If you have ever taught an ESL reading class, you have probably used articles from the news for your typical reading activities, activities like writing summaries and answering comprehension questions.
And while these basic activities are good for students, getting realia into the classroom anytime is a big win, sometimes we need a little encouragement to think out of the box when it comes to current events in the classroom. Here are some ways to use the news in class that are probably new to you.
5 New Uses for the News
CNN Student News
We often see the news used in reading class for comprehension activities, but with CNN Student News, you can bring current events into your listening class as well. Every day, they post a new news video, each approximately ten minutes, that you can use as a great listening activity with your ESL students. The program contains sections on the day’s top news stories, an in depth look at one news event, and a funny video. Even better, each video also comes with a transcript, which you can use to increase comprehension, do a cloze activity, or just use as a reading resource. These videos are aimed at middle and high school students, so be aware of that before showing the videos to kids, and it’s always a good idea to preview any video you show in class before your students see it. And don’t feel like you have to use the show as an entire unit. It’s great for pulling short, two minute news stories that you can use with your students as a springboard to other activities.
News Magazine Choice Board
When you don’t have time to make a specific set of assignments for a given news article, this magazine choice board is great to have on hand. It also makes an easy reading center that students can use while you work with their classmates one on one. To set the center up, make available several news magazines such as Newsweek or Time. Also make several copies of this Magazine Choice Board after filling in the number of activities students should do as well as how many articles they should read in the magazine. When using the center, students take a magazine and a blank copy of the choice board. They choose the article(s) they will read as well as the assignments to complete which range from writing a summary of an article to persuading a classmate to read the article through a letter. It’s a great way to include the news in your ESL class without adding any extra work to your plate, and students will love the independence and ability to make their own choices as to what they read and how they work with it.
When you are teaching lower level classes, it can be hard to find news material that is accessible for your students. That’s when News ELA is the ESL teacher’s dream come true. On this website, you can find current news articles, and each article is available at four different reading levels. This means that even lower level students can read news articles that interest them without being overwhelmed by the grammar and vocabulary that more complexly written news articles may throw at them. When you are teaching adult students at lower level language skills, these articles are great for maintaining interest and giving students a sense of accomplishment. An even greater bonus is that each leveled article comes with a quiz (written at that level too) that students can take to check how well they understood what they read. For more information on how to use News ELA, check out this article by the Brown Bag Teacher.
Newspaper Scavenger Hunt
In todays’ world, don’t be surprised to hear that your students’ primary source for news is Twitter. That’s why bringing an actual newspaper into the classroom is a fun way for students to engage with the news, especially if you send them on a newspaper scavenger hunt. Sometimes we think of the newspaper as only having articles, which are great for reading comprehension activities, summary writing, and making predictions. But a newspaper has so much more to offer and challenge your students. With a simple Google search, you can find tons of ready to print newspaper scavenger hunts that will send your students to many different sections of the paper including weather maps, classifieds, and advertisements. You can use this type of scavenger hunt to practice skimming and scanning skills as well as prepare students for a more in-depth look at a topic mentioned in the paper. Plus it’s fun and hands on, two qualities that are always good for classroom activities.
If you teach intermediate to advanced students and want to get more current events into your classroom and you are looking for a fun way to do it, you may want to give Fantasy Geopolitics a try. Eric Nelson, a Social Studies teacher from Minnesota, developed the game to engage his students in world events. The game has been described as a cross between fantasy football and model united nations, and it is a huge interest boost for students. It may not be a great fit for every classroom, but it might be just the thing to use if you have more advanced students who are interested in world events. In the process of playing the game, students are sure to learn more about the greater globe than they knew before.
There’s nothing wrong with traditional uses for news in the ESL classroom, but when it comes to current events you may find nontraditional activities even more effective in engaging and educating your ESL students.
Try thinking outside the headlines when it comes to today’s events, and you may find that your ESL students engage with the news in greater and more effective ways than they ever have before.