“All I know is what I read…”— LESSONS: Grammar and Writing Activities with NEWSPAPERS

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Possibly the most cost-effective textbook available for the modern classroom, the humble newspaper can be a source for thousands of hours of lessons, and has the benefit of also being relevant, varied, well-written, diverse, current, global, local, entertaining, and informative. Consider that many big city newspapers go for $1.00 per day. If students purchase one per week, the cost for a quarter or semester will be a mere $10 to $15 bucks. In many cities, newspapers may be free when the publisher participates in Newspapers in Education, NIE. Regardless, in the world of textbooks, this kind of a bargain is unheard of!

Since many students do not read the newspaper and may not read much else, learning the contents and culture of this literary resource is appropriate for almost any age, barring the pre-literate group. A newspaper is a single and serial publication, both specific to a day’s events and tied to long term happenings as they evolve.

PARTS OF SPEECH — When teaching the parts of speech to your class, use the newspaper to reinforce word and parts of speech (POS) identification. For example, give the students, individually or in groups, a piece of manila paper or newsprint. Select two or three parts of speech to focus on. Have students divide their paper into the necessary number of columns and label each column with the name of a part of speech: Adjective, Noun, Preposition, or any other. Give each student a newspaper or a section of a newspaper. Have them search a 6–10 inch column of the paper for words that match the target parts of speech. (The reason for only focusing on 6–10 inches is that more can be overwhelming.) Using scissors, have students cut out the sentence with the target word in it, then glue the sentence on the paper in the proper column. Finally, underline the target word. Guide the class in noticing: 1. how the word is used, 2. what collocations are evident, and 3. how many times it occurs.

The same strategy can be used to identify Verb Tenses.

MAIN IDEA — This lesson constitutes an intensive reading of a complex text. Major city newspapers run stories with a lexile level of 1150–1330+, although those with school reading programs often add stories rewritten at lower lexile levels.

Select a story from the newspaper that is likely to interest your students. Read the story aloud to the class. Discuss the main idea of the story, pointing out that the information comprising the main idea is usually repeated in various places throughout the article. The key words are also repeated or restated using synonyms.

Then, after passing out a newspaper to newstudent, ask them to select several stories of the same length. Write the titles of the stories on the board. You can put them in pairs or groups depending on the size of the class. Ask everyone to number the chosen set of stories in his or her newspaper. Next, have the students write the same numbers on a sheet of paper that will be shared by the group. Next to each number students should write the main idea of the numbered story. Have your students exchange stories with a partner. Their partners should read the stories and write their main ideas on another piece of paper. When both partners have finished this activity, they should compare answers, discussing any discrepancies.

OUTLINING — After presenting the rudiments of outlining and practicing with a story that the whole class has read, give the students a newspaper. Have them select an article of appropriate length to read. There is no need to start with 3000 word tome on the electoral college. Have the students read their chosen story. Next, give them a blank outline and ask them to determine the major elements and important details using just short phrases. This task facilitates the identification of key words, ideas, and supporting information. The deconstruction process also supports students’ efforts to later construct a tightly focused paragraph.

SEQUENCING AND STORY STRUCTURE — Give each student a newspaper. Have them select an article to read which clearly shows an introduction, a body containing several paragraphs, and a conclusion. Tell them to cut out the article then to cut it into paragraphs. Give them an envelope and have them write the article’s title on the front. After placing the paragraphs in the envelope, have them exchange envelopes with another student. The second student is to arrange the paragraphs in proper order. Once the article is in order, have the original student check the article for proper order based on a clean, whole copy of the newspaper. These articles can be used several times for further practice. Always save a clean, whole copy.

5 Ws PLUS — WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, AND HOW — Students will select an article to read. The length of the article depends on time and the proficiency level of the students. On a piece of paper have them list the five W’s and HOW. Next to each, students will write the relevant information from the article. At the upper levels, encourage the students to write their answers in sentence form.

VISUALIZING — Give each student a newspaper. Have them select an short article to read. Give each student a piece of unlined white paper. Have them fold the paper into six or eight blocks, numbering each. Tell them they are to retell the article in pictures, no words allowed. When they are finished, have them share their visual articles with the class. See if the other students can retell the article from the pictures. What kind of articles are easier to illustrate?

CONTENT DISCRIMINATION — Students turn to the local section of the newspaper. Ask that they scan the articles on at least one page, and then determine which items are “good” news and which are “bad.” Have students circle the “good news” articles with one highlighter color and the “bad news” articles with another. Which dominate? Why? What do they think about that?

INFERENCES — Students turn to the front page of the newspaper and copy all of the headlines onto a sheet of paper. Then, they set the newspaper aside. Ask them to think carefully about each headline and try to determine what the article will be about. Have students write their inferences next to each headline. After they have completed this portion of the assignment, assign groups to each read one of the articles’ and share with the class the contents. Then students check that information against their inferences. How close were they?

LOCATING SPECIFIC INFORMATION — In teams, students use the sports section of the newspaper and select three articles. The sports section boasts a lot of unambiguous information in the form of player names, teams, cities, stats, and scores. For students not used to decoding extended text, sports delivers specifics! When finished, they will share and discuss in class. On a sheet of paper have them list the following information:

Title of the Article

Name of the sport

Team Names

Final Scores

Something interesting or unusual about the game or event

FACT OR OPINION — Students look through a newspaper to locate four articles that express factual information and four that express an opinion. Have them discuss and explain their choices. What were the words that signaled an opinion? Was it pro or con?

EVALUATING — Students create a poster, collage, or booklet of what they feel are the 5 most important news items for the DAY. They may draw pictures, cut out articles, or summarize the events. Instruct them to give reasons why they included each item.

Writer, ESL instructor, editor, traveler, seasonal ex-pat— my life is both an intentional and serendipitous circumstance. Motto — “Buy the ticket, and go!”

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