Use Current Event Topics to Spur Discussion and Increase Vocabulary Use by ESL Learners

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Breaking News Health Article

These news items usually have pictures which make the article more appealing to students. Here are some ways in which to use these articles:

Let students take turns at reading actions of the article. After a section is read, stop and ask the student who read to explain to the class what they read. Continue like this until the end of the article while explaining words and phrases which they do not understand. Ask them to circle new vocabulary. At the end of the reading ask true or false questions on each paragraph

Here is an excerpt on a health article from Breaking News:

Scientists have found out that women who wear high-heel shoes make the calf muscles shorter. The heels also give many women pain in their legs when they take them off and walk. The researchers tested different women aged between 20 and 50 who wore heels that were 5cm or higher. The research, which covered a two-year period, also looked at women who never wore high heels. The research team used ultrasound to measure the length of the fibers in the calf muscles. Their results showed that the muscle fibers of high-heel wearers were 13 per cent shorter than those in the non-high-heel-wearing women. Lead researcher Professor Marco Marci said: “This confirmed the hypothesis that when you place the muscle in a shorter position, the fibers becomes shorter.”

This article can encourage students to give their opinions on the ill effects of wearing high heels. True or false questions could follow the model of:

True or False

1.High heel shoes make women’s calf muscles longer.

2. High heels cause pain in women’s legs when they sit.

3.Scientists have done research on the subject

Breaking News- Environmental Article

Here’s another Breaking News excerpt from a very recent environmental hot topic, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“American President, Barack Obama has said the oil giant British Petroleum (BP) is responsible for paying for cleaning up the huge oil spill off America’s southern coast. The oil slick is now the size of Jamaica and has started washing up on beaches in Louisiana. Obama told reporters that BP ‘is ultimately responsible under the law for paying the costs of response and cleanup operations.’ US Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano echoed her boss’ words. She called on BP to take urgent action to send resources to tackle the disaster. BP’s CEO Tony Hayward is in the area to personally direct the emergency mop-up and damage limitation exercise. President Obama has also visited the area.”

Students can give their opinions here on whether or not they agree with the President. Some true or false questions can be for example:

True or False

1. President Obama has said nothing about the oil spill so far.

2. The oil slick is now the size of the Caribbean island of Jamaica

3. The oil is washing up on the beaches everywhere.

Other Hot Topics

There are many interesting articles online which can be used as hot topics for English second language learners. Health and environment are fairly safe subjects especially for younger students. Sex, religion and politics, as a rule, are viewed as confrontational. If a teacher wishes to use any of these topics to work with, caution should be taken to tread softly.