Having your class write a newspaper through combined effort is a great way for them to practice their language learning and work with a unit theme you are already teaching. Besides, since you are already teaching reading, writing, listening and speaking, you will not have to do any extra work for the class paper.
It may even fulfill some objectives you might be struggling to meet. So call a staff meeting and get going. There are deadlines to meet, after all.
How to Put Together a Class Newspaper
What to Write
Having your class write a newspaper is a great extention activity no matter what subject area you are currently teaching your ESL students. For example, if you are doing a unit on sports, have your students write a sports paper. If you are currently studying business, then a business paper it is. Your class paper can be focused on any theme that you are already studying from outer space to cultural holidays.
When you introduce the newspaper project to your class, you will want to have a variety of newspapers available for them to examine. This way they can see what a typical layout might look like as well as get a feeling for the style of newspaper writing. It is worth taking some time to review the specific vocabulary used for the pieces of the paper and other newspaper-oriented vocabulary. You should include words like headline, by-line, feature (article), editorial, column, section (of the paper), caption (for a photo), layout and editor in your vocabulary review.
You can also use the example papers to fulfill your reading requirement for the day. A newspaper is a great source for reviewing the three types of reading with your students. Have them skim articles and share with the class the main points that the writer makes. Then practice scanning by looking for specific information like movie times or weather conditions that the paper reports. Finally, have them read for detail an article of your choice and answer comprehension questions.
After your students have read some examples of newspaper articles, point out the style that these writers use. Pieces for print in this media are concise and focused. They answer the six question words (who, what, where, when, why, how) clearly without a lot of extra information or creative language. When your students practice their writing by creating their own articles, they should adopt this style. Encourage them to review what they have written to make sure it answers all the necessary questions and does not have a lot of extra wording or unnecessary examples. This style will likely be quite different from most things they have written, especially if they have primarily composed essays or creative writing.
Assign an Editor
You do not have to be the editor of your class paper. In fact, it will help your students even more if you assign someone in the class to be editor. As with any paper, each student will have to pitch an idea to the editor. This gives your students authority over the content of the paper and gives them speaking and listening practice in the process. Your class will already know the theme of the issue, so they should think of possible articles that relate to the theme. They will then need to pitch their idea to the editor. They should present the topic and how they will approach and support it. The editor then has the authority to accept or reject the idea. For this reason, it is important to select one of your top students to be editor of the class paper. He or she will have to be organized and make sure two students are not writing on the same topic. If you have a very large class, you may want to break the paper into sections (sports, entertainment, etc.) and select an editor for each section. You will then need to have an editor in chief in authority over all of the section editors. In addition to the feature articles, each editor should write an editorial piece. This should be opinion based rather than fact based. You may want to discuss the editorial with your editor or editors before they are written just to make sure they will be appropriate for the paper. Tell them to model their editorials after those they read in the example papers.
Meet the Deadline
Once each student knows what he or she will write about, it is time to let him or her write. You can assign this as homework or give your students time in class. You will need class time later to work on the layout of the paper, so homework may be a better option for the actual writing of the article. Give your editors the authority to suggest revisions to the articles, and then give him or her the responsibility for the publication of the paper. A publishing program like Microsoft Publisher will be the easiest way to lay out your paper. These types of programs often have templates for newspapers, so your editor is not burdened with a lot of extra work once the articles start coming in. In fact, you may want to think about giving extra credit to your editor depending upon how much work he or she must do for the paper.
Go to Publication
Once your students have submitted their articles and your editor has completed the publication of the paper, it is time to go to press. You should make as many copies as you will need for your students, other classes you may want to give the paper to, your records and an additional copy for a class book. If you keep a class book of all the papers you do with your class, either throughout the year or from one year to the next, it will be a helpful resource for your future classes when planning their papers.
Your class paper is finished, and it is surely a success. Your students have gotten practice with the theme you are teaching as well as done reading, writing, listening and speaking activities. All you had to do was give them a little class time and explain some vocabulary. Now that your class has completed one paper, you may want to make a paper the goal of every unit you study throughout the year.
You may decide to rotate editors or keep the same editor throughout the year, but a collection of papers at the end of the school year will be a nice resource for your students to study for their final as well as give them a sense of accomplishment for the year. If you do make a series of papers, make sure each class has a unique volume number for its papers and each issue contains an issue number. Your students will be proud of their accomplishments and you will have an impressive summary of what you studied this year come summer vacation.