Hi everyone! As I have mentioned a few times before, I have been planning to use news articles in the classroom for reading materials for my middle school students. I have been putting off writing about it because I wanted to try a few different kinds of activities before I write about how great or not great it is for my students. Luckily, I can tell you that it is going very successfully!
Start Slow (and Short!)
I started by having students read a short summary of a news story…
Thankfully, Mundo en Tus Manos, one of the sources I use for the news stories, already has short summaries written out and it was this summary that I started with. It was great, all I had students do was read and write a 3 sentence summary in their notebooks in English or Spanish. It was a simple, low pressure activity that I used as a bellringer/Welcome work activity. After they read and wrote a summary (to the best of their ability), I read it aloud and circled some of the information. I asked questions like; Where is the main character from? How old is he? What did he do? What is important about him? Things along those lines that I ask about characters in all the stories we read in class.
My favorite part was that at first, the students thought that it was a story that I had made up. You can read a different article about the news story from the San Diego Union Tribune here so that you can see that it is the kind of improbable story that my students are used to me telling. But it’s real and once they saw that, they were blown away. I haven’t had that much engagement in a reading activity in a very long time. We had a big discussion (mostly in English) and talked about how it would be like a 6th grader taking the SAT and going to UCF (our local state university) instead of 7th Grade. They were hooked.
The other source that I plan to use is Newsela. A colleague at school told me about this site and mentioned that there are options to search for article in Spanish! (Unfortunately, I don’t think that there are any other languages supported on the site). Since hearing about it, I have found several articles on a whole range of topics that will fit well into my units and it’s something I encourage you to check out as well (and did I mention that it’s free?!?)
Building on Success
After this initial success, I moved on to the main articles from Mundo en Tus Manos, rather than the summaries. I made an activity sheet for them with basic Spanish reading comprehension activities –
- Find Key Words (which we discussed beforehand to prime the students to think about the topic of the story)
- Identify cognates
- List important information about the article (Who, What, Where, When, Why),
- Summary in English or Spanish (students choose)
- Open ended questions about the subject (in this case, sports) for the students to answer in Spanish.
Again, it was successful. The students were able to work on their own to read and identify cognates, then they compared their list of cognates with a partner. Then, they read again on their own and wrote their own summaries in English or Spanish, then they compared their summaries with a partner, and then I had volunteers read their summaries aloud (some wrote in English, some in Spanish, so I got a mix of both), and finally, they answered the personal, open-ended questions on their own.
This was very successful! The students’ answers were acceptable and they were able to express themselves in their own way.
I have been struggling over the last few years to find ways to engage my students who have been learning through TPRS stories (something I have talked a lot about on this blog). News stories are an injection of interesting content for my students.
The other important thing about news stories is that they are more advanced, in both content and language use. The stories I have used as reading material for my students (from “Look, I Can Talk,” by Blaine Ray and other classes’ original stories), have become too easy and too predictable for my students. With news stories, the content will be changing every time we read, the stories are about all different kinds of things from all around the Spanish speaking world.
They are getting i, but they need the +1. So far, I am glad to say, using news and current events has been a way for me to inject that +1 to their input and put the onus on them to really concentrate. And on top of that, they were surprised that they could read a news story and understand the main gist of it (enough to summarize it). And for me as their teacher, I am so excited that the activities have been successful because I am excited to not only have students who are more active, engaged, and encouraged about their language abilities in class, but also to have students who have a better knowledge of the world beyond our little bubble of Central Florida.
The combination of using a points-based management system that gives the students something to work towards and the content that challenges them is giving this year a great start-I can’t wait to tell you more about it!
A Final Note
In my last post, I wrote about the point system and how the students are working to earn fiestas through engagement/on-task-behavior in class and language use in class. My first middle school class will be having their fiesta on Monday, so look out for my next post to see what we did for fiesta day!