Newspaper DOs and DON’Ts
- 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 will 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.
- Allow learners to select an article that interests them, work on it and report back to other learners.
- Be clear on aims. Is it reading or speaking you want to practice? Or both?
- Get learners to read outside class as much as possible.
- 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.
- Help learners to become better learners. Reading is a great way of acquiring language. If you can get your learners to regularly dip into English newspapers then 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 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?
- Make a song and dance about teaching words like headline, editorial, column, leader. Is it that useful to learners?
- Assume learners are interested in British, American, Canadian or Australian culture, particularly tabloid gossip. The British tabloids, for example, are a culturally specific type of newspaper and are not universal.
- Dwell on comparative style and discourse features of tabloid papers versus broadsheets. These are often either obvious or of interest only to journalists and media students.
- Assume what you find interesting in a newspaper will interest your learners.
- Spend ages with tippex blanking out words (if you want to do this type of exercise get your learners to white out words themselves and test each other).
- Set simple tasks for lower level learners with a very difficult piece of text, e.g. Find three numbers and two countries in this 3 column article on the Middle East. Unless these tasks are followed up with an opportunity to comprehend and interact with the text, they’re condescending and (almost) pointless.