Authentic materials can be another useful resource that teachers can use in class to develop all skills and to motivate students. They add variety to the tools teachers have at their disposal and provide students with an enjoyable experience.

What are authentic materials?

Authentic materials are materials that have not been created specifically for English teaching. Therefore, they have not been abridged or simplified. In other words, the language that students will encounter is natural language that L1 English speakers themselves would encounter.

Authentic materials include a wide range of resources such as: brochures; leaflets; adverts; recipes; prescriptions; formal correspondence; informal letters or emails; TV shows; news segments; documentaries; trailers or movie clips; social networks; adverts; radio broadcasts; songs; podcasts; TED talks; menus; food labels; maps; train schedules . . . the list is actually endless.

Why use authentic materials?

It is up to the teacher to decide what they do with authentic materials. Obviously we manipulate and take decisions as to what can be used in class and how these authentic materials can benefit students. It is very important to use them selectively to avoid hurting students’ sensitivity with topics that perhaps are considered taboo in their cultures or which are too controversial (bear in mind that students might be minors and parents might not want their children exposed to certain realities). In some countries, certain topics cannot be discussed openly.

Authentic materials are motivating because they can also be used at lower levels if the task has been planned accordingly. This boosts students’ motivation when they realise they are actually able to do a lot more than they actually thought in a foreign language, and they are able to understand materials that do not come from the coursebook. This also works as confirmation that you do not need to understand every single word in order to be able to follow and understand a written or aural text.

Authentic materials are extremely versatile and they will enable students to develop all four skills. They will also be able to develop in other areas which are not necessarily connected to language learning, such as summarising information, analysing different points of view or their creativity, all of which are invaluable and go beyond the English classroom.

Authentic materials are also more current than coursebooks and can reflect what is going around the students at the time they are learning. Therefore, the language might be more up to date and students might be more familiar with the events and personalities or celebrities in the media. They also might be following the stories in their L1 so this can act as scaffolding when working on these topics in English. It can also help students work on their vocabulary as they might not have the lexis to deal with those issues.

Authentic materials also enable teachers to carry out differentiation with the same materials, we can devise several activities to suit the students’ different levels.

Where can I find authentic materials?

Authentic materials can be found very easily. Nowadays, you do not need paper copies as you can resort to digital versions of these materials and find many examples on the internet. There are digital newspapers, online menus, trailers, films and weather forecasts on platforms such as YouTube, as well as online train timetables. Having said that, a paper copy is perhaps more memorable and enables teachers and students to manipulate them (by cutting them up, underlining and so on).

Some examples of what you can do with authentic materials

Here are a few ideas of what can be done with authentic materials. The sky is the limit so feel free to experiment, adapt and try out activities.

1 YouTube video

I will use this link as an example

This clip is connected to eating habits, school and education (or cultural diversity) – topics which are found frequently in coursebooks. This is a good example of differentiated learning.

You can divide the class into different levels.

The weaker students would simply watch the video and take notes of the setting, the activities that are taking place and then explain to their peers what they had seen.

The students who have better level would watch and write down the different food items mentioned.

The stronger students would answer some questions set by the teacher, as in a traditional listening comprehension activity.

Alternatively, the video could be used separately with different level classes and the task simply graded accordingly. Here are some examples of what could be done:

  • rearrange the actions or events according to what happens in the clip,
  • true / false statements
  • a class debate on eating habits and food served in canteen.

2 Recipes

Cooking and food is another recurrent topic in coursebooks. Working on recipes can be a good way to finish off the unit.

Find a recipe on the internet or, if you are lucky enough, a paper copy.

Cut up the recipe so you have the ingredients separate from the instructions (which are not in order) on two different pieces of paper. Divide the class into two groups. Students who have the list of ingredients devise a possible dish using them. The other students have the instructions, but not in order – they need to rearrange the recipe so the instructions make more sense.

Alternatively, students can read the recipe and draw the ingredients and the instructions as a visual guide. The teacher could also ask the students to mime out the instructions.

You could also ask students to find their favourite recipes (in English) and then ask them to cook them at home, then bring the final version to class. Bear in mind, you will need to seek permission from the school as you need to be aware of food allergies and intolerances or school’s policies regarding eating in class.

3 Article plus letter

In this activity, students develop their reading skills as they are given the original news item and an email. They are asked to read both texts and notice the discrepancies between both of them. They are also exposed to the conventions of writing a formal letter and can be given the opportunity to work on their writing skills.

Final thoughts

Authentic materials are definitely versatile and readily available. They change the pace of a lesson and raise interest and motivation among students. Give them a try and feel free to get in touch to let me know how your students reacted to them.


Nussey, S. (2021). ‘Maezawa wants you: Japanese billionaire seeks ‘crew’ for moon trip’. Reuters. Available from
(Last accessed 21 February 2024).

Michael Moore. (2015). School lunch France. Available from (Last accessed 21 February 2024).

James Santana Heal has been teaching at the British Institute of Seville, Spain, for the last 18 years, having taught previously in the UK, Poland and Indonesia. He is interested in teacher training, encouraging students to become autonomous learners and student-generated materials. He has a degree in modern and contemporary history and the CELTA and DELTA.