4 great things to do with newspapers in the language classroom

4 great things to do with newspapers in the language classroom

Posted on October 7, 2013 | 2 Comments

Although the way we consume news has gone through great changes in recent years, newspapers remain a great teaching resource to use in the classroom. Some of the best lessons I’ve ever taught have been based around newspaper articles. Their flexibility in terms of meeting objectives and outcomes are the key to why they are such a good resource for us as teachers. Here are four ways we can exploit newspapers, and a few carefully chosen links, too!

1. Use newspapers as a gateway for teaching reading and grammar

Newspapers are, by definition, full of writing that uses language to deliver information in a specific way. With this in mind, they make for a fantastic real-world resource for analyzing grammar, as well as the reading skills connected with discourse analysis.

A classroom scene
‘A classroom scene’ by @sandymillin from ELTPics
Make a copy of your chosen article for each learner and get them to make note of any words in the article that they are unfamiliar with. You can use these as a way of teaching learners how to use the context of the article to guess what the word means. Another good task is to have learners pull out all the examples of a particular grammar item that they find in the text (all examples of the passive voice, for example). Alternatively, ask the learners to read an article and then give them questions to answer, either about the choice of grammar in certain sentences or about the construction of the text.

2. Use newspapers as a vehicle to teach writing

Headlines serve as the basis from which we predict what the content of an article will be. Therefore, they make for great writing prompts.

With this in mind, give your learners only the headline of an article, and ask them to write it based on this prompt. Alternatively, you might show them a photo associated with the article and get them to write their article based on this alone. Newspapers are – or should be – great examples of writing which is a straightforward delivery of information and without opinion. Again, by contrasting to papers with different agendas or motivations, we can get learners to analyse the language used to create bias. If they have written a response to a headline, having them rewrite it inserting opinionated statements is a good way to focus on the purposes of writing and the intended audience. As a follow up, discuss with learners how this changes the article.

3. Use newspapers to teach cultural values and current events

Newspapers are a great way to learn about what is going on in your country and the wider world. What’s more, they are equally good for seeing how that world discusses the main issues going on where you live.

Choose one article every morning to share with your class. You can use this as the springboard for a class discussion, or have them write a written response to the information presented. Depending on the age, multicultural makeup and general interests of your learners, you might wish to choose a controversial article and have the students debate it. This is where having articles from different sources/perspectives comes in handy, so consider the stance of the newspaper(s) you have chosen

4. Use newspapers to teach about media and information

Recently in Turkey there was a famous instance of about a dozen newspapers all having identical headlines: the reasons for this aren’t things I want to go into here, but it highlights the importance of how and why certain information is deemed important enough to be front page news.

Teaching learners about the different parts of a newspaper is a useful task. One thing we can do, just as effectively online as in printed media, is to determine which are the most ‘important’ parts of a paper, and the process behind how headline stories are chosen. A great follow up that promotes creative though is to create your own classroom newspaper. This could become a regular thing, getting learners to publish it on a monthly basis, sending it home to their parents (depending on their age of course!).

A few useful links

You might want to sign up for ‘Newspapers in Education’. This is an Australian resource, but the way they work with newspapers can give you ideas of how to incorporate newspapers into your teaching.

Education World offers ten terrific classroom activities that use the newspaper to teach all sorts of valuable skills including reading and writing for meaning, map reading, media literacy, sequencing, word meaning, and math.

The Media In Education (MIE) program of the Democrat and Chronicle has created one hundred activities which can be used to encourage students to see more than just the words and photographs. Instead, they can take it a step further and challenge their minds to further develop what they see and read.

Suggestions from the comments…

Another useful link is newseum.org; superb for up-to-the minute news and ideas. It also has a bank of the day’s front pages for over 800 different news publications worldwide – tabloid to broadsheet, and searchable by city, country or continent – which I have found invaluable. (Thanks to Hannah McHugh for this one)

A word of caution…

Make sure to consider controversial or inappropriate stories before learners are exposed to them. Basically, this is down to your relationship with your class and an idea of what they will find appropriate or unsettling, but also think about the rules and regulations of your place of work.

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