- Key words: news stories, discussion, ranking, editorial decision making
- Learner English level: Lower intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: College/university
- Preparation time: 40 minutes
- Activity time: 60-75 minutes
- Materials: Handout (see Appendix A)
This activity is aimed at classes such as news discussion, journalism English, and current topics. It’s designed for a January meeting because it makes use of materials published just before the turn of the year, but the format could be adapted for any time. It is basically a group ranking activity, but with the added challenge for students to imagine they are producers or editors of a TV or radio program. That means they need to consider the order in which to present their chosen stories and then to justify their decisions. With lower English level classes, I find that some—sometimes a lot—of the discussion takes place in Japanese, but all the written input is in English, as is the written output and spoken report back to the class. The focus is on discussing the main news stories of the previous year; it’s a useful way to conclude a course which has used the news as its content.
Step 1: Get the Daily Yomiuri on the day towards the end of December when it features the top ten national and the top ten international news stories of the year, according to Yomiuri Shimbun readers.
Step 2: Make a handout (similar to Appendix A). This has three components—an explanation of the task, a summary of the 20 news stories, and a space for the groups to write down the ten stories they choose in the order they would present them in a news roundup of the previous year.
Step 1: Organize your class into groups of approximately three or four students. Bear in mind you’ll need space on the board for each group to show their rankings.
Step 2: Give the handout to each group. Sharing promotes more negotiation and discussion, so two handouts for each group should be enough.
Step 3: Read through the explanation on the handout. Each group has three related tasks. First, groups have to read through the story summaries. Then, imagining they are editors of a news roundup program, they have to choose the ten stories they think are the most important. Their program has to be a mix of national and international stories. I stipulate that they can have as many as six of one kind (national or international) but not more.
In the final stage, students decide and write their running orders with a “slug” (a journalistic term for the name of a news item). Stress that they should think carefully not only how to start and end their program, but also how one story should follow another. They will need to explain and defend their decisions later.
Step 4: While the students are doing the tasks, draw columns on the board.
Step 5: As you notice groups finishing the final task on the handout, ask them to choose someone to copy their program running order in their assigned column on the board (see Appendix B).
Step 6: Quietly point out to the writers where there are spelling errors or omitted words so they can correct them.
Step 7: The final part of the class is to compare and contrast the decisions of each group (see examples in Appendix C). This is a class discussion guided with a mix of your comments and questions to each group, such as: Why did they begin with story X? Why end with story Y? Why did they omit story Z which the other groups have included? The point is not to criticize students’ decisions but to ask them to explain their reasoning.
Students are familiar with TV news programs and I find they understand the task, but that they sometimes have interesting and varied reasons for making different decisions. To ensure a more satisfactory discussion and defense, it may work better if you require the groups to first prepare their reasons in writing.
I use this activity in my journalism English class every January and have always found it to be thoughtful and enjoyable for the students. They have discussed many of the stories over the previous months in other tasks so they are familiar with most, if not all, of them. This final roundup is an engaging and fun way of reminding students of the stories and recycling vocabulary from them.
Appendices: Available from the link below
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