Using News Articles in an ESL Classroom

Instructor: Jesse Richter

Jesse holds two masters, a doctorate and has 15 years of academic experience in areas of education, linguistics, business and science across five continents.

Want some ideas to incorporate news articles and current events in the ESL curriculum? This lesson describes the process of accomplishing exactly that including some tangible tricks, tips, and examples.

News Articles and Current Events for ESL Learners

News and current events articles are an easy and effective way to integrate authentic materials into the curriculum.

Looking for ways to engage ESL learners? News articles and current events are excellent resources for several reasons. First, ESL learners generally love to learn about culture, an inherent part of news media. Second, news media offers authentic material, more interesting than generic textbook material. Third, news media uses a wide range of vocabulary, allowing the material to be adjusted quite a bit to accommodate the learner's level. Lastly, news media comes from many sources that appeal to all categories of learners including those who are younger or older, or who may have a specific interest in, say, technology news.

Let's take a look at some specific ways that news articles and current events may be used in the ESL classroom.

Ideas for Implementing News Media in the Classroom

You may prefer to use print documents or digital media with your students. All of these recommendations are possible with both forms of media, and of course there are pros and cons to both. Just experiment and have fun!

Skim and Scan

Techniques of skimming and scanning text help students to quickly identify key words or unknown words, while also serving as opportunities to pre-read the text. Have students highlight, underline, or otherwise mark the words for later discussion.

Teach Writing Styles with Newspapers

Carefully choose four articles that represent the four common writing styles of expository, descriptive, narrative, and persuasive. Label the articles 1 through 4. Give each small group of students a set of the samples and see if they can determine through careful reading and group discussion the writing style of each article. Then compare results among groups. This could lead into a discussion and writing unit.

Use Current Events

Current events news is a great way to not only teach English, but also to keep things fresh and interesting in the classroom. Current events media is published constantly, so there is always something recent to bring into the classroom. Consider website media companies that post breaking news updates; these articles may be printed directly in the classroom and distributed to students. This increases student motivation because it is always exciting to read about something that is currently happening.

Newspaper Puzzle

Take a print newspaper and cut the entire article into individual paragraphs (or sentences if possible). Scramble these and make it into a game to see which team of students can properly reconstruct the article based on the content they read.

Grammar Scavenger

For students at lower-ability levels, who may be learning basic nouns, verbs, and adjectives, have students race to circle as many, say, nouns as they can. Consider having some sort of prize for the winner(s).

Writing Skills Practice

Distribute several articles to the class but remove the headlines. Have students write headlines according to how they understand and interpret the article. Then compare the student-produced titles to the real titles and discuss.

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