This just in: The news is about to become your favorite new classroom tool.
ESL students quickly evolve and grow into eager, news-thirsty knowledge seekers.
Thanks to their language classes, the world has become a little smaller. Your students are taking interest in those popular stories popping up on their social media feeds.
They want to know more about the world around them, and they want to use their new English skills to fuel their insatiable desire to learn.
Your ESL students may be developing in-depth questions and may start to ask you about local and global news. They may want to read and understand the different perspectives of a particular news story or collect a more general overview about what is being reported outside their country.
Give them the knowledge they yearn for. Sharing a few excellent online news resources with your students will further their ESL skills. Current events are also a wonderful way for you to expand on your well-developed reading comprehension lesson plans.
Which ESL News Articles Should I Choose for My Students?
There are thousands of online news resources out there to choose from, often making the selection process seem difficult.
You can type in a few key words relating to a trending news story and find multiple articles, online news resources and broadcast clips with a click of the mouse. Once you see the spread of information before you, finding the best fitting and most appropriate online news resource should be your number one priority.
When searching for online news articles you must first look to your students. It all comes down to keeping things relevant to your students. Keeping news relevant and level appropriate will allow your students and you to discuss the new material easily.
Here are a few things to think about when choosing a great news article for your ESL lesson:
- What level are my students?
- Is the article interesting to me?
- Is the article age appropriate?
- Are there any conflicting cultural views?
- What are my students most interested in (business, fashion, etc)?
- What are the needs and goals of my students?
The needs and goals of your students are essential to consider when picking out online ESL news articles. Do your students want to focus on reading comprehension or do they want to formulate an opinion and share it?
Your students may even want to hear your outside perspective since you will most likely be from a different culture than that of your students. Understand their needs and goals and you will be able to craft an exciting and informative lesson using ESL news articles.
Key Elements of a Great Online News Resource
There are a few key elements you will be looking for in any article.
Not all articles are created equal, especially when you are discussing online news articles. There are a lot of home-grown news blogs and websites out there with sub-par writers. You should be reading all the articles before presenting them to your class. Look for grammar issues, vulgar language and possible cultural and ethnicity related issues.
Here are a few excellent things to look for when pre-reading online ESL news articles:
- Is the article using correct grammar?
- Are there any conflicting or offensive cultural issues?
- Is the vocabulary appropriate for your students’ levels?
- Is the article free of vulgar or offensive language?
- How long is the article?
- Can you draw great talking points from the article?
Length and future discussion points of an article are also important aspects to think about when choosing the perfect ESL article for your students.
Picking articles that your students will be able to finish in one or two lessons is important. Too long and your students are likely to lose interest and the main news in the article could be lost.
Sticking with reputable online news resources is the best approach to tracking down ESL news articles. There are many great mainstream online news sites that have developed subsidiary sites tailored for ESL and native English students of all ages and interests.
FluentU, while it goes far beyond news, is a highly reliable source for news videos (with new videos being added every week) that are exactly right for your students’ levels.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
6 Essential Online ESL News Sites for You and Your Students
1. CNN Student News
CNN Student News is a news resource just for students, sharing breaking and popular news such that students can relate and understand.
CNN Student News is aimed at intermediate and advanced English speakers. It’s primarily targeting high school native English students, but being suited to this age group and language level means that it has some great components for ESL students worldwide. It is a reputable resource which sticks to current events and presents the information in a professional way.
CNN Student News covers world, sports, technology, entertainment, style and travel news using video broadcast, articles and video transcription for students to read. Your students can choose from a variety of news topics, allowing them to experience genuine interest while learning English.
You can incorporate multiple ESL skills utilizing CNN Student News in your lessons. One great ESL activity using short articles is to incorporate reading comprehension with topic discussion. You can introduce key vocabulary from the article as a little warm-up before letting your students read and answer carefully-designed questions about the article, provoking English thought.
Another excellent ESL exercise using CNN Student News is to pair the video with the article. This will allow your students to practice listening as well as reading and discussion. Almost all the articles you will find on CNN Student News will have short news broadcasts presenting the news covered in the article. This online news resource has many cool multimedia features that an ESL educator can add into their lesson plan.
For example, using this CNN Student News article on David Letterman, you can incorporate both listening and reading into your online news lesson. This article is set up perfectly for a little reading before listening or watching the video. In the section of the article that reads “#9 Everything is Comedy,” we get a brief summary of how David Letterman used comedy in his talk show routine. Ask your students to read the summary and give them follow-up questions like, “what do you expect to see in the video?” This will allow your students to engage in the material while predicting what they might see using the reading section as a guide.
2. Time for Kids
Time for Kids is a great online news site with an emphasis on young K-6 students.
This reputable online news resource is a weekly online publication for students to build confidence and enthusiasm for reading. It is not only for native English students. Time for Kids is more than useful for ESL students as well, creating an optimal reading experience for young ESL learners. World, entertainment, science, health and sports are a few of the exceptional topics your students can choose from.
Each news story is presented in a concise article or video for your students to really dive into. Given the target demographic of this website, the content is made to be easier to understand than traditional news articles.
Time for Kids also has a teacher’s page with great printables you can use to educate your students on English, culture, geography and special holidays associated with English tradition. The printables have great questions relating to the material which your students can discuss in groups, pairs or with you as a class.
An exceptional ESL exercise you can add into your lesson plan is making use of one of the informative printables available on the site. For example, there is a great printable on Antarctica. You can pair your students up and give each pair a worksheet (printable) discussing the geography and history of Antarctica. They will have to collaborate and discuss the answers to the questions relating to the material they read. It is a great visual lesson with reading, writing and communicative ESL sub-skills.
