Teaching with real examples

Teaching is easy.  You just tell people stuff.  Teaching all of your students effectively on the other hand can be a monumentally difficult task.  As a relatively uneducated, unseasoned teacher I find teaching people that learn fast to be the most satisfying, but that’s because it’s easy.  Teaching the slower learners and those that aren’t as adept at taking on new ideas is very challenging and sometimes frustrating.

I think one of the problems about some subjects taught in schools like math and foreign language is that they’re often taught with abstract examples.  While the teacher, who already has knowledge of the subject, can see the application of these examples, a student who is trying to grasp the idea for the first time might not have any ability to imagine the abstract example manifest in reality.

There’s an easy way around this.  Instead of teaching via abstract examples, teach with concrete, real world examples.  Bring them into the classroom, because more often than not circumstances will make bringing the students to the reality much more difficult.  Let the students engage with the real examples, and ask questions, and explore the material in a free and interactive way.

This basic idea is covered in part by a topic in the book I studied for my one education course.  In the realm of education for some reason they like to call real examples by the ironically abstract name “realia”.

I’m going to cut all the abstraction now and give you some real examples about what I’m talking about.  In  my case these are for teaching Japanese as a foreign language.

For a higher level class, this is a document/advertisement from a bank:


For a lower level class, this is a weather forecast:


Things like this, whenever possible in hard copy format, are what I’m talking about by real examples.  One of the best things about these examples is they aren’t artificially “cushioned” for a certain level.  Even the materials used for the lower level class, the weather forecast, has some very high level kanji in it.  The reality of language use is, easy words and hard words aren’t used in isolation.  It’s best if you can learn instead to decode the important information, and then learn to ask about the rest to gain a complete understanding of the material.

Do you agree? Disagree?  How do you use real examples in your own teaching?


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Filed under education, Japan, language, teaching

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