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Using a student newspaper to promote communication

Writer(s): 
Jason Williams and Chris Creighton, Notre Dame Seishin University

 

Quick Guide

  • Key words: Learner produced, cooperative learning, information sharing
  • Learner English level: High beginner and above
  • Learner Maturity level: High school and above
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Activity time: 20 to 60 minutes
  • Materials: Computer, printer, copier, digital camera

This article explains how to set-up an English-language newspaper for students in order to increase inter- and intra-class English communication. Contributions come from students and involve minimal editing and formatting by teachers.

English classes are often isolated entities. They tend to have only one teacher, maintain the same students, and be separated by department or school year. As a result, one class is often unaware of what is occurring in other classes or who is in them. Teachers rarely share information and output from one of their classes with their colleagues. While English communication often takes place within classes, it rarely does between them.

Preparation

Step 1: Decide the format and length of the newspaper.

Step 2: Create a design layout template for each section using either A3/A4 paper or computer software of choice. On the PC platform, programs such as MS Word, Publisher, or OpenOffice can be used. On the Mac platform, Pages or Swift Publisher work quite well.

Step 3: Ensure you have the ability, means, and materials to make enough copies for all students.

Procedure

Step 1: Decide the focus for each section of the paper. The following is a description of our format and some topics we have used:

Feature (2 pages): Contributions come from students in any class or level and focus on some aspect of school life. Our topics have included clubs, study abroad, student teaching, and speech contests.

Interview (1 page): A student-conducted English interview. The interviews use a standard set of questions. We try to focus our interviews on graduates with jobs involving English.

Email question (1 page): Create an email address for the newspaper. Set one question for all English classes (What’s your New Year’s resolution?) and have students answer via email. Select the best answers from among the replies to print in the newspaper.

Class project page (1 page): assigned to an individual class and ideal for class projects. The class is free to create any kind of page they would like. Contributions have included: advice, student conducted surveys, crossword puzzles, and discussion questions.

Other (1 page): This page can be used for any overflow or for sections such as announcements for activities and individual student contributions and achievements.

Step 2: Inform classes of plans for the newspaper and solicit ideas. Initially it may be easier to decide the topics yourself and approach students individually for contributions. Volunteers can be recruited at a later time.

Step 3: Gather contributions and correct and edit as necessary. Because the format is decided, finishing the paper is a matter of cutting and pasting contributions on to the template. Set deadlines and ask for more contributions than needed as students may not submit on time. Unpublished submissions can be used for later issues. Inserting photographs and clip art increases student interest.

Step 4: After final revisions are made, print and copy the newspaper.

Step 5: Distribute the newspaper to students. If possible, allow time for in-class reading.

Follow-up activities

The newspaper can be used as reading material for students or exploited in a variety of additional ways. One way is to assign the newspaper as reading homework and follow-up with a discussion in the next lesson. Students can discuss their favorite section, activities they would most like to attend, student achievements they admire most, or new information and vocabulary they learned. You can also use the newspaper as material to create collocation and vocabulary exercises, information gaps, cloze passages, and jigsaw readings. Students can also practice writing letters to the editor in which they discuss the contents of the newspaper and make suggestions for change.

Conclusion

This newspaper project has been successful in increasing English communication between students and classes. Many students have commented on learning new things about the school and their schoolmates. Student interest and motivation appears to have increased as each new edition brings more suggestions, participation, and anticipation, as evidenced by student inquiries about when new editions will come out, students volunteering to write, and the over 200 responses we now usually receive for the email question. Please contact the authors if you would like to see sample copies of the newspaper.

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