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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

Five Things We Learned About... Authentic Learning with This is School

Authentic Learning with This is School: the Late Show with Tom Hopkins Burke

In partnership with This is School: Reduce planning time, inspire students and invigorate your teaching with award-winning tools and resources.


When it comes to learning a language, authentic learning is incredibly important. Auhentic learning focuses on immersing the learner in genuine language experiences that go beyond the textbook, towards the experiences in which native speakers would be immersed on a day-to-day basis.

So, what can This is School offer when it comes to authentic learning resources? Read on to find out five things we learned about authentic learning with This is School... or watch the full show on demand!


1. Why is authentic learning needed?

"They just don't sound like the CDs we use in our lessons!" Anna Coneys Wainwright, Co-Founder of This is School

This is School's Anna Coneys Wainwright told us about the origins of This is School. Her co-founder, George van den Bergh, took a group of students on a trip to Paris and gave them a simple task one afternoon: go and speak to a French person.

Except it wasn't simple. Almost every student in the group gave him the same piece of feedback: we spoke to them in our very best French, but we didn't understand their replies!

That's where This is School came in. By interviewing hundreds of young native speakers and filming their responses, without scripts, language learners in the UK can listen to their authentic responses using their everyday language. Part of the authenticity comes from students listening to and watching their peers, which maximises engagement.

Tallulah Holley stresses the importance of authentic learning resources feeling 'true' and 'real' in the age of AI-generated content. Filler words like 'en fait' in French can startle non-native speakers when they first spend considerable time in France, so immersing students in 'real' content is important in preparing them for conversations with native speakers.


2. Where do teachers find authentic learning resources?

"When I teach, I'm going to teach the real language - the language that young people their age will actually speak" Karine Fowles, Head of MFL

For Karine Fowles, authenticity is everything when it comes to language teaching. She looks back on arriving in England 24 years ago and speaking her best English, yet people looked at her like she was some sort of alien because her English was so posh!

Karine looks beyond the textbook when searching for authentic learning resources. Rather than relying on 'artificial' songs from the textbook, she will look for real songs and real artists to use in her classroom.

This is School offers a variety of authentic learning resources. With more than 12,500 authentic videos and 55,000 interactive exercises, these resources can be slotted straight into classroom teaching to allow the curriculum to meet the real world. Find out more here.


3. What obstacles do teachers face in using authentic learning resources in the classroom?

"When you find a video, a song or a text, you've also got to find a way to exploit it" Karine Fowles, Head of MFL

Anna from This is School made a very important point in the discussion on this question: you can search for all the authenticity you like, but you still have to deliver a curriculum. Therefore, authentic learning resources need to offer engagement and motivation while still covering the required topics, vocabulary and tenses set out in the curriculum or in exam specification.

Teachers and schools have a lot on their plate at the moment: setting long-term cover, retention issues, a lack of engagement post-pandemic, and more. For Karine, as a Head of Department, This is School is a life-saver - the videos are there, and they have already been exploited, reducing planning time for her and the rest of the department. They are excellent when it comes to reaching and teaching every student - whether they are a low-prior attainer, a student with SEND, with English as an additional language. It's better than downloading a resource from a website in the morning without assurance as to its quality!

Tallulah Holley talked about the restrictions around using resources with younger years: they might not recognise every word, but they should be taught to see what structures and language they do know.


4. What is the impact of using authentic learning resources in the classroom?

"When you're using authentic materials, you're allowing people to speak for themselves... where there is a history of colonialism and racism, this is crucial" Tallulah Holley

Using authentic learning resources like those provided by This is School can have an impact in several ways:

  • Linguistic impact: being able to have a fruitful conversation in another language is so satisfying

  • Cultural impact: authentic learning resources help to broaden horizons - wherever you are in the world, there will always be a barrier to being fully immersed in a language, so authentic learning resources help to bring the culture into the classroom, building cultural capital

  • Inclusivity: students should be able to identify themselves with the people to whom they are listening in the classroom

What happens when we are not using authentic learning resources in our classrooms? Students would be engaging in tasks for tasks' sake, and may not see the relevance of language learning. With the EBacc (currently) a key focus for schools, and more and more students studying a language at GCSE, it's on teachers to ensure students see the relevance of language learning - something that can be lost without authentic learning resources.


5. Where next for This is School?

"There is such great potential to bring the real world closer to the knowledge and processes of other subjects" Anna Coneys Wainwright, Co-Founder of This is School

You may think that This is School is all about language learning - but you would be wrong! This is School now has 150 authentic units for Geography and more than 3,000 interactive exercises for Mandarin.

For Geography, This is School's explainer videos help to grab your students' attention, covering everything from physical processes to human phenomena to data analysis. They're perfect to use in class or set as independent learning. Find out more about authentic learning in Geography here.


Looking for more authentic learning? Catch up with the whole episode below!

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