Reading skills – Newspaper articles

This lesson basically came about when I recommended that all of my students read newspapers on a regular basis. The obvious reasons being, I wanted to widen their vocabulary, improve their reading skills and increase their cultural knowledge. It seemed so simple at the time.

After a week I asked them how they were getting on and they all dropped their heads sheepishly murmuring to themselves. I was about to give them a pompous little lecture on how they had to put more into their English studies as 3 hours a day in class wasn’t enough and all of that other stuff that we say, when one student piped up and said: I tried, I really did but I couldn’t get past the headline, if I can’t understand that, how can I understand the rest of the article?! (I’m paraphrasing here but you get the idea).

It was then that I realised I’d asked them to do something without giving them the tools to do it. The next day, I taught this lesson and sent them off into the world with no excuses…they still didn’t read very much but at least they had no excuses now.

  • Time: 90 minutes – 3 hours (depending on the optional language focus section)
  • Level: Pre-int and above
  • Aim: To raise your students’ awareness of the skills they need to tackle a newspaper article.
  • Sub aim: To encourage students to discuss possibilities in the past/present

Materials:

  1. Pictures
  2. Article and exercises
  3. A variety of articles / a few free newspapers (if possible)

Procedure:

  1. Opening discussion / outlining your aims: Put your students in small groups and ask them if they read newspapers in English. If not, why not. Feedback as a whole class. (you will probably get something about headlines here. feel free to explain puns to them but suggest that they ignore the headlines until after they’ve read the article as they often contain a cultural reference or pun and can be demotivating). Explain that by the end of the lesson they should have the tools/skills they need to read an authentic English article.
  2. Prediction: Display the two pictures and ask sts why they think these two boys were in the paper and what their relationship was. Feedback and write students ideas on the board.
  3. Optional language focus: Inevitably your students will have used “maybe” or “perhaps” or just present simple in their predictions. Explain that a native speaker would probably have used “might” at some point. Ask them to rewrite the predictions on the board using “might”. give them no help at this point. Feedback as a class and highlight how “might” works in the past and present. Further practice can be, if any student or teacher is absent from the school ask students why they think he/she is not here.
  4. First reading: Give the sts the article and ask them to check their predictions. Ask them how long it will take them to read the whole article, then tell them they have 90 seconds. Tell them to focus only on their predictions and ignore language they don’t understand. feedback as a class. Briefly discuss how it doesn’t matter if all of their predictions are correct, just that they’re constantly making and correcting them based on new info.
  5.  Vocabulary focus: Ask students to underline all of the crimes the boys committed, even if they don’t understand them. Then draw their attention to the vocab exercise on the worksheet. Allow sts to work in pairs. After about 5 minutes, allow students to use their dictionaries to confirm their answers. Feedback as a class.
  6. Second reading: Ask sts to reread the article in their own time and then in pairs to decide on the best summary from the worksheet.
  7. Discussion: Place sts in groups, arrange them in a circle so that you are not a major presence. Direct their attention to the discussion questions and highlight that these are just to get their conversation going but they can move the discussion any way that feels natural.
  8. Error correction/emergent language: Monitor carefully and divide your board into: Errors (you don’t need to put the titles on the board), interesting language and pronunciation. board student errors and the language they struggled for but couldn’t quite get and any words that they had issues pronouncing. Call an end to the discussion whenever you feel it’s appropriate and direct the sts in their groups to the board. Sts work together to correct the errors. Feedback as a class.
  9. Skills focus: Ask sts to think back over the lesson and decide what the steps were. Direct them to the skills box on the worksheet and in pairs get them to match up the steps. discuss the final questions as a class.
  10. Skills practice: Hand out the extra articles / papers and in small groups ask the students to choose an article and follow the steps. Monitor and help sts along when necessary but if possible, leave them to it.
  11. Reflect: take a few minutes at the end to ask sts how they feel about articles and if they feel they could read them. Deal with any issues and highlight that it’s not important to understand everything and that it might be a good idea to start with shorter articles or articles on topics they are familiar with.

Frame Again

Preface:

So there I was, walking out of the tube station, wondering where I was going to get my hands on a short text that didn’t immediately strike me as an obvious text for a lesson (one that we could use to challenge ourselves) when a lovely young lady, standing shivering at the top of the steps handed me the above postcard. Perfect!

I think most of the activities that go along with this lesson are pretty self-explanatory but I briefly wanted to talk about one of our aims: to encourage learner autonomy. For us, the end game has to be sending students out of the classroom with the tools they need to continue learning on their own. Exercise 2C in the lesson below aims to do just this. Of course we need to be teaching the students vocabulary in class but imagine a world where students come across an unknown word in a text and their first port of call isn’t their dictionary, instead the use the context and a variety of other strategies.  Imagine they were able to simply insert a synonym and move on, happy that they’d understood the meaning. This is a world we want to live in.

The exercises below are a way of training your students to start doing just this. When done over a series of lessons, you should start to notice a difference in how they approach new vocabulary and their confidence when faced with unknown words and phrases. We’ve had a lot of success with these types of activities but it’s all for naught if we don’t let the students in on what’s happening. So, take a second after exercise 2C and ask the students why you just taught them this vocabulary, why you spent ten minutes teaching these specific words. Of course it helps them engage with the text, and you could argue that all vocabulary is important but what you’re really doing is teaching them a skill and to do that you have to make them aware of it first. Give a man fish and all that lark.

Anyway, try it out and let us know how it goes. Enjoy.

 

Level: Pre-intermediate – Upper-intermediate

Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Aims:

  • To examine persuasive language
  • To encourage learner autonomy
  • To highlight the difference in use of real and unreal conditionals.
  • To raise awareness of and practise weak forms and features of connected speech.

Outcome:

  • By the end of the lesson the students will have created a radio advertisement, using weak forms, and persuasive language.

Age group: Adults

Procedure

  • Discussion questions
  • Language focus: Vocab / informal + persuasive language / real versus unreal conditionals
  • Pronunciation focus: Features of connected speech within the audio
  • Reflection: What have we looked at so far?
  • Practice: Creating a radio advert using the language/features of connected speech that have been looked at in the lesson.

 

Materials: