ERIC Identifier: ED321619
Publication Date: 1990-07-00
Author: Chandler, Carolyn Ebel
Source: Adjunct ERIC Clearinghouse on Literacy Education for
Limited-English-Proficient Adults Washington DC.
Using Newspapers in the ESL Literacy Classroom. ERIC
Newspapers can be very inexpensive and compelling "textbooks" for adult
literacy development. For the newly arrived refugee or immigrant, the newspaper
provides an introduction to the political, social, and business aspects
of the local community. The newspaper can assist newcomers in finding a
job, buying a car, taking advantage of sales, and choosing local entertainment.
Incorporating newspapers into the English-as-a-second-language (ESL) literacy
classroom offers the teacher authentic, practical, and easily accessible
NEWSPAPERS IN THE ESL LITERACY CLASSROOM
While practitioners agree that newspapers can represent useful tools
in the literacy classroom, they also recognize that newspaper articles
written for native speakers are not always appropriate for ESL students.
According to Virginia French Allen, an ESL specialist and literacy tutor,
materials designed for native speakers of English are not equally suitable
for ESL students with limited knowledge of English vocabulary and structure
or limited experience with American life. "Many cultural, phonetic, and
speaking cues which are readily apparent to native speakers must be developed
for ESL students" (ANPA, 1989, p. 17).
Adapting the newspaper to classroom instruction is a natural way to
introduce students to these cultural and linguistic concepts. In the past,
creative teachers developed their own lessons around the newspaper; however,
they often restricted this practice to advanced learners of English. In
this way, beginning level students missed out on a natural source of meaningful
linguistic and cultural "news."
But the newspaper can be used for ESL learners of all levels. For beginning
students, the large-print headlines, recognizable symbols and numbers,
and many color and black-and-white photographs can convey information that
students understand. At an intermediate level, the newspaper provides exposure
to print, to graphic devices, and to punctuation. Advanced students can
read newspapers much as a native speaker would, skimming some articles,
reading others completely, and discarding those parts of the newspaper
of little interest to them. Many practitioners (Chavira, 1990; Hess, 1987;
Salas-Isnardi, n.d.; Toben, 1987) have compiled detailed and level-appropriate
lists of classroom activities for using the newspaper as text.
ACTIVITIES FOR BEGINNING STUDENTS
--Have students cut out pictures of things they like in the newspaper
and then write sentences about the pictures.
--Read a few scores from the sports page and have students write them
--Find numbers in newspaper advertisements that deal with money and
have students practice reading the prices aloud.
--Using pictures found in the newspaper, have students write sentences
about the pictures using prepositions to describe the spatial relationships.
--Discuss an issue found in an editorial that may be pertinent to students'
ACTIVITIES FOR INTERMEDIATE STUDENTS
--Have students circle words they do not understand and ask them to
try to figure out the meaning from the context or look up the definition
in the dictionary.
--Cut out headlines from various articles and have students match headlines
with stories. Cut photo captions from photographs and have students match
captions with photos.
--Analyze advertisements to discuss the way prices vary from store
to store. Students may report their findings by writing a paragraph.
--Collect newspaper photographs of people and have students make up
stories about the people.
ACTIVITIES FOR ADVANCED STUDENTS
--Cut out several photographs of people and have students write descriptions
of the people; let other students match the photographs with the descriptions.
--Work as a group to write a letter to the editor; more advanced students
might write letters on their own.
--Follow a news item over a period of time and discuss the events that
--Have students read an article that describes a problem and discuss
the problem's cause and effects.
--Have students work in pairs, interviewing each other about an article
in the newspaper.
THE ROLE OF NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS IN LITERACY
The newspaper industry itself is providing materials for use in adult
ESL literacy classrooms. These efforts, some developed by newspaper publishers
and others by literacy practitioners, involve using the newspaper as curriculum.
This approach to literacy education is consistent with the recommendations
of a recently released Educational Testing Service (ETS) study, "Reducing
Illiteracy in California: Review of Effective Practices in Adult Literacy
Programs," which recommends that teaching materials look and read like
normal adult reading materials (paperback novels, newspapers, and manuals
that do not announce their reading level on the cover) (ETS, 1989).
"The Houston Chronicle: Your ESL Source. A Source Guide for Adults Learning
English as a Second Language," a curriculum developed by the Houston Chronicle,
contains lessons for listening, reading, speaking, and writing in English,
and requires no special materials other than the local newspaper (Winters
& Orr, 1989).
The Los Angeles Daily News has developed a program for ESL and amnesty
preparation that uses the newspaper as curriculum. Each section of the
curriculum contains three levels of difficulty, so teachers may choose
those tasks that are most appropriate for their students.
The Syracuse Newspaper's "Curriculum Modification for English as a Second
Language" focuses on points of grammar in newspaper copy. It, too, is designed
to assist in reading and language arts skill areas for students at various
levels of literacy.