3. Smithsonian Tween Tribune
The Smithsonian Tween Tribune was developed by the Smithsonian Institute to encourage K-12 students (tweens in particular) to further their knowledge about the world around them while taking part in it by writing. The articles are submitted by young adults under the guidance of their teachers and professional journalists around the world. It is an amazing and unique online news resource that promotes community and learning.
There are various news topics posted on the Smithsonian Tween Tribune with three student grade sections to choose from; Grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. You can utilize these sections to choose level appropriate material for your students. There is also a teacher page where you can sign up and enjoy other benefits of using Smithsonian Tween Tribune in your classroom.
A great exercise for your students using Smithsonian Tween Tribune articles is to incorporate communicative learning into your students’ reading comprehension practice.
After every article there is a key question aimed at provoking deeper thought about the article’s main point. In the “Rugged Slopes Keep Extreme Skiers Stoked” article, you will find a great question asking about the main location focused on in the article. You can use that question and expand on it in your lesson plan, really developing some great conversation skills in your students.
Here are a few great follow-up questions using the question at the end of the Smithsonian Tween article discussed above.
Main Article Question: “What makes Tuckerman Ravine Extreme?”
- What does extreme mean in this article?
- Do you have any extreme hobbies?
- In the title of the article, the word “stoked” is used. What does stoked mean?
- What are you stoked about?
You can utilize this question to spark more interest in your students and build on a question with some excellent follow-up questions. Follow-up questions are essential for furthering their comprehension of the material. This can be a group, pair or classroom discussion with collaboration. You can also mix in some ESL writing skills, encouraging your students to write a short article of their own about the topic.
4. The New York Times Learning Blog
Most ESL students of a certain age have heard of The New York Times and New York. The New York Times Learning Blog is a reputable online news resource geared toward students, influencing them to take part in their world through reading.
This is a great online news site, offering short articles to hold your students’ attention with a few exceptional questions at the end of each article to bring about emotions and thoughts on the article’s main topic.
The New York Times Learning Blog is not just for native English students—it is amazing for ESL students.
This site has been nothing less than 100% useful for ESL teachers in the past and offers some excellent topics like world, entertainment, opinion, technology, business, science, health and sports. There truly is something for everyone with a helpful teachers’ section offering great lesson plans and ideas for your classroom activities.
Using this online news site will have some excellent benefits for you and your students. Allowing them to read and understand news from one of the most famous news publications in the world will build their confidence and overall ESL skills. You can incorporate the questions at the end of each short article, making them really put their English thinking caps on.
Here are a few excellent example questions from this Learning Blog post:
- Do you pay attention to the calorie count in your food?
- Do you try to eat healthier?
- Do you think it is fair to make restaurants label their dishes with a calorie count?
There are a lot of ways to use news articles to make your lesson more interesting and informative. Build on the articles with visual aids, utilizing pictures referencing the main topic. You could even find a short video clip covering the article’s topic. You can pair our example article and questions above with this short video from The New York Times.
The great thing about the Learning Blog is that all the content is free. However, if your students are more advanced or you’re looking for more native-level content to use in your class, you may find it wise to invest in a New York Times subscription for full access to the site.
5. Entrepreneur Online Magazine
The Entrepreneur Online Magazine is an excellent online news article resource for your intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students. This is an especially handy resource if some of your students are business-oriented and have goals regarding business promotions or consulting.
The Entrepreneur Online Magazine is full of excellent articles covering start-ups, technology, business leadership, psychology and philosophy. This online news resource will allow you to really engage your students in topics that provoke critical thinking.
Many ESL students will employ their English skills outside of the classroom as well, reading the Entrepreneur Online Magazine or subscribing to the print magazine to further their knowledge at work and home. (You and they can find Entrepreneur at a discounted rate on Magazine Line, along with many other great magazines that may be relevant to their interests and career paths.) You can really put together a thought-based list of questions that will challenge your students to think and respond in English about topics they have never spoken about before.
Your students can also build a vast vocabulary, business and academic, while utilizing this online news resource.
Put your students to the test using this example article from Entrepreneur Online Magazine:
- What is your daily mindset like? Positive, negative or does it depend on the day?
- How do you deal with toxic people at the office?
Questions relating to the main aspects of the article:
- Are you an early riser? Do you think getting up early will help you be better prepared for the day?
- How often do you get to be alone? Do you meditate?
- What are some benefits of keeping a “gratitude journal”?
- Do you enjoy reading motivational books? What books are you reading currently?
- How often do you get to engage in conversations? Are they in-depth conversations or the usual humdrum discussions?
6. The New Yorker
The New Yorker is where you can really put your advanced students to the test.
The New Yorker is a challenging read for your ESL students, allowing them to build their vocabulary even further while processing professional writing. They will be able to employ deep English thinking due to the in-depth content The New Yorker contains.
Since this content is written for adult, native English speakers, this is a great resource for adult ESL learners and covers news, culture, books, science, technology and business.
Building concise, challenging and philosophical questions into your lesson regarding the reading is essential for your students’ growth when using this exceptional online news resource. Below are a few great questions for your students to ponder and respond using this article from The New Yorker.
- What does feminism mean?
- Is there a “take your daughter to work” day in your culture?
- What messages are we sending to our children when discussing this event?
Let your students read a paragraph or two before pausing for discussion. Ask them about new words and phrases they may have encountered while reading.
You will develop a sophisticated academic conversation regarding the article’s topic and your students will enjoy the challenge as they share their thoughts and insight.
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With over 7 years of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.