Creating meaningful connections through realia, object and/or materials from everyday life, helps to make content meaningful. Realia plays a crucial piece in our classroom environments as students learn a new language and progress towards trilingualism.
Learning a new language means learning lots of new vocabulary. Educators split vocabulary into three tiers to help assess importance, and how best to structure lessons.
How can we Foster Language Learning Through Realia?
Let's face it, the traditional approach of a teacher led classroom filled with textbooks and worksheets is outdated, and does not reflect the Montessori philosophy. Young learners thrive on hands-on activities where they are able to explore the world around them, foster their curious spirit, and development new concepts or scaffold onto previous knowledge. With the help of realia, students can do just that, while also strengthening their native language, or learning a new language.
Rather than reading excerpts about animals from a textbook and regurgitating information onto a worksheet, teachers can create an animal lesson utilizing realia to make content more meaningful. By creating animal cards with the real life photo and name of each of the animals, students can practice pairing the correct animal figurine to the photo and name card that matches. This activity will help students develop their matching skills as they begin learning what each animal looks like and the animals name. Once mastered, teachers can read animal books alongside their students to continue building tier two and three vocabulary (i.e. amphibian, hibernate, etc.), since students have already made the content meaningful through a hands on activity utilizing realia. This activity can then be scaffolded to have students match the photo and name card with the figurine and then sort them by habitat, by color, by place of origin, etc.
Learning language is best done through meaningful learning, like the activity highlighted above, rather than through rote learning, or learning through memorization. While repeating the animal names and showing a photo of the animal will eventually produce the result of memorization, your child will be limited to only remembering this basic concept, rather than using their full potential to understand, apply and analyze this new concept. Realia helps us bridge the gap between language, and a higher level of learning and application within the classroom environment.
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Sean Michael Diana M.A.Ed.