From junk to treasure: Using authentic materials in language classrooms

Chin-Wen Chien, National Hsinchu University of Education


Quick guide

  • Keywords: Authentic, recipe
  • Learner English level: Beginner
  • Learner maturity: Adult
  • Preparation time: 1 minute
  • Activity time: 40 minutes
  • Materials: Recipes


Crawford (2002) suggests that effective language teaching materials should be realistic and authentic. Language in the teaching materials must be functional and contextualized so that learners can engage in purposeful use of language. Such materials need to be flexible enough to cater to individual and contextual differences.

Most people open their mailboxes and find they are stuffed with junk such as menus, catalogues, or advertisements. However, instead of throwing these away, teachers can save them as classroom materials. This junk can be turned into treasure and become authentic and effective teaching material in language classrooms. Recipes attached to food advertisements are good examples. Language learners can learn different types of food ingredients, measurements, cooking verbs, cooking utensils, and dishes from these recipes. The following lesson plan is designed based on recipes. 



Step 1: Give each student a recipe or ask students to bring one. 



Step 1: Ask students first to independently scan through their own recipe and identify the components of the recipe (e.g., ingredients, cooking verbs). Ask that students work in pairs to share their findings.

Step 2: Ask students to share the components of the recipes to the whole class. Ask students to use different color markers to highlight the components of a sample recipe. Color ingredients in red, cooking verbs in orange, measurements in yellow, utensils in green, and procedures in blue. Explain these vocabulary words.

Step 3: Make a poster dividing the above categories (ingredients, cooking verbs, measurements, utensils, and procedures) into five columns. Divide students into groups of five. Have students search through their recipes for words that correspond to the different categories. Ask students to write these vocabulary words in the correct column on the poster. Go through the vocabulary words students wrote on the poster and explain these words.

Step 4: Put students into pairs. Give each student a recipe. A sample can be found in the appendix. Students cannot show their recipe to their partner. One student shares the information on his recipe. The other student tries to write down what he hears. Once students are finished, they can check the answers by looking at each other’s recipe. Go through the recipe and explain some words.



Recipes can be authentic English teaching materials because EFL learners can learn the target language and culture. Recipes are often free, and teachers can get them from food advertisements in their mailboxes or from the grocery stores.



Crawford, J. (2002). The role of materials in the language classroom: Finding the balance. In J. Richards & W. A. Renandya (Eds). Methodology in language teaching (pp. 80-92). New York: NY: Cambridge University Press.



The appendix is available below: