I did a staff development session yesterday. Given that there was a stack of experience in the room, I basically relied on all my colleagues to come up with genius ideas. As a result, I felt a little guilty because I had virtually no input whatsoever. So I thought I would type up as many ideas as I could, then turn them into a neat list of ten.
SO, one newspaper. My ideas for how we can use it across a range of levels, in different ways.
1. The “Really easy can’t be arsed to plan a lesson” lesson
Seriously, this is so astonishingly easy and requires such little pre-planning, I don’t know why this isn’t in the general canon of teaching techniques.
You pick up several copies of said newspaper. You put the learners in groups. They write 10-15 questions about any part of the whole newspaper. You correct the questions. They write them neatly. They swap questions with another group, who answer the questions. They swap back & check. The end.
2. The “Really easy can’t be arsed to plan a lesson” lesson: Variations
- If you only have one copy of the paper, give the learners a page or two per group.
- If you think they would struggle with the openness of the other tasks, get them to select an article first, and only write questions on that.
- Get learners to only look at one aspect of the newspaper – e.g. adverts, and prepare questions about them.
3. Reading for Gist #1
Cut out a selection of pictures and headlines from each copy of the paper. Do it in such a way that the learners can’t guess which goes where by shape and size. If you prefer, cut them out, then type up the headlines so that they all look the same. Give each group of learners the paper and the cut up headlines and get them to match. To make sure they only read for gist, set a time limit. (This could then be followed by, e.g. number 3 above.)
4. Reading for Gist #2
Start with a discussion of the news, and get the learners to predict what stories might be in the paper, which might be on the front, then get them to look at the whole paper and identify the main stories and themes for the paper.
5. Just Pictures
Furnish each learner with a paper and some scissors. They then cut out four or five different pictures (based on any criteria that you or the learners suggest) and identify why they have chosen them. This discussion could lead to a simple writing task (“I like this picture. The dog is friendly.”) which could then become a group poster. The writing task could be more complex – using more complex sentence types (“I like this picture because the dog is friendly.” – or more extensive – try to link the pictures in some way.
6. Pictures & Text
At a higher level, and with each group using a copy of the newspaper from a different day of the week, the learners could select 2 or 3 pictures and cut them out, then summarise the story briefly. They then give the pictures to another learner/group of learners, who have to try and guess what the story is, and write a short summary. They then compare summaries. The completed, corrected and hopefully typed up work could then be turned into a wall display.
7. Alternative News
Using pictures from the paper, learners write completely fictional news stories.
8. Using the Paper
Of course, a newspaper is also a great tool in itself. You could practise imperatives and the language of instructions by getting learners to follow instructions to make a paper hat. If you wanted to make this more communicative, record two sets of instructions – one for a paper hat, one for a paper boat, then get the learners to listen separately to one set of instructions, master the method, and then explain it to someone from the other group. A natural follow up would be, of course, to write the instructions. If you can get enough copies of a newspaper, get the learners to plan and design a bridge to hold a pile of books as a speaking activity.
9. Beginner Literacy
Get learners to cut the letters out to practise spellings, or even leave messages after the manner of old fashioned ransom notes. Use the cut out letters to sort into upper case and lower case.
10. Write a paper
Having started with the howlingly obvious, I thought it best to conclude with the howlingly obvious. Get the learners to write their own class newspaper. Or just the front page. Or an article, or make an advert….