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Topical news stories are a great source of

teaching material. This article presents different


ways to exploit news reports in the classroom
and focuses on raising the level of involvement
and participation that the students have in the
lesson.

Selection criteria
Before reading
First reading
Second reading
Language focus
Follow up

Sources

Selection criteria
It is important that you choose your news article
wisely. You should consider the following criteria.

Appropriacy of topic
Will your students be interested in the topic? Will it be
upsetting for some students? Is it suitable for the age
group?

Length
Be careful to avoid articles that are particularly long.
Reading a news report in a second language is
demanding, and if the article is too long it will
discourage students. If the news report is lengthy, do
not be afraid of editing. The style of news articles
often means that entire paragraphs can be omitted
without affecting the overall sense of the piece.

Language content
Besides the general interest in the topic, this may well
be the most important selection criteria. Does the
article contain a useful lexical set (crime, money)? Are
there some good grammar exponents (past perfect,
reported speech) or interesting syntax and sentence
style? These will provide the basis of your language
work on the text, how can the language be exploited?

Generative?
Can you think of a good way to follow up the basic
textual work? Does the topic lend itself to discussion
or role play? Can you practise the language further?

Task suitability
When working with authentic material there are issues
concerning the authenticity of the tasks. The most
authentic task is for students to simply read the
article. Although we usually look to exploit the text a
little more in the classroom, it is important to keep
tasks as realistic as possible.
Before reading
There are many things to do before students begin
reading to generate interest, build confidence and to
facilitate comprehension.

Introduction exercises
These are used to raise awareness of the topic,
activate knowledge and current language. The
following activities could be used.

Discussion questionnaire
o
Students discuss questions related to the
topic

Quiz
o
This can test their knowledge of the topic or
people/places featured in the article

Pictures
o
Describing or discussing pictures that relate
to the topic

Pre-reading Activities
These are activities that are directly related to the
text, rather than the topic in general

Students predict the story from the headline


o
The students may need dictionaries and you
should be careful of puns and double meanings.
Students should work in pairs, and feed back ideas to
the board/teacher.

Students predict the story from a picture


accompanying the article

Predict vocabulary
o
Once students know the topic of the article,
they predict words that they think they will read.
Again, feed back these predictions to the board. As
students read, they should tick the words they find.
Which pair predicted the most words?

Vocabulary selection/sort
o
In this activity, the students are given a
group of words, some of which are from the article,
others are not. The students decide which ones are
from the article. Obviously, they need to know the
topic of the article.

Sentence selection
o
This is the same as vocabulary selection, but
students sort sentences instead.
First reading
The first reading activities should avoid a large number
of detailed questions. By the end of the reading the

students should be able to give a brief summary of


what the article is about, what the main points are.

Check pre-reading ideas (story/vocabulary


prediction)

Ask one or two questions for general


understanding
o
These questions should focus on the main
point of the article

Put the text in order


o
Students are given the article which has been
cut into sections. Working with a partner they have to
reassemble the article. Be sure to make sensible cuts,
so that either the sense of the piece or the language
syntax can be used to put the story in order. News
texts can often be put in several possible orders, so be
careful - utilise dependent prepositions, pronouns and
clauses.

Gap fill
o
Remove lexis or clauses from the text.
Students try to put the words in the correct places

o
o
o
o

Second reading
The second reading should lead to a detailed
understanding of the article.
Ask more detailed comprehension questions
True or false
Choose the best answer, a, b or c
Which paragraph says
What do these numbers refer to?

What do these people think?


Information Transfer
Students complete a table or chart with

information from the article

Make questions
o
Students read the article and write
comprehension questions for other students to answer.
This is best done in pairs.
Language focus
This is the time to exploit the article for its language
content. News articles are rich sources of vocabulary,
and also provide good grammar exponents.
Vocabulary

Lexical sets
o
An article may provide vocabulary associated
with particular topics - money, crime, politics.
Students either search the article for members of a
given lexical set, or you could provide them with a
sorting activity which uses words from the text.

Deducing meaning from context


o
This is a key skill for students to develop.
Either ask students to give definitions of certain words
or you could give them choices or a matching exercise
(match the word to a definition) students can then
check their ideas with a dictionary (if there is time)

Student 'News Language Notebooks'

News articles often use vocabulary that may


be referred to as journalese, and the students'
understanding of this register needs to be developed.
Grammar
Often a news article provides good examples of
grammar - for example the past perfect. In this case,
asking students to put particular events in
chronological order leads to further work on this verb
form.
Sentence structure/style
Draw students attention to well-crafted sentences, or
ask them to find sentences that they think are good or
interesting examples.

Follow up
There are lots of opportunities to extend the work
done on the article, and to use a different skill such as
speaking or writing. This gives students a chance to
use the language they have learnt from the text.

Role play based on text


o
e.g. an interview with a protagonist from the
story

Discussion of topic/ideas/argument of the text

Design something / task


o
e.g. following an article on a new housing
initiative, students plan a dream house

Research project

e.g. following an article about Homelessness

in UK, what is the situation in the students' own


country

Writing
o
e.g. the next day's story, someone involved
in the news event writing to a friend

Debate

Comparison activities
o
A topical story will appear in several different
places, and comparing how different sources deal with
the news event can be very revealing. This could focus
on content/style/critical analysis of reporters'
attitudes/politics

A comparison with the same subject in


the students' own press

A comparison with radio or TV reports on


the same event

A comparison between different


newspapers e.g. a quality paper and a popular paper.