Using Realia for Real Teaching



It’s impossible to forget Ms Dowry’s hamster Hammy, or Mr Eaton’s suspension bridge model.

Why? Because these clever teachers knew that showing their students physical objects would

grab their attention and help them learn.


As an English as a foreign language teacher, realia is your number 1 tool to make your lessons

fun, memorable, and achieve your lesson objectives.


What is realia and why is it beneficial to my English teaching?


Realia are objects from the real world that learners can use while practicing the language to

make a classroom feel more like a real-life setting. It allows students to see, feel, smell, hear,

and perhaps even taste the target language being taught. Using realia is a powerful way to

enhance the overall language learning experience for students of all ages, and appeals

particularly to kinesthetic and visual learners.


How to use realia in my ESL lessons?


There are numerous ways to incorporate realia into your lesson plans. Here are five suggestions

to spark your creativity:


1. When reading stories or texts, use objects such as puppets or a common item in the

story to illustrate or teach target language. For example, passing around a plush rabbit

for learners to feel brings Peter Rabbit to life.

2. Show and tell – Assign learners to bring an object from home that they feel represents

them. Allot time for the learners either to share all about their item, or have them

describe it to the others to guess the object.

3. Act it out – When roleplaying, provide props such as household items or clothing for the

learners to use. For example, dressing up as a police officer is more memorable than

seeing a picture of one!

4. Crafting – Save the planet and teach effectively by gathering recyclable supplies for

learners to make their own realia for a specified list of vocabulary, such as cereal boxes

for aeroplanes, or tubes for musical instruments.

5. Comparisons – Show learners objects from a particular category, such as farm animals

or flowers and plants, to teach size, weight and comparison vocabulary.

Used effectively, realia encourages participation, TPR, vocabulary development, oral language

practice, writing support, creativity and provides cultural and sensory experiences.


At iTTi South Africa, our face-to-face or online TEFL courses will guide you on how to use realia

to improve the quality of your ESL lessons to be that teacher with a lasting impact. Learn more about our courses here.

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