By James Cordonero
When it comes to using realia in an English class, there is no other resource more updated, readily available, and abundant than online news. Nevertheless, teaching a news-based lesson is not just a matter of attaching a link to Edmodo and sending an article for students to read or merely asking them to google it and parrot it in the next class session.
To begin with, well thought-out news lessons should have a clear goal and be structured in such a way that they allow for the implementation and development of several stages such as warm up, pre-reading activities, reading the article per se, listening to the article whenever a recording is available, vocabulary building and post-reading exercises as well as homework. It is worth mentioning that when using news lessons, instructors ought to implement a segregated-skill approach to developing a particular language skill (speaking, writing, reading, listening), yet all of the four skills should be practiced whenever possible.
Additionally, EFL instructors should also consider the following criteria (Andrew) when selecting a particular article:
- Appropriateness:To what extent is the topic appropriate? Is it suitable for the class level and age group? Could it be upsetting to some of the students?
- Interest:Will the students be interested in this topic?
- Length:Is it too long? Articles that are particularly long should be avoided. Reading news articles is demanding and if they are too long, students might feel discouraged. It will also take time away from students’ talking time.
- Language and structure:Is there a semantic field (e.g., education, environment, etc) instructors can use to enlarge learners’ lexicon? Are there any target structures related to the contents being covered in the class?
- Generative Potential:In what other ways can the article be exploited? That is, are there any other activities to follow the article? Articles that lend themselves to discussions, debates, or role-plays are desirable. Students should able to further practice the language after the reading and/or listening.
Teachers should not only bear in mind such prerequisites but also try, depending on the subject or type of class being taught, to focus on one of the language skills. For instance, one alternative way to using online news stories for developing writing skills is to pair up students, show them a headline and ask them to write as many questions as they can, just as if they were journalists tasked with writing the article corresponding to the headline. Then, they are to answer their own questions and organize their responses into a short article layout provided by the teacher. Afterwards, learners can compare their written versions with the original article.
In addition to being representative examples of clear and concise writing, newspaper articles showcase different types of writing models: informative, persuasive, expository, etc. This plethora of writing samples is certainly a teachers’ treasure to which they can resort to enrich their lessons and bring a large dose of reality into their classrooms.
Regardless of the skill instructors choose to emphasize, an effective news lesson should surpass the boundaries of the article and provide students with the chance to use the new vocabulary and/or knowledge meaningfully and in a variety of real-life contexts.
Andrew, J. (2008). ‘How to Effectively Use News Articles in the EFL Classroom’, The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 12. Web
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