Mark Rebuck, Nagoya University
- Key words: News exchange, presentation
- Learner English level: Intermediate and above
- Learner maturity level: University and above
- Preparation time: For the teacher, minimal
- Activity time: Around10 minutes per presentation
- Materials: None
Exchanging news stories, a popular activity in classes incorporating current topics, involves students choosing a news story and, after careful preparation, retelling it (without referring to the news article) to a classmate, who then asks questions on it. A basic news exchange activity can be found in Sanderson (1999, p.60), with variations on the theme described in Rebuck and Tanner (2008). What is outlined below is a follow-up to the news exchange that involves students linking their articles into a cohesive presentation. Since preparing for the presentation requires students to revisit previously chosen stories, the activity promotes the recall and recycling of language. It can thus be effective in promoting vocabulary learning. The inspiration for news link presentations came from the host of BBC radio 4’s discussion programme, Start the Week, who moves seamlessly between guests by linking one topic with a seemingly unrelated one.
Ideally, students will do the news exchange activity at least five times during a semester. Before doing it for the first time, tell students they will use their articles later in the semester to make a presentation. Do not, however, give any more information as this could influence the stories they choose and thereby compromise the activity’s key aim: finding connections between discretely chosen news items.
Step 1: After the final news exchange, tell students that in the following lesson they will present to the class any four of the stories used in previous news exchanges.
Step 2: Explain that when preparing students need to think of ways to move smoothly between stories. Their presentations should not resemble the NHK news in which separate pieces of news are clearly demarcated.
Step 3: Go over some phrases that are sometimes employed to segue from one topic to another, for example: From talking about…, I want to move on to…, Which brings me to my next story, which is….
Step 4: Give some pointers on making presentations. Tell students that, as in the news exchange, they should retell, not read, the story to the audience. Notes, however, can be used for prompts. If the appropriate equipment is available, encourage the use of visuals; for example, the newspaper article, or just its headline, can be projected onto the screen as the student speaks. Key words in each presentation can be written on the board or, if sent to the teacher beforehand, collected into a handout.
Step 5: On the day of the presentations, tell the students that questions to the presenter are welcome after each presentation, but also ensure post-presentation questions by informing members of the audience that they will be chosen at random to ask their questions.
Finding links to weave together different news stories is a challenging exercise in creative language use and creative thinking that also promotes the recycling of language. It should be noted that while Step 3 introduces some linking phrases, trans-story links need not be explicitly signaled. Below, for example, is how one student moved between following two stories:
“Woman filmed dumping cat in wheelie bin in Coventry” (BBC News, August 24, 2010)“Gov’t study group sets safety standards for konnyaku jelly” (Kyodo News, December 23, 2010)
“I feel sorry for the woman because nobody likes her now, but I also feel sad for the cat. Anyway, this story shows how much English people care about animals, but it also raises problems about CCTV. It must be scary to be stuck in a wheelie bin for fifteen hours, but I think it’s more scary to have konnyaku jelly stuck in your throat. In fact, recently some children died from choking on konnyaku jelly… .”
(Transcribed from a class recording with minor corrections added)
Rebuck, M., & Tanner, P. (2008). Newspapers and more: Activities for current topics. Nagoya City University, Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 9, 97-110.
Sanderson, P. (1999). Using newspapers in the classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.