Mar 11, 2022
5 mins read
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re basically 100 seconds from being doomed. What a cheerful way to start an article, I know.
But what can I say? It’s true that amid climate change and war crises and pandemics it's becoming really hard for some teachers to bring positive energy into the classroom.
However, because I know that doomscrolling is really bad for one’s health I’m trying:
A) to limit my news consumption - twice a day and from reliable sources only;
B) to counterbalance negative news’ effects on my mental health with as many positive articles I can read.
And it helps.
So I thought I’d share this bit of hope with my teenager and adult students too. At least in those few lessons a week we have together, we can find ways to address important themes and keep optimism alive by sharing good news.
In this post I am going to:
list some places on the web where you can find optimistic and solutions-focused journalism;
present some ideas, tools and activities to use news articles in your English-language lessons.
WHERE TO FIND POSITIVE NEWS
Here’s a list of websites I go to when I crave some optimism:
Positive News and The Optimist Daily are both independent publications that bring good news from around the world, focusing on progress, possibility and solutions;
Good news network, whose motto is ‘Good happens’, shares short inspiring stories and fun facts;
The Upside (by The Guardian) is a collection of articles “that seek out answers, solutions, movements and initiatives to address the biggest problems besetting the world”. This page is not updated as often as those above, but it’s definitely worth checking if you’re looking for some serious and reliable journalism;
Ideas by TED offers articles (and videos at the end of each one) in which experts tackle several issues, with topics that range from business and mental health to technology and the environment.
HOW TO USE THESE ARTICLES
Step 1. Grading language
First, you want to avoid having texts that are too complicated.
Make sure your students understand at least 70% of the article. As a rule of thumb:
For C1-B2 level students, leave the text as it is;
For lower levels, consider some adaptation.
Ways of adapting a text include:
Removing those parts that are not essential to understand the key ideas presented by the writer;
Grading language, that is changing some complex words and phrases into simpler ones that match our students’ language level.
You could do this manually. It does take some time though, and some experience. Or you could use two free tools to speed up the process:
Text Compactor allows you to paste a long article and reduce it to a percentage of its original length.
Rewordify automatically rephrases complex vocabulary to match a level of your choice. There’s even the option to automatically create quizzes and tasks such as matching words and definitions.
Step 2. Start the lesson with some reading activities
Preserving our energy levels for when we are in the classroom is key, this is why lessons should be planned quickly and effectively (learn how).
Here are some examples of how to start a lesson with an article.
PREDICT, THEN CHECK
Write the title of the article on the board. Students try to predict what they are going to read. This can be done in pairs or with the whole class, by discussing ideas or by brainstorming as many words as possible connected with the title.
Learners read the text in silence. Are any of the ideas or words they had mentioned before in the article? Are there any ideas they did not consider?
Learners are now going to focus on details. They read the text again and take note of any name, date or number they see.
In pairs/whole class. Without looking at the text, can they remember what those names, dates and numbers refer to?
They read again and check.
Use the text for the next part of the lesson.
Choose a short text, or make it shorter using this tool, cut the paragraphs and stick them around the classroom walls.
Put the students in pairs. One of them will be the 'runner' and the other one will be the 'writer'.
The aim is for the runner to read a part of the text, memorise it and dictate it to the 'writer'.
They change roles when the teacher claps her hands. Over several turns, they build the whole text.
The winner is the team that finishes first.
Students number the paragraphs to re-order the text.
Students check the original text and make corrections where needed.
Use the text for the next part of the lesson.
Use Spreeder. Paste a text and 'play' it (I like to set a speed of 700 words per minute for this). Can the students speed-read a text and understand what the article is about?
Try with a lower speed (300wpm). Can students write a good title for the text?
Hand out copies of the original text, and use this for the next part of the lesson.
Step 3. Add some follow-up activities
Besides creating comprehension questions about a text, you could also:
focus on a grammar point by selecting a sentence in the text where that grammar form or structure appears. You can then find ready-made controlled practice here.
focus on vocabulary, here are some tasks.
have students discuss questions in pairs. Find the article's topic and select some questions here.
In this post, I've tried to stress the importance of managing our media diet. Especially in periods of uncertainty, teachers and students should still look for joy and purpose in their lessons.
I've also listed some tools and websites that can help us edit a text and plan activities quickly, keeping in mind our students' levels and addressing their needs.
And you? What are the strategies you are implementing to cope with bad news? What reading activities do you like best? You can leave a comment below :)
'Strategies/Tools to support reading', AT Tools, http://attools.weebly.com/at-tools-for-reading.html
'Teaching reading Poster', British Council, accessed 7 March 2022, https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/B127c%20A1%20TE%20Staff%20Room%20Posters%204.pdf
Featured image from freepik