the News in class
by Katie Riley
this article on the listening skill I intend to focus on authentic
materials, paying special attention to news bulletins, as
this is an area my current group of students have expressed
interest in. I will attempt to answer the following questions.
Why use authentic materials in class?
2. When do native speakers listen?
3. What are the learners' needs?
4. What strategies do learners use when they listen?
5. Why use the news in class?
6. How does listening to the news vary from other types of
7. What problems do listeners face?
8. What does a listener do when he listens to the news?
9. What implications does this have for the language classroom?
10. What type of news should be used?
conclude, I will sum up the arguments made.
1. Why use authentic materials in class?
(1986) states the main advantages of using authentic materials
in class to be as follows;
The English heard is real. This makes it more motivating and
interesting for students since they are able to understand
what genuine English speakers are saying.
Work can be done on areas such as accent, tone of voice and
expressions etc with the confidence that good linguistic data
is being used.
with lower levels, authentic material is often quite difficult,
but this can be overcome by giving students easy tasks to
do . However, as well as this superficial type of task, low-level
students also need experience of tasks of getting more detailed
information from something they can understand more easily,
which sometimes means using texts which are not strictly authentic.
do native speakers Listen?
the vast amount of different societies, individuals, situations
and types of oral discourse, it would be impossible to classify
all the different types of authentic listening situation that
exist. Nunan (1989) classifies these situations as follows;
Planned monologue e.g. the weather forecast, a news report,
a lecture etc.
2, Unplanned monologue e.g. talking on the spot about something,
possibly in response to an initial question.
3, Interpersonal dialogue (familiar) e.g. exchanging news
with family/ chatting at a party.
4, Interpersonal dialogue (unfamiliar) e.g. interviewing
5, Transactional dialogue e.g. asking for directions, receiving
3. What are the learners' needs?
It is clear that not all of the above situations will be equally
relevant to all learners. When deciding what to do in class
we therefore need to take our learners needs into account.
For example, when teaching a group of Upper intermediate students
who only really used English to practise social skills with
native speakers, I tended to focus on materials that involved
conversational skills. In an elementary monolingual class
here in Spain, however, who were about to go on holiday to
England I considered the skills necessary for listening to
announcements in stations, airports etc to be of high importance
in the syllabus.
Not all students will have a precise set of reasons for learning
English, but in many cases we can draw up a rough set of situations
in which our listeners need or would like to be able to listen
with success .
What strategies do learners use when they listen?
ways in which learners try to become engaged in the process
of listening and try to become engaged are known as learning
styles. Learners develop their listening ability in a variety
of ways. Rost (1990) identifies 4 different types of learner;
Self instruction type - those learners who see useful opportunities
for working alone, exploiting video material etc.
2, Social type - those who sense that face to face interaction
with native speakers, meeting English friends etc, is an effective
way to get authentic listening practice.
3, Language classroom type - those who trust their teacher
to provide them with the practice they need.
4, Subject matter type - those who want to listen better in
order to have access to ideas in English, to understand about
a different subject in English.
There are different strengths in the learning styles of all
these learners. Therefore I consider it part of my role as
a teacher to look for activities which will actively engage
5. Why the news?
to the news was one of the areas the students in my present
class expressed interest in and therefore is one of the areas
I decided to focus on.
In addition, Tommalin (1986) outlines a number of reasons
for using the news in class. These are;
1. It is the most accessible broadcast to use live in class.
2. It provides an excellent reason for listening, especially
if it provides information about the target / the students
3. News broadcasts are short and concise and therefore do
not take up too much time as a comprehension activity. Other
authentic listening texts, on the other hand, are often rambling
and long, with speakers constantly interrupting each other,
digressing or losing the thread of what they're saying.
4.They are a marvellous source of vocabulary and idiom.
for the media in general, the English language is changing
and the radio, newspapers and television reflect that change.
For this reason alone I believe that they deserve their place
as part of an English course.
page 2 of 3
the lesson plan
to the articles index