Retell an L1 news story in English

Tip: an internet newspaper site from the student’s own country (in their language) offers possibilities for discussion topics that are simply not there on English-language sites.


In one-to-one I usually have the internet available in the room, and of course some time is spent looking at English-language sites. But occasionally I also use sites in L1 (the student’s own language). If there is an L1 site that the student knows and likes – perhaps the online version of a newspaper from their country – then I simply pass the mouse to them and get them to find an article they are interested in. They read it silently, and then turn away from the screen and retell it to me in English. They can occasionally turn back to remind themselves of the rest of the text, but while telling me about it they should look at me, not the screen. At the end I ask questions about the background to the story, ask for more information, and it turns into an interesting discussion.

The advantages of using a site from their own country are:

a) the news stories and other articles are within their direct experience – they know about the people and the situation

b) they can surf and scan the site very quickly to find the parts that interest them

c) comprehension is not a problem and is taken out of the picture – it becomes a pure fluency exercise; this can be a big advantage at lower levels

d) talking about things happening in their own country is a genuine need in Social English, and UK and US sites won’t have this content