Using News Lessons for Adult ESL Conversation Classes

With the explosion of social media, news websites, and individual, citizen journalists, people seem to be addicted to the news these days. So, English language learning lessons based on the news are a great way to get learners talking. They communicate the happenings of a locality, a nation, or around the world.

And if you read the news long enough, you’ll begin to see that people everywhere have similar problems and concerns (i.e. politics, employment, business, technology, lifestyle, economy, entertainment, sports, etc.). When the news is approached in a strategic and organized manner, it can become a practical lesson to build learners’ English skills.

Using Engoo.com To Teach the News

There are several well-known news websites out there for ESL teachers and learners to use for free such as VOA, BBC Learning English, and Engoo.com. VOA is a perennial favorite of many teachers because of the highly developed lessons you can find there. BBC Learning English is a good source for both a variety of information and language points.

But my preference these days is for Engoo.com. The lesson materials there are not only free, but updated daily, clean, and simple. Learners have vocabulary presented to them, then an article and a generous amount of questions follow the article. But, as an English language teacher, if that’s all you do in your news lessons, you’re missing so much more.

Today’s blog will give you a few pointers on using Engoo.com daily news lessons to help learners go beyond what they see in the material. The following points will refer to the elements of the articles and how they can be used to aid learners in maximizing practical results. Then, we’ll go over how these news lessons roll out.

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Material Organization

Enngoo.com news articles are arranged in a straightforward manner. Most if not all are only three pages in length. Each page is one element of the lesson. Page 1 contains the vocabulary. Page 2 has a news article for reading. Then on page 3, you’ll find comprehension questions. After those, discussion questions, then extension discussion questions. Each of these elements is briefly described below.

Vocabulary

Here you will find several keywords from the article, phonetic spellings, and their definitions. Engoo.com also provides general examples of how the words are used. But the examples are sometimes out of context. So, we’ll approach that later in this blog.

Article

The articles cover various news categories such as science & technology, culture & entertainment, economy & business, health, language & education, world, and more. The language used depends on the level of the article. Engoo.com has materials leveled between Beginner to Proficient. But a typical Intermediate level article might have between 200-300 words.

Comprehension Questions

After the article you will encounter a few questions that will help you, the teacher, discover whether learners understand concepts within the article. They are useful for getting a conversation started. And many times, in my experience, they lead us to branch off into conversations about ideas related to the article.

Discussion Questions

When finished with comprehension questions, you can move into discussion questions around the topic. Also, there’s nothing wrong with branching off into ideas presented in the article.

Further Discussion Questions

Finally, if you have more time, you can utilize discussion questions designed to extend learner talk time. All in all, these Engoo.com news lessons on their own are quite helpful for ESL teachers. However, there are some tweaks we can make to create an even more efficient news lesson. Read the roll out below to learn more.

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Roll Out

Ideally, you will have asked learners to read the article and prepare the day/night before, or the week before the lesson. Ask them to read the material, take note of the vocabulary, and think about how they might respond to the questions following the text.

Read Aloud

In class, I ask learners to read the article aloud. This is to check their pronunciation and help improve reading fluency which can translate to improved speaking fluency.

Gist

Here, I ask for the gist of the article. This is one sentence that encapsulates the entire article. It’s more of a summary of the summary. So, they’ll need to be able to paraphrase it. This is to check their comprehension of the article and mastery of the English needed for that topic.

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Vocabulary Activity

I may ask class members to use the vocabulary and create sentences based on the context. They’ll make statements that sound conversational. As a little twist, after we finish this activity, I go back and ask them conversation questions that facilitate their prepared statements. This helps develop fluency and confidence. ->

Conversation

Here we talk about the article using the discussion questions following the article.

Feedback, Wrap-Up, Review, and Assignment

As always, feedback is an important aspect of any lesson. You can go over structural challenges learners have, pronunciation speedbumps, and or vocabulary difficulties. After that, wrap up the lesson with transitioning comments such as, “So today we talked about. It was an interesting topic. I hope everyone learned something along the way.” Now review the segments of the lessons. When we review, we refresh the concepts and activities picked up during the lesson, with the idea that class members will take them with them into the outside world. Finally, if you have the option, assign class members with a writing activity to summarize what they gained from the lesson. You can even ask them to record a short commentary for submission and ‘grading’ in the next class.

Additional Ideas

If it is an intensive course, I’ll assign them to write/type out all their answers to questions, write out the gist, and vocabulary activities prior to the lesson. This provides them with a ready reference to answer questions. In turn, this can help build greater confidence and or improved fluency. You can also check their writings to see where each class member may be having structural or lexical challenges. You can even ask them to record themselves reading the article out loud. As a bonus, if you’re up for it, you can even record yourself reading the article out loud. This gives them an example of pronouncing difficult vocabulary while they’re preparing for the lesson.

What Do You Think?

We think this is a simple yet practical way to take a news lesson and develop it into a more efficient and practical language learning aid. What do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts about this activity. Or tell us your experience using this activity in your next ESL class. Maybe you have another way of teaching a news lesson you’d like to share. We’d love to hear from you. Enroll today to get professional TESOL training! Recommended Reading: TESOL Teacher in Madagascar: Using Authentic Material in the ESL Classroom The Importance of Integrating Skills When Replacing the Textbook Authentic Material: How to Teach English Using Radio or Podcasts

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