Teaching ESL Students with News Articles

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Topical news stories can be highly interesting to ESL students and a great way to get students to participate in your lessons. You can either tailor news articles yourself or focus on using news sites that are dedicated to ELLs.

If you choose your own articles for your lessons, you should consider whether the articles have interesting content and interesting language constructs. Look for good grammar exponents or interesting sentence style and syntax. You should avoid articles that are too long and focus on topics that lend themselves to discussion.

Ideally, you should design introductory exercises before you have your students read a piece. This can range from discussing questions or pictures related to the topic to quizzing your students in order to test their knowledge of the topic.

You also have the option to take advantage of news sites that are dedicated to describing current events in simplified English. Several such free sites exist that are perfect for older ESL students:

Breaking News English – This site offers articles and spoken pieces on current news by providing mp3s, docs, and pdfs. It also offers supporting activities such as vocabulary matching and cloze passages. The site posts news articles every few days and has a huge set of archives.

BBC Learning English: News English – This site also has extensive archives. Its articles are shorter than those of Breaking News English, but it offers vocabulary lists and audio recordings.

Voice of America: Special English – Special English is designed for ESL students and has a core vocabulary of 1,500 words. This site offers radio shows from Voice of America in special English. Both transcripts and MP3s are available.

Simple English News – Designed for ESL students, this site features very short articles and headlines. It also offers the option of listening to the articles being read.