Language Learning through Current Event Analysis:
A lot has happened in the world over the past few weeks that affects all of us, regardless of where we live or the language we speak.
Often, when a learner is in a new language environment they are focusing on textbooks, grammar and meeting their basic needs – “how do I politely ask for …”. Teaching current events during language learning provides an opportunity for learners to practice self – expression, develop topical and critical thinking vocabulary, and practice a habit that is usually quite ordinary in a home language. This is also a great way to encourage students to practice conversation with people outside of their language classroom – they will have something to talk about !
Mary and I have both been working on integrating current event lessons into our language teaching curriculum – here is one of our best (so far).
Analyse a Local Issue Jigsaw:
Students will be able to:
- Identify the main issues in a local / topical current event
- Identify bias and opinion in a news article
- Develop vocabulary to express opinion
- Develop and use vocabulary pertinent to the issue
Number of students: 4+
You can use different types of media, but I usually use newspaper articles from different newspapers around a certain issue. For example – in BC right now, the debate over pipelines.
You will have to read each article yourself – I usually ask two types of questions, the first of which are basic comprehension questions. This makes sure that students know what they are looking for in the text, and can glean the main ideas.
Open Ended Questions:
I usually call these my “thinking questions” because the answers are not on the page. These questions can be used to help a student prepare their presentation to the rest of the group, and develop their own discussion questions to relay to group members.
Teachers have a choice here – do you identify the important vocabulary? Do you ask your student to write down any new words they found? It’s up to you, and it depends on the abilities of your students.
1. Initially, I would facilitate a “warmer” activity by showing a short video clip around the issue. We would have some comprehension and thinking questions to discuss, and also look at some of the vocabulary. We might watch the clip a few times to understand the meaning. The aim is to get student to understand and discuss the basics around whichever issue you are going to be working with.
2. Break students into groups and hand each a news article. Each student will be responsible for answering the questions, finding new vocabulary and reporting back to the group.
3. After every student has had an opportunity to complete step 2 – the groups will meet up again, and share their articles. Each student will get a copy of the questions for each of the three other articles represented in their group. They will have to discuss and write down the answers from each article representative, as well as any new vocabulary
4. Optionally – groups can share their discussions to facilitate a larger class discussion. The teacher can give the students some thinking / writing time to prepare discussion questions for the whole class.
5. Students can bring in articles from their home country / in their home language to compare what is written abroad versus in Canada. This is another way to facilitate discussion as quite often there are significant differences in the reporting.
For some more great ideas for teaching current events, check out the Spanish for Social Justice resource for the Spanish classroom.