Incorporating current events into the classroom in an easy-to-use format is a great way to help adult learners practice their skills. Over the years, we have asked tutors and teachers to share with us the strategies they have found successful for using easy-to-read news stories, specifically from News for You, in their own classrooms. Here is the first installment of some of their tips, strategies, and exercises to use in lesson plans.
1. Stump the Teacher
After reading and discussing an article, play Stump the Teacher. Students need to write at least two questions related to the article. The students should know the answers to their questions. Writing questions is often difficult, especially for ESL students. The teacher must answer the questions from memory without referring to the article. Students love to stump their teachers.
2. Write Creative Journal Entries
Set up a regular time for journal writing in class. Pose a question and ask students to write about it. For instance, have students imagine a photo of a half-ton couch. Then pose the question, "What would you do if you woke up one morning and everything in your room was huge?" Students can use their imaginations as they write their responses.
The activity promotes creativity and humor. You may choose to ask students to share what they have written with their classmates.
3. Literal and Inferential Questions
First, model and explain that who, what, where, when, why, and how questions can be literal (facts from an article) or inferential (no right answer in an article). For inferential questions, students must either give an opinion or gather evidence from the article or story to make a judgment.
Tape two large pieces of paper on a wall. Label one "Literal" and the other "Inferential."
Ask students to read an article and write at least three questions about it, each on a sticky note. One of the questions should be inferential.
Have students exchange sticky notes with a partner and answer the questions. Students will then decide which of their partner’s questions are literal and which are inferential and should stick the notes on the appropriate papers on the wall.
Read the sticky notes and discuss with students whether the questions are in the right groups. Sticky notes can be moved if necessary. Finally, have the class group the questions into other categories (such as settings, themes, etc.)
4. Tell the Teacher
Ask students to read an article. Don't read the story yourself; it is important that you not know the details. Tell the students that you haven't read it, and that their task is to tell you the most important facts and details in the story.
List the points students tell you on the board and discuss whether all students agree on main points. Another option for this activity is to have students to list the main points on paper and exchange them with a partner to see if they agree on which points are most important.
5. Sound Search
After students have studied vowels or consonant blends, have a timed contest. Using an article, ask students to circle every word they can find that contains the sound or sounds you specify.
For example, you might say, "Circle all the words that have the long e sound. You have five minutes. Go!" When time is up, have students write their words on the board. Practice pronouncing and defining the words, and make sure they all have the right sound.
The same approach works for identifying parts of speech, verb forms, etc.
Check out News for You, a newspaper published weekly by New Readers Press for adults learning to read, and try some of these tips. News for You also has a section just for teachers with strategies organized by category and a downloadable weekly Teacher's Guide. Let us know if the strategies worked for and add some of your own tips and tricks in the comments below.
We'll be publishing more tips for using current events in the classroom in future blog posts. Subscribe to our blog so you don't miss them!