Using CNN student news

I haven’t heard many things about CNN student news even though I find it useful in the classroom. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a daily video-podcast which lasts about 10 minutes, and, as you can guess from its name, it’s made by the folks at CNN.

Anyway, I decided to share an activity I tried out in class successfully this semester in which I used it. I used with a C1 level (according to the Common European Framework of References for Languages) group, but the activity may also work with B2 students. The activity lasts about 45 – 60 minutes. Later you can let me know what you think of it.

Material: 2 sequential episodes from CNN Student News – in this class, I used the episodes from August 21st (Friday) and August 24th (Monday). It is important to use episodes in which some of the news complement what was said on the other episode.

1. I started the class with a writing activity. The students had already learned the mechanics of writing a proposal, but they had issues when it came to planning. So I started by eliciting from them techniques they use while brainstorming ideas for a composition. We planned the outline of a text together and talked about the importance of planning your compositions prior to writing them, and the fact that it actually saves time when you’re writing.

2. I divided the group in two and explained what they were supposed to do. One of these two groups (let’s call it group A) would stay in the classroom and the other group (group B) was taken outside. Group B was supposed to work on the brainstorming of ideas for a piece of writing they’d have to write for our following class – a proposal. They should work together and come up with an outline for their proposal, and they’d have 10 minutes for this. In the meantime, group A was going to watch one news episode from CNN Student News (which lasts 10 minutes).

3. While watching, the people from group A were asked to take notes about the pieces of news. After the episode finished, group A went outside and group B stopped their planning for the proposal and went back to the classroom. This time, group A had 10 minutes to work together and share their notes about the pieces of news they’d just watched. They were asked to try to reconstitute what had been said in the episode. As we’d been working with reporting verbs, students were supposed to try to use different verbs when sharing what they’d heard. They had 10 minutes to do that and write down their notes on a piece of paper. During these 10 minutes, group B was watching another episode from CNN Student News.

4. After the episode is over, group B will now have 10 minutes to share their notes. Group A, at this moment, is told to stop working on the notes and start planning their proposal.

5. 30 minutes after you’ve started the activity, students get in pairs (one student from each group) to share their pieces of news. Before they start talking, they’re reminded of the reporting verbs. The importance of choosing two sequential episodes is that they’ll be able to understand why such and such things are in the news (group B) as well as find out what the conclusion of the news was (group A). This discussion usually lasts for about 10 – 15 minutes, depending on the group.

6. After there’s been a wrap-up discussion with the whole group, you now turn to their notes for their proposal. Students share what they’ve come up with and talk to each other about their ideas. The proposal is assigned as homework.

I hope the description of the activity is clear. If it isn’t, just let me know.

Any thoughts? What other activities do you do with CNN Student News?

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