relation to a topic from a textbook. Last week my class and I watched an episode of Coast and out came a sea of vocabulary. BBC realia is loaded with culturally relevant topics and language that is useful and not too academic. Also, The Apprentice is excellent for business topics.

Realia can come from other sources of course. When teaching an intermediate class, I had them guess the items inside my (pre-prepared) handbag which were essentials to carry around when living in London. I have also used my own photographs in class to make a grammar point more accessible and easier for students to personalise for themselves.

Realia Online

And I tell you what else is a God send… Google Images. Without Google Images, teaching some vocabulary to lower levels would be much harder; things such as food, animals, transport, stationary, are miles easier to teach with the help of Google Images. This is not just beneficial for the teacher; students who cannot translate something from their L1 can simply type it into Google Images et voilà, everyone in the room understands. Another use for Google Images (suggested to me by another teacher) is, before the lesson, type in the topic and see which images come up and see if the students can guess the topic from the pictures.

Realia in Print

There is of course, the old favourite for London teachers which is utilising the free papers but, the use of magazines and newspapers in general is always beneficial. They are chock-full of language that we native speakers use on a daily basis and that are very often not seen in coursebooks. Very often, it is the more high-brow papers which are easier to understand for students because they are filled with more formal, latin-based language as opposed to the more informal style of tabloid papers.

I am lucky enough to have internet resources at my fingertips in my classroom where Google Images and Youtube can be accessed within seconds but the real items are also great for helping students really engage their language with the real world. Textbook materials can start to feel a little dry and constructed so every now and then, I think it is incredibly valuable to use realia as a supplement because as soon as the student steps out of the classroom, that’s really what they’ll be confronted with. However, all this does mean that I can’t read a paper or watch telly without thinking whether it would be useful in class, a TEFL curse, I suppose.


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