In what ways could the latest radio news or news podcasts be preferrable to textbooks in the language classroom?
- – authentic language by native speakers
- – real topics happening in the world right then, broadening the students’ understanding of the world and their general knowledge
- – fostering knowledgeable citizens of the world
- – language studies support the students’ studies in other subjects like social studies, geography etc
- – emphasizing and improving listening skills
- – excellent, clearly articulated language using rich vocabulary
- – by and large, unbiassed reporting on a wide range of subjects
- – short and to the point (5 minutes in all)
- – as a regular listening comprehension with multiple choice questions or similar
- – or, to be worked on in detail, using all language skills, listening, reading, writing, and speaking, which is the method I’m going to describe here
BBC-news – From Sound Podcasts to TV-news in Two Steps
Student activity: Listening, Googleing, collaborating and writing. Level: Advanced (senior year in high school) Tasks: The podcast (this one from 2012) divided according to topic in game generator Didactor with a final, gamified, quiz on vocabulary from all topics. In each news item the student tries to recreate what is being said word by word. Some help is given, but not too much: In the passage on King Sihanouk’s death, for instance, the following words need extra attention and re-appear in the final task: former, crucial, turbulent, unpredictable, autocratic, install, engulf, ill-fated, abdicate. Others to appear in the later items were: parachutist, leap, descent, head over heels, chord, sculpt, raise, constituent assembly, predecessor, defeat, offshoot, representative, serve as, transitional government, key player, uprising, mosque, clash, regain control, fierce, armoured vehicles, without major incidents, pollster, parliamentary election, rebuke, first-round vote, weary, recession, reduction, public sector, rebound, Lithuanians, assassination, impeachment etc., many of them extremely useful and much more frequent than most students would be prepared to admit. Working with them like this, in authentic, coherent contexts, raises the students’ linguistic awareness, which, in turn, makes it highly likely that the student will cognitively pay attention to them the next time they appear.
Student activity: The same as in Step 1: Listening, Googleing, collaborating and writing, expanded with these: finding corroborative images, practising intonation and pronunciation. Level: Advanced (senior year in high school) Task: To be a BBC TV-reporter who is assigned to make a TV-newscast on the basis of a radio news podcast. For news anchor he/she can either use an avatar or an actual photo of him-/herself. Material: A recent BBC podcast – preferrably as fresh as possible, because that would make it possible for the student to use recent newspaper for help (and generally boost newspaper reading habits). Dividing the deadlines like this, into two smaller ones – one for the text manuscript and one for the sound files – and a final one for the finished end-product, makes it more perspicuous for the student and reduces the risk of him procrastinating too much, leaving the whole work until the very last moment. Also, this enables me to review the student’s work at various points in the process and to render him/her assistance with the technology or the language if required. One student, participating in this project last year, chose to do it like this: