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How can I use news stories in class?

April 28, 2016

Discussing current events in your language classes can be an incredibly valuable part of your curriculum. Since 2016, The Comprehensible Classroom has been publishing bi-weekly news summaries of current events from the Spanish speaking world, written so that your Spanish students can understand them.

how to use news stories and current events in language classes

How to use current events in class

If you have a past or current subscription to El mundo en tus manos or a similar publication, here are some ways that you can use the articles with your Spanish students.

El mundo en tus manos 2021-2022 subscription cover

Purchase the 2021-2022 subscription to El mundo en tus manos. This subscription is a collaboration between Martina Bex, Maris Hawkins, and Nelly Hughes.

The first issue will be published on August 20, 2021, and the final issue will be published on May 20, 2022.

Let the students read the articles, no strings attached.

Providing content and time for students to read without having to complete any activities is important. We don't want students to equate reading with work.

Read and discuss the articles as a class. 

If possible, project the stories to make it easy for students to follow along. Employ all of those lovely TCI skills such as circling new, important structures, checking for comprehension, popping up grammar, and--most important--personalizing the content. There are lots of tricks out there to read the text together in different ways (Carol Gaab has a great workshop about this!), but you don't have to do anything fancy. Some quick ideas are a choral read-aloud in Spanish, splitting the class into four teams and having teams take turns reading sentences aloud, and having students NOT read a specific, high frequency word each time they come to it (maybe substituting a sound in its place).

Have students read the articles individually and complete an individual activity.

But before you do, ask yourself why you want them to complete the activity. Is it to force them to interact with the text a second time for more comprehensible input? Is it to show you how well they understood the text? Is it to practice critical thinking skills? Once you have determined your purpose, you can choose the activity that you want to assign. Here are some ideas that work well with any news article (all of them could be done in English or in the target language, depending on whether your goal is to assess their reading comprehension or to interact further with the text):

  • Shrinking summary: Students summarize the article then summarize their summary. (*printable activity sheet in Independent Textivities Packet)
  • What's it all about?: Students state the main idea then state an opinion they have about it or a reaction they have to it. (*printable activity sheet in Independent Textivities Packet)
  • Let's chat: Students write [3] personalized discussion questions about the article (either Author & Me or On My Own QAR Types--it helps if you have trained students in QAR so they know what you are looking for!) (*printable activity sheet in Independent Textivities Packet)
  • Story Elements glove: Students identify the story elements of the news article  (*printable activity sheet in Independent Textivities Packet)
  • Draw 1-2-3: Students draw 1 illustration, add 2 speech bubbles, and write a 3 sentence summary (*printable activity sheet in MORE Independent Textivities packet)
  • Jeopardy: Students write 3-5 Answer/Question multiple choice questions about the story (*printable activity sheet in MORE Independent Textivities packet)
  • Four Square Story Map: Students write something positive, something negative, something important, and a question about the story.
  • Emotional connection: Students identify the emotion that best describes the story

Have students read the articles individually or in small groups and complete a cooperative learning activity.

This can be done after an individual activity, but it doesn't have to be. I have written about lots of different cooperative learning activities (click here to read the archives), but Jillane Baros just wrote the most comprehensive post on Kagan cooperative learning activities + TCI EVERIt's awesome. Just take her seriously when she says to get your CI skills down before working on your Kagan skills. You've got to know what good CI is and how to provide it so that you can discern and practice how Kagan strategies can complement CI, not turn the class into an output free-for-all. Some quick Kagan ideas that come to mind are Fan N Pick (using questions that they wrote or that you wrote about the text), Simultaneous Presentations using any number of Kagan strategies, like Inside/Outside Circle, One Stay/Two Stray, or Stand Up/Hand Up/Pair Up (sharing one of the worksheets that they did earlier), or Quiz-Quiz-Trade after students have each written one question about the text.

More ideas for using news articles with language learners

Here are some blog posts with more ideas for using current events in your language classes:

Look for more ideas on this Pinterest board!

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