Adult Ed
Getting Real: Using Real Life Materials



"Real-life materials" are materials that are not written for educational purposes and not written for adult learners. These materials are often too hard for our students if they don't have support. Real-life materials are often called "authentic materials" in articles or books on education.

Why use real-life materials?
  • They are a part of life. Your students encounter real-life materials whether you address them in the tutoring sessions or not.
  • They often concern things that are meaningful to your students.
  • Gaining access to real-life materials can be very meaningful to students.
    Students will learn how to utilize real-life materials that they have to use in their every day lives as valuable and satisfying experience.

  • Using real-life materials adds variety to your lessons.


The materials you use can be based on the real needs and interests of your students. It's great if students bring in the things they come across, wonder about, or need to be able to read in their real lives.

Examples of real-life materials include:
  • Take out menus from restaurants
  • Signs
  • Maps
  • Bus and train schedules
  • Job applications
  • Food labels
  • Bills
  • Flyers
  • Medicine bottles
  • Newspapers (articles, advertisements, classified listings, etc.)
  • Magazine articles
  • Catalogues
  • Circulars from stores
Aside from those items, you don't need anything special. Sometimes it helps to enlarge materials on a photocopier, so it's good to have access to one.

Bring in real real-life materials. Don't bring in a picture of a food label or a mock-up of one inside a workbook. Bring in the real article. Don't make your students have to figure out how to find the fake label in real life.


Students will:
  • Practice comprehending different kinds of text.
  • Practice using background knowledge to support reading.
  • Practice in developing background knowledge areas when needed for specific texts.
  • Practice critical reading skills.
  • Improve vocabulary.

Newspaper articles, magazine articles, and some letters are pretty much read through from beginning to end. Other materials need to be read in a very different way: food labels, train schedules, phone books, and many other real-life materials are hardly ever read from beginning to end. Usually they are scanned or skimmed. You may use an index, table of contents, numerical or alphabetical order to find information. Different materials have different purposes, so they are handled differently in the activities outlined here.