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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Power of Realia

realia in the classroom photos
I can remember starting a collection of realia before I'd landed my first teaching job. No longer did my junk mail go into the recycling bin. Solicitations from credit card firms, flyers from rent-to-own companies with their usurious interest rates, forms in clinic waiting rooms--they all went into my "might need that someday" realia file. I'm sure glad we have ample cabinets at work since my big bag of flattened food wrappers and containers takes up quite a bit of space.

In ESL literacy, I continually ask myself how I can incorporate realia into the week's lessons. If we're doing a unit on shopping, you'll find me running around town collecting grocery store flyers, discarded receipts, and bags.

Though paper and plastic classroom money comes in handy, during our unit on money, I passed out ziplock baggies with actual coins in them. While studying shopping, learners found and circled the HST and totals on real store receipts. When we studied food and used Eye On Literacy's set of wordless picture books called "Pancakes," I brought in measuring spoons, flour, oil, sugar, baking soda and powder, a measuring cup, eggs, and buttermilk. We made pancakes.

Today in my multi-level seniors' class, realia truly brought the lesson to life. The students have unanimously voted to return to the topic of health/medical and talking to medical professionals. They want to dig in deeper, this time learning how to communicate with specialists, with technicians during a variety of diagnostic tests, etc. So today we extended a lesson about diabetes using an actual Ontario lab requisition form. When I asked a coworker in another department if she could spare a few cotton balls to make our role plays more realistic, she not only came up with those, but also offered band-aids and gloves. One student turned a retractable pen into a convincing syringe.

Do you use a lot of realia in your teaching? What is your favourite lesson involving a lot of realia? Do you feel a lesson that incorporates realia is more effective?

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