Many EFL teachers tell their learners to watch/listen to the news as a way of practising their English. I’ve come to realise that simply watching/listening is less helpful than engaging with the news item on a more productive level. That’s why I had a bit of a think and came up with some activities that learners can do with news items – either listening texts or written news items. The list can be used by teachers looking for classroom/homework ideas, or by students themselves in need of inspiration for self-study activities. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below!
It is usually easy to fit catching up on the news into one’s daily routine, as you can get news…
- on TV (channels such as CNN or BBC World News are broadcast around the world)
- on the radio / digital radio
- via online radio (check out BBC Radio 4 for talk radio)
- in newspapers
- on online newspapers/news websites (e.g. bbc.com/news, www.huffingtonpost.com, http://www.theguardian.com/uk, http://www.nytimes.com/)
Simply watching, reading or listening to the news may provide you with current information, but here are some activities that can extend that learning:
- Analyse the headline – what do you expect the story to be about? What style of language is used? Why? Could you phrase the headline another way? Would this change the implication or feeling?
- Prepare a short written or oral summary of the news item. Make sure you answer the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? in your concise text. You can compare your summary to friends’ summaries, or each summarise a different news item to present to the others, then ask comprehension questions or start a discussion on the topic(s).
- Compare two reports on the same event: Do you notice any differences in the information they give or in the attitude they express towards the event? Can you explain why these differences may exist? How can you avoid believing biased news items?
- Give 10 bullet points of background information someone would need in order to understand why this news story is important.
- Invent interview questions you would ask one of the people involved in the story. You can either try to remain neutral, like a journalist, or try to present a certain image of that person, like a lawyer.
- Pretend to be one of the people mentioned in the news report and re-tell the story from their perspective (using first-person narrator).
- Pick a statement from the news report that you feel is more of an opinion than a fact, and make a list of examples and evidence that you would use to argue against it.
- Draw a mind-map of the key vocabulary used in the news report. Look up words’ meanings, other word classes (e.g. nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.), and also synonyms and antonyms to include.