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LSA2 on the DELTA means skills, and for me it means reading skills. This is a little odd, as I don’t think I have actually ever done an overtly skills-focused lesson before. Yes, skills have been practised, and not always with TALO (Text As a Linguistic Object – thanks, Ray Williams), often reading texts are, for me, prompts to do other more productive work. I’ve worked at preparing students for exams like Cambridge ESOL Skills for Life and Main Suite, but I never really understood how to get students working on developing their skills.

This got me thinking about what resource I might use in class as a vehicle for pratising and stretching my students’ reading skills in class. We’d been shown a reading lesson in one of our DELTA input sessions where the teacher used a graded reader to look at skimming and scanning with her students. Now, although I may end up doing something similar for my assessed lesson, that’s a little removed from a real-life context for my taste. So what could I use in class??? Ahh, newspapers.

I’d looked at articles in previous years, exploited the photos accompanying news stories and even given my students crosswords to do. I hadn’t really worked on reading.

Step in @theipaper – The Independent’s and ‘Britain’s first and only concise quality newspaper’ (their words, not mine). But it is actually really quite good for certain activities you can do in class. What follows are a few ideas of how to use the paper and its sections (sincere apologies if you don’t teach in Britain and can’t get this paper, though you might find something similar)

  • Inside the front cover is The News Matrix, basically a news-in-brief section covering the headlines and brief summaries of most of the news stories covered in that day’s edition. There’s a wide range of stories and they are both national and international (Friday 17th’s ed went from underpants bombers to cheeky satnav devices fooling drivers). This could be used as part of a skim-reading activity – students cast their eye across the page to get an idea of the general topics covered in the paper that day; but qually it could form a scanning activity – ask the students to choose a headline from a list and find it, or ask them a prompt question, which in the pic below could be ‘What happened in the USA?’
click to get the big picture
  • The Matrix pages could also be used as a ‘dogme-esque menu’ for selecting the text students would like to look at in class. ‘Which of the stories most interests/appeals to you?’
  • One of the great things about any paper is that they are multi-modal, that is you get text and visuals working together to make meaning, and we work with them to get meaning out of it. This lends itself to approaching reading from a schematic starting point. Give students a picture and ask them what they know about it. This is a way of activating their previous knowledge about a story or some aspect of it. This top-down processing way of attacking a text can be useful as it allows us to use this knowledge while reading the text – we may be able to get the meaning and sense of the text without understanding every single word (very VERY important for language learners who need to get their reading speed fast). Throw in the headline and you have the makings of a prediction activity – what do you think the text is going to be about? what questions would you like the text to answer?
click to get the big picture
  • The fact the newspaper is concise is a huge boon. Even with the higher level students I’m currently teaching (by which I mean higher comparatively, not going up to super-duper advanced level – side note, I would love to teach higher levels sometime, maybe it’s time to skip out of ESOL…) a page length article in any newspaper is going to be too long. These are great, as there’s enough meat to look at (and skim and scan over) without it being too daunting. I’m also planning on using reading masks to develop the students reading speed and this would work well with these articles.


Level – I was a little mean here, since I realised that the level of language (especially the range of vocab) in an indie newspaper is probably beyond these learners. Lesson learned for next time: be more selective in how many articles to look at, think about providing a glossary of key vocab definitions

Time – This lesson took 2 hours and 15 minutes in total. That did include a pre-reading task of just chatting about reading in general and asking my students about their reading habits, and is definitely not a bad thing, but a DELTA assessed lesson is just 60 minutes long. Lesson learned for next time: limit the texts, limit the skills, jettison the general chit-chat about reading (can be done as it’s only really a one off).


DISCLAIMER Of course, the i is not the only newpaper that is good for the classroom, but I do think I have found a fun(ish) and challenging new resource for teaching. I HAVE NOT BEEN PAID BY THE INDEPENDENT OR I PAPER TO WRITE THIS BLOGPOST 😉