I have seen many new English teachers make a beeline straight for the online newspaper when first taking lessons. It seems a great idea at first, right? You choose an article that you think is interesting, send it to the student, they read it before class and out loud during class, then you look at key vocabulary before having a discussion about the topic.
The above lesson plan isn’t very effective for the vast majority of students as the language used is far removed from the student’s desired language use. Every student that I have taught has said that improving their speaking is their number on priority (non-IELTS students). I always ask the following question before using any resource, “Is the language used in this resource something that my student can use?”
A Passive Activity
When I used newspapers during lessons in the past I always seemed to be telling my student that the vocabulary and phrases that they come across just aren’t that common for everyday use. Do your students want to speak just like a newspaper reads? If not, then you shouldn’t make that type of language the focus of your lesson.
I advise my students to read newspapers as a passive activity; something to be done in their free time. I push them towards interviews as they are great for learning conversational English, but if they are really interested in world affairs then they are better off reading about them in English. And even then I try to send them to more conversational pieces like blog posts and podcasts.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t use news articles at all, I just use them in a different way. And thanks to a great resource from +Sean Banville, my preparation time has been dramatically reduced.
Using newspaper articles effectively
When I realized that the discussed method of using newspapers as a resource was ineffective I started to break down the stories and rewrite them for my students. I also dissected the topics, thought about the key issues, and created warm up activities and discussion topics related to the story. Then I found Breaking News English and realized that is was already there for me.
With a two paragraph simplified version of a particular news story, over 40 activities, and two recordings, this site has made my lesson planning much easier. I especially love the warm up exercises and find them perfect for my students.
Using stories from newspapers should be engaging and fun for your students. Using news stories in this way has improved my lessons and has ensured that my students are learning the type of language that they can use in everyday situations. Opinons are shared and use role-plays as a way of really getting into the different topics. My students are engaged and learn a lot of language that they can use with their English speaking friends.
How do you use newspaper articles in your lessons and what other resources do you use?