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Tips for Using English with The Washington Post

October 20, 2021

Since introducing our English with The Washington Post section late last year, we have received a lot of positive feedback. Newspapers are, after all, a great way to bridge the gap between the classroom and the "real" world.

Teachers who use the advanced version of the lessons have told us that their students benefit from exposure to authentic language, while teachers of lower levels say that they enjoy using the modified articles to generate discussion about current events and topical issues.

Some teachers, however, have asked for tips and tricks to make the lessons more engaging. Here are a few activities you can try to get the most out of this section.

Pre-Reading Activities

  • Choose 8–10 keywords from the article that will be familiar to students. Tell students that they will be using these words to predict the story. Put students into groups of three or four and have them work together to come up with a story. After all the groups have finished, ask a volunteer from each group to share their story with the class. Finally, read the actual article together as a class and vote on which group's prediction was the most accurate.
  • Read out the article's headline. Then give students a list of words in which half of the words are in the article and the other half are not. Using the headline, students decide which words will be in the article.
  • Write the headline on the board and give a brief summary of the article. Have students work together to brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic.
  • If the lesson contains photos, have students look at them before they read the article. Put students in pairs and have them come up with a headline to go with the photos.
  • Before students read the article, have them practice their scanning skills by giving them a few specific questions with answers that are in the form of numbers, dates, or proper names.

Active Reading/Listening Activities

  • Read each paragraph of the article out loud. Pause after each one and see if students can tell you its gist. They can also write a sentence summarizing each paragraph.

  • As students read the article, encourage them to write down their own comprehension questions. For lower-level learners, they can write down questions that can be answered with a few words or yes/no. More advanced learners can ask factual questions as well as more probing questions that don't have a right answer, such as ones related to predicting outcomes. (See our blog post on Thin & Thick Questions.)

Video Activities

  • Before you read the article or go over the vocabulary, play a short clip of the video and have learners guess what the lesson will be about.
  • Show a short clip with the sound off. If the clip is about an event, ask students to write a narration of the event. If the clip shows a person talking, have students describe the speaker's appearance and then speculate about their personality, job, family, etc.
  • After watching the video, have students create a mind map based on what they saw. (See our How to Brainstorm lesson for tips on mind mapping.) Then put students in pairs and have them take turns telling each other as much as they can about the video using their mind map.

Post-Reading Activities

  • Ask students to summarize the article in their own words. They can write their summaries down or they can present them orally.

  • Challenge students to write a letter to someone who is mentioned or quoted in the article. Encourage them to share their opinion about the topic, even if they don't agree with the person they are writing to. If they disagree with the addressee, make sure they support their argument with facts and details. 

  • Have students look online for articles from other sources on the same topic or event. Have them make a list of any factual differences they find between the new sources and The Washington Post article.

  • Organize a jigsaw activity by dividing students into groups of three or four. Assign each group a particular aspect of the topic from The Washington Post lesson. For example, if your class is working on the lesson Ecotherapy for Kids, you could break the topic down into the four popular types of ecotherapy: nature meditation, horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and conservation-related activities. You would then ask the groups to become "experts" on their given topic by doing additional online research about the topic and reporting back to the class with their findings. This activity works best if you give the groups a list of questions about their topic before they start their research. If time permits, all the groups can collaborate to create a poster or fill in a chart or table using their research.

We would love to hear what other activities you have done with your students. Please post your ideas in the Comments section below.

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Comments (2)

Linda K.(Teacher)

Thanks for these tips! I look forward to trying out the Washington Post content in the near future with my class.

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Linda,

I hope these tips work well with your class. Let us know how it goes.

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