There are lots of methods when it comes to teaching English as a foreign language. The methods that you choose are dependent on your preferences, the English level of your students, the number of students in the class, and the age of your students. 

What is Realia – Definition?

So what is Realia? This is a teaching method by using props in the classroom. It’s the use of real-life objects or activities to portray the meaning of a word or phrase that you are teaching. Props can include anything from actual objects like phones and foods stuff to textual or visual documents like posters and brochures. 

child with blocks - using Realia to make learning a fun activity

When to Use Realia – How is Realia useful to English Teachers?

Teaching English as a foreign language teaches you how to teach English without the use of translation. For this reason, Realia can definitely come in handy in several instances. For intermediate to advanced learners, teachers can use definitions or word associations to explain a new piece of vocabulary. For beginners, this can be a bit difficult as their vocabulary is limited, and finding words to explain that they know is very difficult. In these situations, Realia is the most effective method to introduce your new vocabulary.

Besides beginners English, Realia is also very effective when presenting a more boring, but mandatory lesson to your class. It can spice things up a bit and make learning fun! Yes, memorizing the different parts of the house can be boring, but why not use a dollhouse, Lego, or even a poster to help make things fun. Making it fun proves to be a very effective method as it does actually help with the students’ memories.

Also Read: Top TEFL Classroom Games for Kids

What is Virtual Realia?

Teachers have brought a variety of actual city maps, brochures, restaurant menus, and coupons to class over the years, and they’ve had a lot of success. Students form bonds with these real-world things that they can touch and manipulate, enhancing their language learning experience.

But what exactly is virtual Realia? Virtual Realia is, in essence, everything from the target culture that is presented in a digital manner. So, if a Realia city map exists, a scanned copy of the same map exists as virtual Realia. It’s still very real; it’s just been digitalized. You might be asking why we’d have digital copies of stuff we could just pick up and bring to class. Virtual reality has a number of drawbacks, the most evident of which is that students are unable to touch or manipulate objects. To present these photographs to the class, you’ll also need a computer, laptop, or, at least, a tablet or smartphone.

 

This type of Realia comes in handy when teaching English online or when resources are limited at your school. The main benefit of virtual Realia is that it can be shared with the classroom all at once and there are no worries of having too little of the real-life object. 

Fun activities with Realia

Now you know the what, the why, and the when, let’s go through some of our favorite examples of the use of Realia. 

1. Map

Asking for and giving directions is a lot easier with a map. There are numerous maps available on the internet. Choose a city that your pupils want to visit, such as New York City. Make a list of the sights they wish to see and then assist them in finding them on the map. Students take turns asking each other how to get to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty boat, and other popular tourist destinations.

When to use: This is particularly relative when it comes to adult learning and online learning as it’s easy to replicate virtually. 

2. Lego

You’ll see this mentioned a few times in this blog, but that’s because we love it so much! Lego can make any object and you can create building competitions based on words you pull out of a hat. You can hit multiples of vocabulary, and reuse this example of Realia in future lessons, meaning you’ll save on resources. 

When to use: We do recommend that Lego is reserved for Young Learners, in-classroom, and large enough group sizes. 

virtual realia - How to use Realia and make learning a fun activity

3. Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are great. They can be incorporated with a show and tell day and cover a lot of vocabulary in the animal kingdom. Not only do the students learn new nouns, but you can expand their verbs (hunting, running, galloping) and touch on onomatopoeia (roar, baa, meow). 

When to use: Again, this is definitely reserved for young learners, but the level of English can be higher than Lego if you expand to storytelling. 

Also Read: English Teaching – What You Need To Know

FAQs

Q: How to make English lessons fun using Realia?

When done right, Realia can be lots of fun! Follow these rules and you will always end up being successful with your lessons: 

  • Use relative objects: You may feel like you need to use the Realis method in every class to show that you have prepared for the lesson, especially as a new teacher. However, there is nothing worse than using an object that has little to no business being in the classroom. Unless your vocabulary for the day revolves around the object, we suggest just leaving it out altogether and saving it for a rainy day. 
  • Make it Interactive: Using real-life objects can be a very effective method, but how do you go from educational to fun? We suggest sharing the object or objects with the classroom. Use gamification in your lessons and let your students roleplay with it. This will definitely help lighten the mood and make the students excited about learning. 
  • Be creative: For certain lessons and at the very start of their journey, you’ll need to cover the basics, like a desk, chair, and phone. However, when you start to expand their vocabulary, it’s time to start getting creative. Be a little funny with the Realia that you use. For example, using Pictionary will help expand the students’ vocabulary and can be fun for all ages. You’ll cover a lot of vocabulary with this one!
Q: How to make English learning fun for kids using Realia?

When teaching adults, the use of Realia is still a game-changer. It can be hard though to not cross the line into being a little patronizing. On the other hand, using Realia for kids is quite simple really. Most of the time, they will find anything fun and their imaginations will run wild. 

For example, why not bring in some Lego? You can also cover mountains of vocabulary with this by building the objects themselves, like houses and doors. 

Q: How can we make TEFL learning fun?

There are two main groups of students that you’ll encounter in your TEFL career; children who don’t have a choice and must be in the classroom, or private language learners who are mostly adults who have paid to be there. In either instance, it is your job to keep them engaged, keep the classroom fun, and make them want to come back. 

There are a few most popular methods to use to make learning fun. As well as Realia, you can use gamification, using songs and rhymes, and of course, some real-life field trips if you can! We have another great blog to give you a few more ideas linked at the start of this blog. 

Q: How do you make a boring class fun using Realia?

Making a class fun is a goal everyone wants to achieve. Not only for the students to like the class but also selfish reasons. Having a fun class means that time goes faster and you won’t run short in a lesson. Alas, the main goal is the language skills of the students and there are some components of English learning that are, let’s face it, completely boring. In saying this, they are mandatory for learning and have to be covered. 

So how can we flip this around and make it a little more tolerable using Realia? Boring components of learning a new language can be different for everyone. If a teacher finds a certain module boring, this will most likely rub off on the students. Be sure to be enthusiastic about each lesson. There are two instances that stand out where the teacher has no control over this and that’s revision classes and homework. 

For revision classes, group work with Realia examples such as flashcards and creating competition with stickers and Lego is a great way to go. For homework, you have to be careful of what you ask from them. Using Realia means you have to think of something that all households have or be able to supply it yourself. Show and tell assignments are always really exciting! 

Q: How Realia can help make lessons more interactive?

Without the use of Realia, making a lesson interactive can be difficult to do. Other interactive methods might include group work, songs, or asking the class out loud. Realia can make a class so interactive without even trying that hard. Using objects in the classroom will engage and interest your students without you even saying a word. Of course, you’ll have to speak at some point and let them know what the object is and how to use it in a sentence.

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