Teaching English Overseas
Using Newspapers in the Classroom
Ask any new ESL/EFL teacher (or, for that matter, a seasoned teacher) what comes to mind as an authentic reading activity for their learners and almost certainly one of the first things he or she will say is “using a newspaper.”
Newspapers are much more current than coursebooks, they make an excellent springboard for lessons, and they feature different types of language (narratives, stories, letters, advertising, reports, etc.).
If you plan to use a newspaper, keep the task authentic. One aim of reading newspapers should be to encourage students’ reading outside the classroom. If you TEFLise a text too much, you run the risk of killing the enjoyment from it.
Here are six suggestions for using newspapers in class:
1. Use English language newspapers produced for the local community if you are teaching in a country where English is not an official language. Many large cities have a newspaper in English. The topics within these papers are likely to have more of an impact on the learners than topics that are specific to the British or American press.
2. Allow learners to select an article that interests them; they can read it and report back to other learners.
3. Be clear on aims. Is it reading or speaking you want to practice? Or both?
4. Encourage learners to read outside class as much as possible.
5. Make your tasks as authentic as the material. Tasks like “underline all the verbs in the past” are of limited value and should be used sparingly. Think about what people do when they read newspapers in their own language.
6. Help students to become better learners. Reading is a great way of acquiring language. If you can get your learners to regularly dip into English newspapers, their reading skills, writing skills, and vocabulary will improve. Talk about reading and comprehension of English texts with your learners as well, and share strategies that they can use when reading. How often do they use a dictionary for example? At the end of a course, do they feel they are reading faster or better?
For more ideas on how to incorporate newspapers into your teaching English overseas classroom and to read other useful articles on ESL pedagogy, go to www.oxfordtefl.com/tefl_links.htm and click on “For Teachers and Students.”
Lindsay Clandfield is a teacher trainer at Oxford TEFL (www.oxfordtefl.com). He is also the author of several ESL books for students. His latest book is Straightforward Elementary (Macmillan 2006).
Duncan Foord, is the co-founder of Oxford TEFL and director of teacher training. His 17 years experience in language teaching and training includes spells in France, the U.K., and Spain. He has been involved in training and course design on both certificate and diploma level courses for the past 10 years.