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World events - Do they have a place in the ELT classroom especially with younger learners?
Today most learners’ intended purpose is to communicate, engage in real life situations, there is a paradigm shift in the way content is supplemented with ‘real world information and contexts’ rather than the pre-decided information. Nine out of ten students I meet say they learn language by reading and listening to news, watching movies, videos, so on and so forth. This is a clear indication that text books are not enough and exposure to real stuff is needed to develop communicative competence. This leads me to believe that second language learners have to depend on resources outside the classroom to enhance their language skills.
Today it is very common for teachers to bring in authentic material into their classroom to make their lessons more interesting and productive. I therefore reckon that an early start would go a long way in expanding their vocabulary. It will help them to engage in socialization and to learn from their environment besides formal classroom instruction. It can be argued that introducing ‘world events’ in young learners’ classroom can be detrimental to their tender psyche as it would rob them of their childhood innocence, fun and naivety, and push them to mature before their time. There’s no denying that world affairs and events can be unsafe but it can be precariously sifted and filtered to fit to learners’ age and minds. Having said that, the benefits it brings if used with caution is immense.
We all know kids today encounter ‘Disney world ‘at an early age and exposure to the fictious super heroes from spider man, superman to Harry potter is all but a peak into world’s fictional characters. So, feeding in digestible bytes, low doses of stimulating and harmless information suitable to their age and sensibilities is in no way reprehensible. For instance, global issues like world sports, worlds oceans, dwindling animal planet can easily find place in the classrooms. World events can be turned into real world projects and goal-oriented activities.
Here’s a mini list of ideas:
Current issues such as the rescue of the Thai school boys from the caves can trigger a conversation ranging from bravery, patience and acts of heroism. Public speaking, debates and group discussions are effective ways to improve language skills and channelling young learners’ inquisitive minds, into world events. It could set them thinking, researching, and help them construct logical arguments organise ideas, assess audience, and build their confidence
Oil spills and pollution levels in the oceans, presentations on solutions. Learners work in pairs to write or discuss the problem. They then prepare and report it before the whole class. They could discuss and vote which could be most probable .This task can also be used the other way round. Learners can be led into the topic by a discussion and then given a set of problems to work upon to find a befitting solution.
Listening for details
Students can do this activity individually or in small groups. Students listen carefully to a story read aloud from the day's newspaper. (Story length may vary by grade level.) Then hand out students’ questions about details from the story. Depending on the grade, more detailed questions can be asked. Students or groups can be nominated to respond to the questions.
Post a map (state,country or world map) on the board. Post news stories around the classroom on the walls. Students walk around, pick up the stories and put it next to the city/country.
Classifying and sorting
Sports, people and science: To develop students' understanding of news stories across discipline. Get students to bring in from home news stories that might fit into each of the three sections. Create three columns with headings. Sports News gets posted in the sports section. News around important leaders goes in peoples section and science/technology news in the science section. This can have as many sections as possible , depending upon the curriculum topics.
Collect news stories and separate the story text from the headline. Students can work in groups , (each group gets a set of stories and headlines) to match each headline to the correct text.
Select the most trending news story that includes a clear sequence of events. Cut up the story into strips. Students work in pairs or groups to order the sentence strips. Each group can have a different story. They can even retell the events to other groups.
Sharing opinions/voicing opinions
Give students an opinion question and let them think about it for a few days. They can record their opinion and email it or post it on Edmodo. They can record it in the class using a tape recorder also. This can be a little less threatening for some students who dread public speaking or talking in front of a class. Once all students have had a chance to express their opinions, a class discussion of the question can be arranged by playing back the tape or Edmodo audios.
The course content or topics can be mapped with the world events /information keeping in mind the age, grade and cultural factors .We live in the 21st century and are aiming to educate and raise a well-informed generation. Authentic news and information will go along way in adding to their repertoire of vocabulary, trigger their thought process, imagination and the ability to express.