Saturday, November 7, 2015

Prioritize Realia

"What is realia?"
At IRA 2015, I was interrupted with a teacher's question that I was not expecting.  "What is realia?"  I had assumed that every teacher knew the term realia and prioritized its usage as much as possible. Realia are the tangible or concrete objects and materials of real daily life. Too me, realia are what make teaching dimensional and dynamic.

Adult ESL
Since February 2015, I have been teaching Adult ESL at an elementary school in the Family Engagement Center. The course has tremendous potential and I am aggressively learning to subtly capitalize on its generational reach.  Four afternoons a week, I have the opportunity to teach English to the parents of our students and incorporate materials they can take home to use with their children.  I intentionally add realia that will boost their English acquisition and get them actively supporting their children's academic achievement simultaneously.  

At first, I was reluctant to use my toolbox of elementary materials and projects with adults.  I thought it would be condescending and boring.  I quickly found that these parents want to help their elementary children acquire the language and need time to feel comfortable using non-worksheet materials.   

Therefore, these ESL parents are eager to take the materials and supplies home after each lesson.  Many return to class the following day with pictures and testimonials about using the lesson with their children. (I'll share these in future posts.)

Board Games & Dice
This father has not missed a day of my ESL class since it started Sept.15, 2015. I heard him tell another parent that it was because he never falls asleep in my class. All of his other previous ESL classes put him to sleep and he got poked by those around him to wake up. 

Adult ESL does not have to be boring. Infuse free learning games and realia these parents can take home and use with their families. The classroom practice makes them comfortable to lead and replicate the learning experience at home. They will give you a thumbs up!

The ESL class is ready for the vocabulary of Halloween! They learned the body parts and bones, closely read and performed children's poetry, and debated "Would You Rather" Halloween questions. All students were able to take the free materials home to use with their children and families!  
Textures - smooth, rough, bumpy

Antonym Legos

I was spurred to write this post, months after IRA 2015, because of a comment I heard yesterday. On Fridays, I offer a course entitled - "My Family and Me."  It is an opportunity for parents to interact with their non-school age children and participate in early learning stations.  During the class, I had a mother and daughter (who attend my ESL class) come to use the computer lab.  They noticed all of the early stations and materials and quickly jumped in to participate (despite the fact they did not have young children with them).  Together, they worked on the poem -"Rain, Rain, Go Away" and the accompanying activities. I noticed them complete all four stations and giggle as they touched all of the realia - cotton balls, ribbon, shaving cream, hole punch, cue tips, paint, construction paper, glue.  

The daughter commented to me, "I never had a chance to use these materials when I was a child.  Look at my mother.  She loves it. This is new to us!"

Realia are invaluable to all learners, regardless of age or language proficiency. Adult ESL learners also value the opportunity to experience tasks that include tangible materials.  The real materials build background knowledge and ignite the senses. Don't underestimate the potential educational magnitude simple materials can generate. Find realia. Include realia. Prioritize realia.  

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