ESL Newspaper Headlines Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Would you like to give your ESL students some headline writing activities? This lesson provides you with some ideas to introduce headlines and engage your students in headline writing.

Begin With Reading Headlines

The main point of headline writing activities is to help check reading comprehension. Your ESL students can demonstrate they understand news stories by writing strong headlines. Since your students are going to create the headlines, they first need to understand the importance of a powerful headline to get the reader interested in reading the whole story.

You can begin by showing your students some effective headlines from local or national newspaper websites of your choice. A tip to engage your ESL students is to show them the 'real' printed version of a local newspaper versus a digital version, highlighting interesting headlines. International news channels online are also a great source of headlines for stories that may interest your students.

Your students can either tell you why a given headline gets or doesn't get their interest. Alternatively, your ESL students could make up a story to go with headlines you provide.

Once your students are engaged in reading headlines, they're ready to write some headlines.

Activities for Writing Headlines

These activities put your students to work writing headlines. While the reading material you choose depends on your class level, all of these activities are adaptable to different levels of English proficiency.

Unscramble Headline Words

This activity uses a handout with a few headlines with the words in the wrong order. Your students have to unscramble the words to make sense of the headline. To make it more fun, you could have your students work in pairs or teams and set a time limit using a timer. Here are some ready-to-use headlines you could use for your handout although they are not from real news:

  • Accident Cars in 128 Highway Involved
  • Building World Tallest in Collapses the
  • Escapes -looking From Creature Lab Strange
  • Demand on Hollywood Go to Salaries Strike Actors Unpaid
  • City in Attack Thousands Arrive New Parakeets York and Pedestrians of

Once your students unscramble the headlines, they can discuss why the headlines hook the attention of the audience. Then they can talk about possible details that the news story would include.

Be the Headline Writer

For this activity, all your students read the same news piece, which you can project on the board. Obviously, you would not show the headline because your students' task is to come up with the best headline possible for the news you present.

Give your students a word limit for the headline they write and encourage them to avoid overused words. After writing their headlines, your students can read them aloud and the class can vote for the most engaging headline.

Imagine the News

This activity demonstrates how headlines can tell a whole story in a few words. Your students imagine two events that would make the news. Working in pairs, they discuss the most interesting aspects of their imagined news. Once your students have two news articles, they work on engaging the audience with powerful headlines. Since the audience is the whole class, the students would next present the two headlines to their peers. In turn, peers then deduce the stories behind the headlines.

Make Headlines for History

This activity is based on short pieces that narrate the most relevant aspects of a historical event. For example, give your students a short paragraph like the one in this sample that quickly tells about D-Day:

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