4 Ways News Articles Inspire Meaningful Lessons for ELLs

As our connection to the world becomes more global, so do the student demographics in our classrooms. Data shows that the number of English language learner (ELL) students in classrooms in the United States has grown dramatically over the past 15 years. In 1990, 1 in 20 public school students in grades K-12 was an ELL. Today, the number is closer to 1 in 9.  By 2037 it might be 1 in 4.

As educators, we need to adapt more globally focused learning practices. Here are four ways that reading and discussing news articles can help lessen the cultural gaps in our classrooms.

1) Teaching Language and Culture

Using news articles that are written for children is a great way to engage all students. Reading and discussing these articles help ELLs understand the different experiences of American culture. It is also a great way to engage their English-speaking classmates and help them to understand the culture of everyone in their school.

We know that students are motivated to read when we tap into their interests and choices. Students may be more motivated when expanding that choice to the latest news and current events, especially when those articles span multiple news genres like sports, arts, world/U.S. news, and animals. Reading about things that take place across the globe is not only interesting, but gives students an appreciation for other cultures.

2) Building Vocabulary Skills

If you have a subscription to a daily news platform like myON News, you can use the articles to engage readers and to provide ELL learners with the support they need. Utilizing these articles for lessons in vocabulary skills might include:

-Exploring unfamiliar words

-Finding words with a particular suffix or prefix

-Identifying words containing a particular vowel sound or consonant blend

-Learning compound words

-Using words in the past, present, and future tenses

-Showing possessives and plurals

-Exploring cultural slang

You can also create multiple avenues for further exploration by using video reels, slides, and connections back to books. myON News offers these features, making it my preferred platform for engaging ELL students in vocabulary and understanding.

3) Teaching Investigative Techniques

You can also use news articles to teach investigative techniques. Try:

-Exploring the five Ws (Who, What, Where, When, and Why)

-Making predictions

-Creating a timeline of events

-Summarizing articles

These techniques allow students to explore the news at their level, while still utilizing the skills they need for reading and understanding current events.

4) Introducing Sensitive Topics

As educators, we must also consider the potential negative effects that sensitive or controversial topics may have on students. In a multi-lingual, multi-cultural classroom, the possibility of friction between students of differing nationalities, religions, or races may be high when it comes to reading news items dealing with contentious issues. Consider the developmental appropriateness of content and the ability of students to process highly charged information and expand their understanding. This understanding allows educators to engage students in critical thinking conversations in which we come to see each other’s point of view.

Our diverse learners need exposure to real news, delivered in ways we can all understand.  Now the question is, how are you addressing current events with your students to foster 21st-century learning?

Christina Jordan

Christina Jordan worked as an educator for 28 years. She holds a BA in elementary education and a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on child development. She is now a myON educational consultant and works with educators across the country to share her love of reading and teaching.