As Authentic as It Gets

(Another paragraph blog!)

“Authentic” has a lot of meanings in ELT. We can’t define exactly what it is, and while it is purported to be more motivating/useful/effective, the jury will be out on this one indefinitely. As usual, it depends on level/needs/students/teachers/goals/text/task/etc. Well, for my advanced listening and speaking students, who are about to enter an American university as undergraduates, it is quite needed. There are lots of ways to bring authenticity into the classroom, but for this group of students, I sought authenticity outside of the classroom. I looked through the enormous schedule of classes in search of an actual class we could attend that would fit in our time slot and would be able to accommodate 13 extra students, while being a subject that would appeal to diverse student majors. I settled on an intro to cultural anthropology course and was delighted when the professor accepted my request to attend one of her lectures. The big day came and it was really fun to go out of the classroom, head to the campus museum (where the anthro lecture hall is) and attend a real class. Students got to see what a lecture class was really like, what regular undergrads did in said class (they took notes on paper!) and listen to the speed, pronunciation, segmentation, elision, stress and intonation of real live professor-speak. I was nervous because there were a lot of informal vocabulary words used by the professor which I knew they didn’t know. However, I was delighted when they told me it was easier than they expected, and when they showed me the notes they took. I was proud of them and had a great time discussion our observations of the class and our understandings of the lecture. If you teach on a university campus, I sincerely implore you do make use of the wonderful interdisciplinary nature of the environment you are in. This experience was one which I nor my students will ever forget.