Using real-life content in class is such a great resource for students to learn from. A lot of times textbooks and ESL/EFL resources can present vocabulary and phrases that are not always realistic or used in our day-to-day vernacular. Or they can sound forced and sometimes actually a little corny! I love incorporating resources that we use in our daily lives to present more realistic phrases that students can learn from. This is why I’m going to show you how to use a newspaper article to make an EFL vocabulary lesson. This process can be used with any online resource.
This step-by-step process to create a great EFL vocabulary lesson can be used on any article or written resource you want to use in class. Just follow the steps! Let’s break it down, shall we?
How to Choose an Article for your Lesson
The first step is choosing an article that fits the needs of your class. For more advanced classes I would definitely use actual articles from newspapers. However, for lower-level classes you can get more graded articles to use that won’t be as challenging for lower-level students to understand but still has more realistic vocabulary to learn from.
Some graded resources you can use for newspaper articles are:
- Breaking News English – Has all levels and come with activities that you can incorporate into your lesson.
- BBC – Learning English News (At an Intermediate Level)
When choosing a resource, you want to consider the following:
- What topics or shows will your students be interested in?
- What English level are your students at?
- What kind of vocabulary do you want to teach them?
- What is the overall goal of the lesson?
Set your Goals for the Lesson
The next thing is, Goals! You always want to set goals for your lesson based on the needs of your students. (For more details on setting goals read my post: How to set Clear and Measurable Goals for your ESL Lesson)
- Level: Intermediate to Upper Intermediate
- Adult student(s)
- Learning English to have more job opportunities in their country and for international travel.
Goal: Teach students vocabulary and phrases for discussing current topics in the news.
Measurable statements: By the end of class students should be able to:
- Identify key phrases talking about the environment
- Understand when and how to use these phrases in the correct context.
- Use the phrases to have a conversation about environmental awareness.
Resource: Environmental Article from Forbes:
A quick note on topic choices! Make sure to keep topics relevant and up to date as students will be interested in discussing the issues and will probably need to practice situations like these in class in order to be able to have these kinds of conversations outside of class.
The EFL Vocabulary Lesson Plan
Introduce The Topic
The first thing we want to do for the EFL vocabulary lesson is a warm-up activity to introduce the topic. I usually do this with a small activity (feel free to get creative) or use a couple of discussion questions related to the topic.
- Do you think making small, incremental changes will help to make a big impact on saving the environment? Why or why not?
- What are some simple things you can do to help the environment?
Have students discuss these topics with a partner, or if online, discuss as a class or 1 on 1. Make sure to put relevant answers and vocabulary on the board.
The main point I want to get across here, is you don’t ever want to have students just reading without giving them a purpose. In this case, you want to have the students read the article to understand it, pick out relevant vocabulary and phrases, and finally, use them in a productive manner (either a speaking or writing activity).
The method? Start big and then get specific.
- First, the students read to find the main idea of the article.
- Second, they read for more specific information in the article.
- The last exercise should have them looking for specific vocabulary words.
These exercises help students practice skimming and scanning skills where they are looking for specific information.
One final point before we move into the exercises. Make sure to point out to the students, the skills they are learning and why they need them. You could ask them a question like: When would we use skimming and scanning skills in their everyday life?
Exercise 1: Finding the main idea
Question: What is the main idea of this article? (Only answer in one or two sentences)
A: How small and simple actions can make an impact on helping the environment. Environmental sustainability is possible with simple, small actions over time.
Give students 2 minutes to finish this exercise and remind them where they should be looking for it (the first 1-2 paragraphs). You want to encourage them to skim and scan not read everything!
Exercise 2: Finding more detailed information
Make questions where students need to find specific information within the article. The questions I made for this article are as follows:
- How does keeping your electronic devices plugged in contribute to global warming? (A: Power plants creating energy for every day use release a large amt of carbon dioxideinto the air)
- Why are plastic bags so harmful to the environment? (2 answers)(Composed of non-degradable materials and takes up to 500 years to decompose. Bags are discarded after single use which results in a large amount of excess waste , overflowing landfills and ocean pollution)
- What are the benefits of carpooling? (saves you time and money and reduces your carbon footprint)
- How does shopping locally reduce carbon-dioxide emissions? (Food doesn’t have to be shipped for hundreds of miles and therefore the use of trucks for transport aren’t required)
- How does paperless billing help preserve the planet? (It helps reduce the number of natural resources used to make paper)
- How much plastic debris can be found in the ocean? (165 million tons)
- Why should you switch to washing in cold water? (cut energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, elongate the life of your clothes)
** Don’t forget to point out the key words students can look for to help them find the answers in the article. Remind them not to read the whole article but instead to only look for the answers using keywords from the questions. (Do an example on the board with question 1).
How does keeping your electronic devices plugged in contribute to global warming? – keywords to look for are in bold.
Exercise 3: Focus on Specific Vocabulary
Vocabulary charts are a great way for students to organize and find relevant vocabulary words related to the subject matter. From this article, I have created different vocabulary themes based on the words related to environmental discussions. Vocabulary charts can be used for any EFL vocabulary lesson not just newspaper articles.
Word charts can be done in a number of ways, and you can make your own for you students. Here is the one I have made below as an example.
If the students have never done an activity like this before provide them with the word themes first and then have them find the related vocabulary in the text. Once they have done this a couple of times, have them try to find the word themes on their own.
I found four different word themes I though were relevant and then an other category with vocabulary I thought should included.
Words to describe forms of waste: waste, litter, pollution, smog carbon emissions, carbon dioxide, debris, greenhouse gas
Words to describe movement and change: release, emit, produce, reduce, accumulate, generate, cut, contaminate, decompose
Words to describe the form of an object: durable, reusable, non-degradable
Words to describe environmental state: Global warming, atmosphere, preserve the planet, natural resources, carbon footprint
You can do word charts/maps using online resources too! A great resource for that is Bubbl.us it’s free!
However, if you want something simple you can always use a blank copy of my Vocabulary Chart. You can print it or type in it! Get it in my FREE resource library
The final activity should create an opportunity for students to use the vocabulary in a context where they need to speak about the environment.
I’ve come up with 3 options:
The first, and easiest option for this is to have discussion questions that the students can discuss with you (in a one-to-one class) or with a partner (in a group class). Make sure to use the vocabulary words in the questions as this will prompt the students to use them in a sentence.
Discussion Question Example: What do you think is the main source of pollution in our world today?
The second activity is a project. Students present 3 more ideas that they could implement to be an everyday environmentalist. (This would work the best in an in-class environment, however, it could also be a homework assignment online students).
The third vocabulary activity I like to do that allows students to write out the sentences first, is to have them create fill in the blank sentences for their classmates to complete. This can be done in a class setting or online. Students write 3 sentences using 3 different vocabulary words (chosen by themselves or the teacher) and they submit them to the class who have to work out which word fits. In a one-to-one class, the teacher could create the fill in the blank sentences for the student to complete, or the teacher could guess the answer.
For example: (Global warming)___________________ is a big issue that is affecting the weather in many countries in the world, creating very dangerous weather conditions.
Finally, don’t forget to give feedback and assign homework.
Want more activity ideas? Check this post out! 10 Interactive TEFL Activities to get your Students Talking.
Let me know how this lesson worked for you in the comments below! Did you use this format with another article?