OTHER NEWSPAPER ACTIVITIES
Newspaper publishers are involved in other types of literacy activities
as well. Some newspapers offer workplace literacy classes. The Los Angeles
Herald Examiner runs special classes to teach literacy skills to its language-minority
employees, using a learner-centered approach, with discussion based on
photographs of employees using authentic materials at the worksite.
Fifty adults are enrolled in a computer-assisted literacy project designed
by the Los Angeles Times for its employees, their families, and individuals
from the surrounding community. The Providence Journal in Providence, RI,
offers a workplace literacy program for its employees seeking the General
Equivalency Diploma (GED), releasing them for one hour twice a week to
The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA, assists a local human services agency
in sponsoring an English class for Asian adults in the community. The class,
"New Americans: Learning English, Becoming American," prepares students
for the U.S. citizenship examination while teaching them English.
The Miami Herald publishes a Spanish language newspaper to appeal to
the large Spanish-speaking community in Miami. To attract readers in Spanish-speaking
homes, El Nuevo Herald is provided free with a subscription to the Miami
The Austin American-Statesman has produced a bilingual adult literacy
handbook, Roads to Literacy/Caminos Hacia La Alfabetizacion, that contains
listings in both Spanish and English of county literacy projects, instructional
agencies, and community contacts for special literacy services.
Five adult literacy centers that offer tutoring, tutor training, tutor
recruitment, and referrals to language-minority adults have been established
by the Rio Grande Valley Group Newspapers (Harlingen, TX) of the Freedom
Newspapers Group. Additionally, this group sponsors a "Ready to Read" workshop,
using the newspaper as a text. In Brownsville, TX, a class meets twice
weekly using this approach. The Rio Grande Valley Group Newspapers also
produce a monthly newsletter and public service announcements and are involved
in symposia and curricula design.
The editorial staff of the Times-Herald Record in Middletown, NY, conducts
writing workshops in ESL classrooms. Students participate in a writing
contest, with the winning entry published in a special supplement to the
HOW NEWSPAPER GROUPS ARE PROMOTING LITERACY
Nationally, newspaper groups have encouraged their local newspapers
to develop literacy projects and coalitions. The Gannett Foundation, Knight,
and Chicago Tribune Charities have funded state and community literacy
activities. Newspaper membership associations, such as the American Newspaper
Publishers Association Foundation (ANPA), the Southern Newspaper Publishers
Association (SNPA), the American Society of Newspaper Editors(ASNE), and
the International Circulation Managers Association (ICMA) encourage their
member newspapers to sponsor reading activities. Newspapers in Education
(NIE), a cooperative effort between newspapers and local schools, has existed
as a newspaper-literacy initiative since the 1930s. The International Circulation
Managers Association has recommended that every newspaper make available
to community literacy programs "Ready to Read," a newspaper curriculum
that comes with a teacher training session conducted by the author, Janet
On a local level, newspapers cover literacy activities, provide free
advertising space, and set up community-wide coalitions. Local newspapers
also work closely with national groups in literacy campaigns, such as Project
Literacy U.S. (PLUS) and the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
Newspapers, a cultural and community constant in American life, can
help newcomers acquire literacy skills and useful information at the same
American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) Foundation. (1989).
"Newspapers and literacy...that all may read." Washington, DC: Author.
Chavira, R. (1990, February). "Newsletter of the El Paso Community College."
(Available from the Communications Division, P.O. Box 20500, El Paso, TX,
*Educational Testing Service (ETS). (1989). "Reducing illiteracy in
California: Review of effective practices in adult literacy programs."
Final report submitted to the California State Department of Education,
Fenholt, J. (1987). "Ready to Read." Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Publishing.
Hess, N. (1987). Newspapers in the English classroom: Stressing sociolinguistic
communicative competence in an authentic framework. "English Teachers Journal,
35," 70-71. *Salas-Isnardi, F. (n.d.). "Some ideas for the use of a newspaper
in the E.L.A.P. class." Unpublished manuscript.
Toben, M. (1987). Using the newspaper in the classroom: A check list
for intermediate and advanced classes. "English Teachers Journal, 35,"
Winters, P., & Orr, S. (1989). "The Houston Chronicle: Your ESL
source. A source guide for adults learning English as a second language."
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 256 845)
FOR FURTHER READING
American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) Foundation. (1987).
"Newspapers meet the challenge." Washington, DC: Author. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 300 835)
American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) Foundation. (1983).
"The Newspaper as an effective teaching tool." Washington, DC: Author.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 236 690)
Ebel Chandler, C. (1988). Newspapers are major promoters of literacy
through "Press to Read" and other efforts. "Presstime, 10," 29-31.
Fitzgerald, M. (1989). Newspaper in Education reaches out to minorities,
immigrants. "Editor & Publisher," 26-27.
Gedye, K. (1982). The newspaper in ESL. "TESL Talk, 13," 19-30. (ERIC
Journal No. EJ 258 099)
Patrie, J. (1988). Comprehensible text: The daily newspaper at the beginning
level. "TESL Talk, 18," 135-141. (ERIC Journal No. EJ 369 022)
*Citations with an asterisk are currently being incorporated into the
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with an ED number may be obtained from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service
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