For more lesson ideas, click here.

Lesson Ideas: News and the Media

The news and the media is a common topic in course books though one which has been revolutionised since the advent of the internet. As a result it may be important to consider how relevant any course book activities are to the way in which students receive and interact with news.

Possible Learning Outcomes:

Most people get information from the media in some way, although how people do this has changed in recent years. Fewer people are involved in producing information for mainstream media, although many people post on social media. The following may therefore be worthwhile communicative outcomes for this topic:

(All outcomes should be proceeded by “by the end of the lesson, students will be better able to”)

  • read/listen to and understand new stories on the topic of [crime, sports, politics, entertainment, etc.]
  • understand headlines and/or straplines
  • retell a short news story they have read/heard
  • identify credible and fake news stories
  • devise questions about a news story they have read/heard
  • express an opinion on a news item they have read/heard
  • conduct a survey on opinions on a particular news story
  • conduct a survey on (social) media habits
  • prepare a short news story for publication
  • write a social media post
  • write a press release about an upcoming event
  • devise interview questions for a person of media interest


Working with Headlines

Whether students read news stories in traditional print or online, they are likely to come across headlines. These are linguistically interesting as they do not follow the normal ‘rules’ of sentence construction. As a result some headlines are ambiguous or unclear, puns or simply intended as clickbait. Helping students to make sense of headlines is therefore a useful activity since it helps them to read more selectively. One fun activity for working with headlines is the missing words round from the TV show Have I got news for you. In this game, students compete to guess the missing words from headlines, or to suggest the funniest or most interesting idea to complete the headlines. Another fun activity is to use ambiguous headlines such as “stolen painting found by tree” or “research hindered by lack of brains”. Students can then try to explain the two meanings of the headline. Often the passive is a feature of these headlines and therefore this can lead into a lesson on passive voice. Students can also expand headlines to include emitted words.


The news or media frequently includes video and pictures that can be used in a number of ways.

One fun activity that can be done with pictures (and also used on the show Have I got news for you) is a caption contest. In this activity you simply need to show students an interesting video and have them attempt to caption it (or create a headline). A good picture will have a number of ways it can be interpreted. Pictures where someone is pulling an unexpected facial expression are gold for this.

Another idea you could try is the “newsflash” improvisation game from Whose line is it anyway. In the TV show, a green screen is set up, however you don’t necessarily need to use this if your students can use their imagination. Instead you need three students. One is a reporter. All of the other students must be able to see a screen with a video playing that they can’t see. The video is the situation that the reporter is reporting on. The other two students who are involved are news anchors. They are in the studio asking the reporter questions about the situation and should try to provide clues through their questions. The reporter then guesses what the situation was.

Checking Comprehension

If students have read or listened to a news story, you are most likely going to want to check their comprehension of the piece. One game you can use for this is the reverse questions game. This game simply flips the process of answering questions, having students use the answers provided to formulate questions about the text.

Improving Vocabulary

Undoubtedly, you want your students to gain vocabulary if they are reading media stories or posts. For this you can use lexical mining.

Retelling Stories

Jigsaw reading (giving students different texts to read) creates a natural opportunity for retelling the news stories. A fun game to use when students do this is the interruptions game. In this game, students aim to prevent a student from telling the full story by asking questions. Naturally, done well, it does prevent the student from actually telling a story. If students actually need to understand the story, it may therefore be necessary to give the student a little more time with no questions. Alternatively, the game say nothing can be used as students try to retell the story by giving as little detail as possible.

Character Improvisation

Having read or heard a news story, students often have questions such as why someone behaved as they did. This creates an opportunity for students to role play as an interesting character from the news story. One game that can be leveraged for this purpose is why were you. To use it in this way, instead of providing the questions for students, have them write their own questions. One student then plays the role of the character and must attempt to answer all of the questions. An alternative game is what’s the question. In this case you could have all of the other students playing roles from the story. These roles should be known to the student who is guessing what the question is. Students should answer according to what they believe their character would say.

Media Habits

One activity you can do here is to have students write and conduct a survey. This is a perfectly valid activity, though it would be time-consuming. An alternative would be to use a find someone who mill drill type activity. In this activity you can give each student one question to ask all of the other students, for example:

S1: How often do you read a newspaper? Always, sometimes or never?

S2: Never. How often do you post on social media? Every day, once a week or less than once a week?


Conducting interviews with people of media interest can lead to very exciting role plays that develop empathy as well as language skills. As the subject of an interview, a student could take the role of any of the following:

  • a celebrity (from an international star such as Leonardo DiCaprio to a local celebrity),
  • a witness (of a crime, major event, etc.),
  • a government official,
  • a spokesperson for a company, organisation or celebrity,
  • a conspiracy theorist,
  • a convicted criminal or acquitted suspect,
  • someone at the centre of a human interest story.

A good way to conduct such interviews is to have students work together to write questions they would like to ask. Then students can be split into pairs and take turns to play the role of the interviewer and interviewee.

Don’t Miss A Thing!

If you like this post and the many others on Alex Walls ELT, why not subscribe to our teachers list and get great suggestions to your inbox?

* indicates required

Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
error: Content is protected !!