Magazines are a great source of ideas and materials for teaching and can keep your students interested and talking for hours on a whole range of subjects.

Jo Bertrand

A simple way to get students talking and sharing ideas, predicting the content of your lesson and so arousing their interest is the following:

  • Cut or copy magazine titles from a range of magazines - football, fishing, computer, teenage, business, mother and baby, housekeeping etc. and put them randomly onto the floor or board.
  • In pairs the students have to count how many different types of magazine titles they see and try and work out what each magazine is about.
  • After comparing answers with other pairs and feeding back as a whole class you can get them to say which ones they're more interested in and why. You can then lead onto their reading habits.
    • How often do they buy magazines?
    • Do they buy particular magazines because of the subjects featured on the front page or because they always buy the same magazine?
    • How do they read the magazine - from cover to cover or do they go straight to the featured articles or horoscopes?
    • Most importantly, why do they do what they do?

Problem pages are great to use with teenagers as they can relate to the issues being addressed. As a language focus they are also very useful for practising 'giving advice' modals such as: should, could and must, and agreeing or disagreeing.

  • Start by brainstorming the kinds of problems you find on a problem page.
  • Give pairs a cut up copy of either a problem or the advice given.
  • Give them time to read and understand the gist.
  • They could write a one-sentence summary and then walk around the room reading their sentence to other pairs until they find the corresponding problem or advice. Then in their new groups of four they can decide whether they agree or disagree with the advice given.

Teenage magazines generally have a few articles based on thought-provoking subjects which can really stimulate a class of teenagers.

  • With a set of different teenage magazines let the students flick through them until they find an article which interests them.
  • Make sure they are careful with the magazines so you can use them again with another class. Also for this part give them a limited amount of time to find an article.
  • They should read the titles, look at the pictures and skim the texts to get a general idea of what the article is about rather than read the whole magazine.
  • Once they've chosen their article give them time to read it in full. Remind them though that they don't need to understand every word.
  • If you have a large class then in groups of four they can take it in turns to tell the others about their article. If your class is relatively small you can feedback in two groups or as a whole class.
  • Each time someone tells the others about their article pre-designate a couple of people to ask questions at the end. This way they feel more involved and are more likely to listen.

Horoscopes interest a lot of people, young or old, even if they don't always like to admit it! In your English class you can use them to find out about your students' personalities while having fun with the future.

  • Give your class a list of adjectives from which they choose five that correspond to their personality. If they know each other well they could choose the adjectives for their friends.
  • Briefly discuss the zodiac signs and the typical traits of each. Then from their choices either you or the class could try and guess what zodiac sign they are most likely to correspond to. If they do know each other very well then this is something they may already know which is why you ask first and then guess yourself if that is the case. You can go on to discuss whether they think they correspond to their zodiac sign or not.
  • Have a look at a magazine first to be sure you have an idea of the typical traits of each sign. In any case they should know for their own sign.
  • Find out about their reading habits and whether they read the horoscopes and to what extent it can determine how they plan their day or week. This could then lead on to a reading of the horoscopes for that week from the teenage magazine.
  • Each person could read their own, as they might do in their own language, and feedback to the class on what they've read. Ask them what tense is most used (the future) and using this tense and the personality traits seen earlier they could create their own horoscopes for someone in the class. If they do this in pairs they'll have another opportunity to speak in English.
  • To decide who they write it for put everyone's names into a hat and then pick them randomly so each pair writes for two people. The final feedback could consist of reading out loud their horoscopes.

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