A letter to the teachers of English: 42Use newspapers in English classes (1) [Archives:2004/710/Education]

February 9 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
I wrote long ago in one of my letters about using the 'thaboor' sessions to improve your students' English; one of the suggestions I made was to get the students to read a few news items from an English newspaper aloud to the audience, so that some students would get practice in reading aloud along with others getting to know about Yemen as well as the world. I have seen this happening in some schools. In addition to this, newspapers can be of several uses in English classrooms. Let me share with you some of the uses in this letter.
Why newspapers? Newspapers are entertaining as well as enriching with the current news about the country of the learners and the neighbours. They are livelier than the textbooks, which most of the students find dull and boring. They provide more opportunities for interaction in the classrooms, because the messages they carry are familiar to the students and the teachers. They develop the knowledge of the students in addition to the language. They provide a variety in terms of language style, content, because different people write in the newspapers, unlike the textbooks, which have been produced by one or two people. As some one said, the information, once printed, becomes outdated; I remember one of the newspapers in Tamil (one of the languages in India) carrying this saying: Today's newspaper is tomorrow's history. But the newspapers carry information that is less outdated than the one in the textbooks.
How are newspapers useful for the teaching of English? In several ways. First of all, interesting news items from good newspapers can be used as materials for the learners to listen to; they can be read out by the teacher and simple questions asked of them to test their understanding. Such activities, if they happen periodically, will develop the listening skills of the learners. Teachers should be careful in selecting the news items for this activity; they should be in simple English, non controversial and familiar to the learners. Secondly, such interesting news items can be used as extra reading materials; students can read them on their own and their understanding is tested through simple and complex questions. Thirdly, interesting news items can be used as materials for writing, for summarizing, paraphrasing, reviewing in higher classes; for matching the titles with the news items, for finding the linkers, for practicing punctuation in the secondary classes. Fourthly, these news items can be used for developing study skills such as scanning and skimming. In short, the news items can be used as materials in addition to the textbook passages. As I said earlier, these can create a lot of interest in the learners as they are about 'here and now', about things happening around them.
The titles of the news items, as you all know, are not generally complete sentences; they are cryptic. For example, 'militants arrested', 'Post Day marked', UN to hold high-level summit'. You can frame grammar exercises using them, asking the students to expand the titles into sentences – a good practice involving active-passive voice or infinitives etc.
In addition, advertisements in the newspapers are a rich source for teaching several skills. I will write about it in my next letter, Insha Allah. Try to use newspapers in your classes as extra materials. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,