Turning a news story into a lesson

Turning a news story into a CI lesson cover image

If you are having a tough time coming up with a fun story for your lesson, you might consider turning a news story into a lesson! There are some great reasons to do this, and it can be a real sanity saver on days when you just don’t have that story feeling.

3 benefits of turning a news story into a lesson

Reason #1 – sometimes you just aren’t feeling up to doing a fun and entertaining story! Maybe it’s just not your personality and you weren’t quite sure if you could do the “silly story bubbly personality” thing, or maybe you just didn’t sleep well and need a break from coming up with something requiring imagination. Or maybe your students sometimes aren’t feeling it, or you have that one class that is like pulling teeth – they just don’t want to give you the feedback necessary to come up with an interesting storyline.

Reason #2 – our students need to get used to reading and listening to a variety of topics and formats. Eventually they will need/want to read about things outside of their own experience and lives. Using a news story gets them reading a different style of writing, a wider variety of topics, and forces them to go a little bit out of their comfort zone.

Reason #3 – news stories can give you a chance to bring new vocabulary words and structures into the class that might otherwise go unlearned. There are many common words that are used all the time in current events and daily life but that may never pop up in a classroom if you are focused only on stories.

How to turn a news story into a lesson

The first step is to find a news story that is easily adaptable to a CI lesson. I like short news stories and current events that students already may know about. If they already have a little bit of knowledge about the story, they will have context that can help them quite a bit. If it’s a story that they don’t already know about, I try to pick stories that will be interesting to the students because they have something in common with the people involved, or because the story is just plain interesting.

Hugo Decrypte has a lot of little blurbs on his Instagram account that can be used, but any short news story can work. He also has a YouTube channel if you’d like to extend your activities.

Once you’ve identified the story, take a good look at the comprehensibility. For novice students, you may have to rewrite the basics of the story to simplify vocabulary and structures. For more advanced students, you might be able to leave it as is. Look for specific vocabulary terms that are vital to the understanding of the story, as these will be your target vocabulary terms.

Do as you always would with CI and introduce the new terms and structures. You’ll still do PQA and circling, using standard CI procedure – the only difference is that the basis of the input to students is a different vocabulary source and you aren’t asking them for cute and fun answers to add into the story itself.

After the students have become comfortable with the vocabulary and structures, you can now “tell” the story. You can tell the story exclusively through speech, or you can share the written version of the news story with your students as you work through it. If you’ve made a simplified version of the story and you have time a the end of the class, you might even share the original version to let students see what they can understand.

As you can see, it’s not all that difficult to adapt a news story to CI – the teaching method and preparation is the same, it’s just the end result that is different. While students may like talking about each other and themselves, they can easily get bored if it’s the same thing every day. Adding in a news story every once in a while can make it more interesting AND give you a litte bit of a break from having to be creative.

If you are interested in other ways to use non-fiction in your French classes, you might be interested in these other blog posts:

New French non-fiction readings

3 helpful steps to using non-fiction reading for French learners

Nonfiction Comprehensible input lessons

Teaching CI with non-fiction – another effective tactic

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