How can we provide our teens with the proper skills for their current and future life? Is it only about teaching English vocabulary, grammar, practising their listening and speaking skills? If you ask me, the answer is definitely no. It is not by chance, that teachers are considered to be educators since we actually ‘bring up’ our students furnishing with the necessary tools and skills. In this respect, news lessons are of great importance. In fact, they can help teens to distinguish between opinion and fact, between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric. Previously we have already presented Ways and resources to use Mass Media in the ESL classroom, Top newspapers for ESL classrooms and Popular magazines for English learners. Today we are going to examine this subject minutely and to introduce you to how to conduct effective news lessons for teens.
Tips and tricks
Before choosing the news article one should take into consideration the following things:
- Students’ interests: Will your student really enjoy discussing this news with you? Are you sure that they will not get bored?
- Students’ age and personality: We should bear in our minds that teenagers may sometimes be too vulnerable. Hence, we should be sure that the news is appropriate for their age and personality.
- Length: Will you have enough time to deal with the news during your lesson? If it is too long, either choose a different one or split it into several parts — one small part for each lesson.
- Language: Is the language of the article suitable for your learners? It shouldn’t be too difficult or too easy. Your students should find the article challenging in terms of new words, but the language shouldn’t frighten or demotivate them.
News Lesson structure
- Guess the headline. Cut out the cover photo of the news and show it to your students. Ask them to brainstorm ideas about it and come up with its heading.
- Brainstorming. Tell your students the heading of the news and ask them to brainstorm vocabulary. Using mind maps will be great as well.
- Agree/Disagree. Get ready with 3 statements that are related to the topic of the news. Ask your teens to read them and express their opinions.
- Guess the questions. Prepare answers to some simple questions related to the article. Ask your students to guess the questions.
- Quizzes. Before going deep into the subject, get your students to take a quiz to check their pre-knowledge in the upcoming article.
In the next stage, you should get your students ready for reading or listening to the news. To be certain that the learners won’t face too many difficulties in the listening or reading procedure, you should also pre-teach the vocabulary.
- Definition matching. Provide the learners with the words and their definitions. Help them to match the words with the definitions. If necessary, give examples from the context.
- Words in the wave. Create a wave which contains both known and unknown words from the article. Waves can be created in Microsoft Word with the help of WordArt. Ask your students to find words in the wave. Then discuss the new words with them.
- Fill in the gaps. First, select the list of the new words, then write their definitions and the number of the paragraph where they are mentioned. Tell your students to write the words from the article into the gaps.
- Skimming. Prepare some sentences with the words from the article. Ask your teens to skim the text to find the words that fit in the gaps. The paragraph numbers can be given to help them.
In this phase, learners can check their pre-listening and pre-reading tasks, get the main idea of the article. After reading/listening to it once, you should ask some general questions and check their comprehension. The next point is to read/listen to the news one more time for deeper knowledge. Here you can ask some detailed comprehension questions or take a quiz.
- Debate. Separate your class into two teams who have totally different points of view on the subject. They work in pairs and come up with sensible reasons to proof their choice and why they agree or disagree either with the characters from the news or with the author of the article. Encourage them to use the new vocabulary as much as possible.
- Roleplay. If there are more than two characters in the article, ask your teens to choose one of the characters and roleplay. They can also add some hypothetical reality and extend the story.
- Share on Twitter. Ask your students to share the news on Twitter and write short information on it or just leave comments expressing their opinion on it.
- Write an Editorial. This activity can be done when you have at least 20 minutes left. Have your students select a topic that interests them more. Ask them to write a persuasive essay on it. The activity is suitable for the students who already know what persuasive essay is and have written this kind of essay many times.
- Be a reporter yourself. This is perhaps the most favourite activity of my students. They really fancy reporting the news as if they are real journalists. It gives them confidence, enlarges their vocabulary, improves speaking skills. Just ask them to report the news they have read/listened to using the new words and word collocations.
- Delayed error correction. If there are any mistakes that you haven’t discussed during the lesson, it’s a perfect way to do it during cool-down. Just show your students the sentence where they have made mistakes and ask to correct them. You can also do it orally (many students notice the mistake in a written form easily, but when it comes to oral speech, it is really hard for them).
- Three sentences. To summarise the news lesson let your students tell three important sentences from the article that will cover the main idea of it.
The last but not the least tip from me is this list of websites where you can find lots of ideas for your news lessons designed different levels. I hope you will make the most of it:
Which ideas from the list inspired you to have a news lesson?