Current Events Lesson for English Language Learners

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For the last two years, I have taught English to children, teenagers, and adults in Germany. Teaching English language learners in a foreign country is much different than teaching English language learners in the US. Therefore, I have referenced several of the blogs and websites in my blog roll, which offer such wonderful ideas. My curriculum this year has incorporated several of these ideas. Therefore, I plan to share more about what works in my classes and where you can find these resources. Furthermore, I hope these lessons will help mainstream teachers adapt their curricula for English language learners in their classes or students with special learning needs.
The Challenge
In my courses, my students are given challenges versus homework and these are not required. However, I find most students will meet the challenge, especially if given choices. For this lesson, the students chose to share one of the thousands of articles at the Breaking News English website created by Sean Banville. In order to explain the task I used the Screenr video below which took me less than 5 minutes to do. This Screenr can easily be embedded in any wiki or website.

Breaking News English
Breaking News English is an excellent and free website with several tools for struggling readers and English language learners. The short articles are accompanied by podcasts. Students can easily subscribe to the podcasts to receive frequent updates about news they care about happening all over the world. Furthermore, the website has online quizzes for students, grammar lessons, vocabulary reviews, and so much more! Check out Russell Stannard‘s video of the features to find out more!
In Class
During the class, students shared why they had chosen their articles. Each article topic was quite different! We discussed diverse topics, such as Michael Jackson’s funeral, Anne Frank, water found on the moon, and more. I even showed the 20 second YouTube video of Anne Frank.We listened to one article’s mp3 without reading the text, read another article without listening to the mp3, then read to ourselves while listening to the mp3 of the article. We took a poll to see which technique was easiest for the students. We took another poll where students picked the hardest and easiest article for them to understand. Then we discussed these poll results. I especially enjoyed the students’ reasons why they thought some articles were easy and some were hard, because these were the same reasons to consider when deciding which English materials to read. On their own they realized they should read materials they have an interest in and some previous knowledge about.
Goal-Setting
Furthermore, we discussed how to best practice learning English outside the class. All the students read or listened to news throughout the day in their native language. Most of the students read newspapers and some read the news online or watched the news on television. The students set learning goals to incorporate into their daily news routine. For example, one student committed to watching CNN English news at least once a week in addition to watching the German news. Another student committed to reading an English and German newspaper at least once a week. Another student said they would try reading Google English news online.
Feedback
When I asked the students if they would use the Breaking News English site to practice their English, all replied yes. The students thought the articles were interesting, easy to understand, did not take too much time, and enjoyed the vocabulary exercises as well as the podcasts! My students’ English levels range from low-intermediate to high-intermediate. When I asked my students on feedback over the lesson, they all replied that they had learned a lot and were excited to try and reach their goals. The only negative feedback was they said I should force them to do the challenges. You can’t win them all!

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