English language students discover a whole new world through newspapers, new words, new phrases, new ideas and even new faces! They may have read the news in their own language but reading it in English is so much more exciting and puts the English language in to context for them.
Students love being able to understand and read current news in English and there is something to interest everyone in a newspaper.
The average reading age for most newspapers is approximately 11-13 years old, just perfect for those learning English as a foreign language. Newspapers are also a handy resource for English language teachers.
If you are teaching in an English speaking country look out for the free press newspapers. Try to collect enough newspapers so that you have one copy between two students. You can get heaps of activities from just one edition of a newspaper so don’t throw them away after just one session, share them with other teachers in your school.
If you are not in an English speaking country you could print articles from news websites such as the BBC or CNN.
Here are a number of ways you can use a newspaper in your English language lessons. You can even do some of these lessons without a newspaper if you can’t get your hands on one. You can adapt the activities to work in pairs, small groups or even as a whole class. Suggestions have been made for how these lessons will work but do think about your students and what would suit their level of language best.
How to Use Newspapers in Your ESL Classroom
The role of newspapers in our lives
Talk about the role of newspapers in daily life as a whole class, in pairs or in small groups. Do you read newspapers? Why do you read them? Which newspapers do you prefer and why? How often are newspapers published, daily, weekly? How much do they cost? Where can you buy them? Are they expensive or cheap? Do you believe everything you read in the newspaper? Why? Why not? Has the role of newspapers changed over the years? Do you think newspapers will die out with news on the internet? Why or why not? Talk about the newspapers in your student’s country. How do they vary? What news do they report on? Which newspapers do you read and why? If your students don’t read newspapers then talk about why they don’t.
Different sections of a newspaper
Give students two minutes to list as many sections of the newspaper that they can – then ask them to compare their lists to the person sitting next to them. Discuss the different sections of a newspaper; news, classifieds, cartoons, horoscope, weather, opinion piece, letters to the editor, travel, advertisements, editorial, sport. What would you expect to read about in each section? Which sections usually appear where in the newspaper? For example; news at the front, classifieds at the back. Ask students to find an example of each in a newspaper. Students could also write a piece to illustrate one or more sections of a newspaper.
Working for a newspaper
Explore the idea of working for a newspaper. Who writes for the newspaper? What is the role of the editor, journalist, photo journalist, photographer and advertising sales? How do you get a story into the newspaper? What would you like about working in one of these roles and what wouldn’t you like? How do newspapers make money? Discuss in pairs and report back to the class for further discussion.
Look at the jobs that are advertised in the careers section of the newspaper. Ask students to choose a job that they would like to apply for. Get them to write or discuss what skills they would need for this job. They can then discuss this in pairs. Talking about jobs and how to find one is particularly relevant if you are teaching foreign adult students in an English speaking country. If this is the case, you can expand this lesson to include CV writing and role play interviewing each other for a job. How and where do you look for a job? Students can exchange tips to help each other find a work in their new country. What jobs are your students currently working in? Do they like this job? Why or why not?
Write the headline of an article on the board or just read it out – ask students to guess what the article might be about. Then read the matching article. Were they right? How different was the real story from what they thought? Why is the headline often misleading? You can also cut up a number of articles and headlines. Hand them out to students and ask them to guess the story from the headline. Then give them the matching articles to read to see if they were close.
Newspaper treasure hunt (20 questions or just 10 - make it a full lesson or just a fill in!)
Collect enough newspapers to share one between two – free press papers are really good as articles are not long and are usually easy to read. Prior to the lesson go through the newspaper and come up with a list of questions that relate to the articles and advertisements that appear throughout the newspaper.
- What is the temperature in London?
- Who won £ 100,000?
- How many people were hurt in the Manchester fire?
- What is the name of the policeman who rescued Josie?
- Where can I buy a washing machine? How much will it cost me to buy?
You can make these as hard or as easy as you like depending on the language levels of your students.
Students can work in pairs to read through the newspaper and come up with the answers. When everyone has finished go through the answers together. Don’t forget to ask them to write down which page they found the article on.
Ask students to work in pairs to read and summarise an article that interests them. Each pair of students can then work with another pair to talk about their article. Each pair then reports back to the class about the article they read. List words or phrases that students did not know on the board and explain as needed.
Work through an article as a class
Pick an article and ask individual students to read a paragraph or sentence each. Discuss as they read, explain grammar and meaning of unknown words. This can be a very intense session depending on the language level of your students. You might be surprised at how hard it can actually be to go through a whole article together. It does allow for lots of discussion, particularly around what the writer really meant by the words that they used.
Turn to the classifieds section. Ask students to find a builder, plumber, caterer etc. Talk about each of these professions. What type of work do they do? Discuss the for sale ads. What are people selling? Discuss the other types of advertisements in this section. What are they advertising? What does the advertisement tell you? Students can write a short advertisement and share with a partner. Would you ring this person/company based on this ad? Does the ad work? Why or why not?
Ask students to find a photo in the newspaper. Ask them to write their own headline and/or short article to match the picture. Students can read their articles to the class or work in pairs to share their work. This is also a good homework exercise.
Produce your own class newspaper/s.
Ask students to take on different roles to produce a newspaper. Students could work in groups of two to four to produce different sections of a newspaper or produce a short newspaper as a whole class. They could produce any type of newspaper and have as many different sections in it as they liked. Making decisions about what the newspaper should be and how to do it could be part of the lesson. This would take some time for them to do so you could do it in class over a number of sessions, (perhaps dedicate the last half hour) and include some home work as well. Photocopy the finished product for each student to read. Discuss the contents of the newspaper and the whole process of producing it.