Yesterday, I talked about using authentic materials instead of ESL textbooks for very high-level students. But, is it possible to use authentic materials for intermediate or low level students? My quick answer: yes, kind of. Let me explain.
Authentic materials can be very valuable because they give students confidence that they can actually function in English in an authentic kind of way and I also like them because it's "real" language as opposed the artificial stuff that you'll often find in textbooks (especially the bad ones).
But, careful selection of the materials if a requirement so that the students don't become frustrated. Nothing is worse than choosing some reading or listening or speaking or writing activity that is higher-level than your students actually are. If you choose something easier, it's possible to adapt it on the fly, but it's very hard to do this with something that is too high of a level.
So, for low-level students something like a restaurant menu, greeting card, or "kids" newspaper from an English-speaking country is possible. The language is usually very simple. And for intermediate-level students, you have a wider range of choices including short newspaper articles that deal with "fact," as opposed to "opinion," teen fiction, or simple TED talks (non-native English speakers are a good choice usually).
And, if your students are not at a high enough level to use authentic materials, you could venture into the realm of semi-authentic materials (very suitable for low-intermediate levels). My favorite site is Breaking News English. It's amazing because the articles are categorized into easier/harder and they 2-page mini lessons are extremely teacher (and student) friendly. It's almost hard to believe that all this stuff is free!
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