CAN NEWSPAPER BE USED IN
In Russia today there are many newspapers in English, besides this one.
One can only mention “Moscow Times”, which is free and available in many supermarkets.
Reading a newspaper in the target language when you are a beginner is almost impossible.
But in this article, I will try to show how to use the newspaper as a text for reading
even in the early stages of learning a foreign language.
Newspapers provide an enormous amount of text and information, but the language instructor
has to select the most appropriate material according to his/her learners’ knowledge and
Using the newspaper, we achieve two important objectives: using authentic material from
the very beginning, and building the learner’s confidence as he/she discovers that
he/she can read texts written by and for native speakers.
I would suggest the following practical activities for beginners:
1. Personal Information. This is a writing activity to be done
individually. We can use any of the hundreds of forms printed in newspapers – those for
newspaper or journal subscriptions, mail-order shopping, etc. Learners thus practice the
following vocabulary: name, surname, address, post code, phone number, etc. The remaining
vocabulary on the forms may be used or not, depending on the situation and purpose.
2. Descriptions. Newspapers are made up of not only words, but
also pictures. The learner is given a picture of a famous person, which he/she must
describe: name, age, job, nationality, physical appearance, etc. This description may lead
to a second step: learners produce a simple question-and-answer exercise, practising the
third person singular:
“How old is Madonna?” “She is thirty”.
“What is her nationality?” “She is American”.
3. The Time. This activity can be done in pairs or with the
language instructor and his/her class. For this activity, the instructor provides the
learners with a copy of the TV programme page. They will be able to produce in pairs short
dialogues such as:
“What time is the News on NTV?”
“It is at six o’clock”.
“What time is the football match on?”
“It is at half-past seven”.
The reason for using the TV programme page is simply motivation: learners will be
interested in their favourite programmes (sports, cartoons, films, etc.). They will feel
more confident if they make up questions and answers about what they really like.
4. Numbers. For the purpose of motivation, I would recommend
exploiting the final scores of sports contests and championships (basketball, football,
etc.) for learning numbers. Here is a communicative activity that can be done in pairs:
“What was the final score of Germany vs. Italy?”
“Three to one”.
“What was the final score in the last game?”
“Three to nil”.
5. The Weather. The weather forecast page and, obviously, the
full-page color map (in “The USA Today” especially) will be the basis for such an
exercise. Learners will focus on two areas of vocabulary: weather conditions (rainy,
cloudy, snowy, windy, mild, foggy, sunny, clear, showers, mist, etc.) and the cardinal
points (North, South, East, West) as well as geographical names (Siberia, the Volga,
France, the Netherlands, etc.). At the same time, the exercise can be used to practise
verb tenses: Simple Past to describe what the weather was like yesterday, and Future for
today’s and tomorrow’s forecasts.
Everyone in the class may also be requested to draw a map of this
country or of a foreign one (p. 10 a of “USA Today”), and locate on it a certain
number of weather-map signs or symbols. Naturally, there must be agreement about what
signs to draw.
When their maps are finished, the learners can pass them on to a classmate, who will have
to decipher, in writing this or that particular weather forecast, for example: “It will
be cloudy in Paris tomorrow with a temperature 16 degrees above zero” or “In Moscow it
will be cold and partly sunny. The temperature will be 5 degrees below zero”.
By Natalya Predtechenskaya