- Keywords: writing and reading development, opinions, news articles
- Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: Varies (Depending on class size)
- Activity time: 3 to 4 class periods
- Materials: Handouts, News articles, Dictionaries, highlighters
The forming of unique opinions and persuasive expression are two of the most difficult skills for foreign language students to acquire during high school. Being able to convey your own opinion on an event or story rather than just describing it is an essential communicative tool. Throughout the course of the academic year, I place an emphasis on the ability to express opinions and provide rationale for those opinions. This news article project reinforces skills learnt throughout the year and provides students with a useful introduction to the types of expertise which will become essential as the students move into university education.
Step 1: Find and prepare a few appropriate news stories. There should be as much variety as possible. (See appendix for an example)
Step 2: The selected news articles should be edited for length, language level, and complexity (depending on the academic level and number of students).
Step 3: Decide on a comprehension question for each topic that requires students to form an opinion. (See appendix)
Step 1: All students are given a news article. Students are given handouts in pairs so that adjacent students have the same article.
Step 2: Students are then asked to read the articles and write down any unknown words in the vocabulary box provided on the handout.
Step 3: Using the dictionaries provided, students look up and make a note of the Japanese meaning of the unknown words.
Step 4: After demonstrating, ask students to highlight sections of the article that they consider the most important. Remind students to pay attention to facts, dates and numerical data.
Step 5: Using the highlighted material, students are asked to paraphrase and write a short summary of the news article on the handout provided. This summary should be kept to a maximum of 50 words. This process gets the students thinking about the relation of each sentence to the whole, rather than just the literal meaning.
Step 6: After finishing, students are asked to write a short opinion. Each student is given a second handout that includes an opinion question related to their article (See appendix). The answer should be no longer than 50 words. Students first write ideas in Japanese.
Step 7: Students then arrange the summary and opinion piece onto one speech paper. During the penultimate class, students are asked to practice in order to memorise their speeches.
Step 8: Finally, students present their news articles and corresponding opinion pieces in groups of four. The audience must then give feedback on whether they agree or disagree with the speakers’ opinions.
This project was hugely successful in eliciting opinions and helping students grapple with contemporary events. The adaptability of this task makes it an appropriate activity for students of varying abilities. If you teach more academic students, challenging articles are more appropriate. Likewise, if your students are at a pre-intermediate level, choosing articles with a humorous element will be more effective. Overall, the project not only succeeded in both developing an important skill set, but also provided students with a unique opportunity to engage in more academic topics before starting university.
The appendix is available below.