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TESOL Tips-Using the news

TESOL Tips-Using the news

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One way or another, the news is an important component of most people’s lives. English language news, both live and print-based, is easily available in many countries and provides a wide ranging agenda for language development and communication skills practice. The following suggestions may help you to use ‘the news’ as a productive arena for your learners.

1 Show the class a video of a five minutes news bulletin. Then ask learners individually or in groups to write a set of headlines for a newspaper, based on the main points they have picked up from the bulletin. Don’t worry if they can’t follow typical headline ‘style’—the important thing is for them to try to capture the essence of a news story in a few words.


2 Get learners to make a commentary. Give learners a short extract on an issue they know about, with the sound off. Get them to produce and rehearse a commentary that could accompany the video instead of the original sound track. They can try out their commentary live, and in real time, against the running video. It can also be worthwhile getting them to record their commentary on audiotape, and then to listen to it while watching the video again.

3 Ask learners to compose subtitles for a videoed news bulletin. Show the whole class a short extract from a news bulletin, then ask groups of learners to devise short messages which could communicate the main points of the bulletin to people who could not hear.

4 News quizzes. Play to the whole class a short radio news bulletin, then quiz groups of learners about the content of the bulletin. It is best to prepare the quiz in advance, and possibly print it out, so each team can write their answers against each question before scoring their work. You will soon find out about the best level for such quizzes; the level is appropriate when no team gets less than about half of the available points, and the winning team gets most answers correct.

5 Cartoons and photos. Get learners in groups to devise captions for well- chosen cartoons or photographs from a newspaper. You may then show them the original captions, or point out how many different valid ways there can be to describe a cartoon or photo.

6 Have I got news for you! Give learners some headlines from a newspaper, and ask them in groups to try to work out the likely story behind each headline. You could allow them to read the newspapers in advance for a few minutes. For learners with well-developed language skills, this activiiy can be turned into a fun game by asking learners to think of alternative, creative stories which may have matched the chosen headlines.

7 Home/national news. Ask learners to look for a news story current in their country, and to write and deliver aloud a two-minute summary of it designed for the UK media.

8 Teletext pages. Give learners a newspaper, and ask them to capture the essence of 10 or so main news items by turning each into a summary which could be contained on a single screen of teletext. Encourage them to keep sentences short and to the point. Suggest that they try to get the gist of each story into a well-chosen, short headline and the first sentence of the teletext page.

9 Broadsheets and tabloids. Encourage learners to read about the same story in both broadsheet and tabloid newspapers, and to discuss the differences of approach. Then invite them to select a different story from a broadsheet and turn it into the register of a popular or tabloid newspaper. Often tabloids are much harder for learners to understand than broadsheets, so you will need to choose a particularly accessible story for this activity.


10 Radio bulletins. Give learners copies of the front page of a newspaper, and ask them in groups to make a set of headlines for a short radio news bulletin. Then combine the groups, two at a time, and ask them to read out to each other their radio bulletins, and decide which one captured the news best, and why.


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