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Using Online News in Adult ESL Conversation Classes

Get your English conversation students talking with online news. When used properly, the news can become an integral part of the lesson to help your students build a repertoire of English communication skills. With the proliferation of online media, the news has become much more interactive and a great source of authentic material for adult ESL conversation classes. You can use written news articles for reading skills, video reports for listening skills, and even the comment sections of an article (Or a mock activity) for writing skills. More importantly, the news offers real and opposing viewpoints that can really spark an adult ESL conversation class!

This OnTESOL graduate blog will share some websites, where you can find online news for your class, and an example on how to make the pre-made lessons by Engoo much more effective. Do you want to learn to supplement the boring ESL textbook with authentic material? Take the accredited 120-hour TESOL certificate course offered by OnTESOL.

Top 3 Websites for Finding Online News for Your Class:

There are several well-known news websites for ESL teachers to use:

  • VOA is a 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.
  • Engoo.com offers updated daily, clean, and simple lessons where learners have vocabulary presented to them, then an article, and a generous number of questions follow the article.

Using Engoo

Engoo’s news articles are arranged in a straightforward manner. Most 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, discussion questions, and further discussion questions.


Here you will find several keywords from the article, phonetic spellings, and their definitions. Engoo 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.


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 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.

Roll Out in 8 Simple Step

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.

1- 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.

2- 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.

3- 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.

4- Conversation: Here we talk about the article using the discussion questions following the article.

5- Feedback: As always, feedback is an important aspect of any lesson. You can go over structural challenges learners have, pronunciation speedbumps, and or vocabulary difficulties.

6- Wrap-Up: 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.” Then review the segments of the lessons.

7-Review: 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.

8- Assignment: 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

Sometimes, I would assign students to write all their answers to questions, including 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.

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