(NOTE: This is now my regularly updated “regular” list of current events sites. I no longer publish an annual list)
One way to encourage our ESL/EFL students and others to become active citizens in the world is to help them become aware of important news events. Current news can also be a source of high-interest reading, speaking, listening, and writing material, and provide opportunities to stimulate higher-order thinking.
A first step in this process is to provide them with accessible information. This list offers my choices for the top ten News/Current Events Websites for English Language Learners in 2009. It updates The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners — 2007. There are a lot of similarities between the two editions, but also a few important changes.
This list is different in one way from all my other “The Best…” lists. The first group of sites highlight my choices in order of preference. Then, later in the post, I list the choices made by my students. I was surprised to find that they liked some of the sites I list in The Best Visually Engaging News Sites, which are ones I thought were fun to look at but were not really that informative or accessible. One of the other issues was that a few of my choices were blocked by our school district’s content filter, so students weren’t able to try-out all of them, including my top-ranked pick.
Here are my choices:
Number twelve is the English Club. It provides a monthly text and audio summary of four news stories, including online cloze (fill-in-the-gap) exercises.
Number eleven is Voice of America’s Special English TV. The vocabulary used is great, the speed is perfect, the information is often (though not always) interesting. But can’t they liven it up a little bit and not just have a “talking head?” How about a few pictures related to the subject?
Number ten is Voice of America’s Special English TV. The vocabulary used is great, the speed is perfect, the information is often (though not always) interesting. But can’t they liven it up a little bit and not just have a “talking head?” How about a few pictures related to the subject?
Breaking News English is number nine. It’s been providing text and audio of the top news stories a few times each week for quite awhile. In addition, it has excellent lesson plans and follow-up activities that can be printed-out.
Number eight is News English Lessons, a sister site of of Breaking News English that appears to have even more accessible resources for ELL’s.
Number seven is off-line now.
Number six is the CBBC Newsround. This is sort of a version of BBC News designed for younger people. The lay-out, writing, and choice of stories is very inviting. They now have a separate Accessible Newsreader for much of their content that is attractively designed and provides audio support for the text.
Number five is off-line.
Number four is off-line.
Number three is the LIFE site sharing millions of photos from the LIFE Magazine archives and Getty Images. What’s great about this new site is that, unlike Google’s previous hosting of many of the same photos (which are just listed by decades), LIFE’s site shows them in thematic slideshows with accessible captions. Plus, they include daily updates of slideshows about current events. You can also subscribe to a weekly email newsletter that gives you updates on new content. Both the historical and current slideshows are fabulous.
Number two is the Voice of America Special English News. These short articles, with audio, are accessible, timely, and numerous.
And now, for the number one News/Current Events Website For English Language Learners, I’m picking… :
The BBC Learning English site is attractively designed and has images and audio support for text.
Here are my students’ choices:
Number seven — LIFE
Number six — Discovery Earth Live
Number five — News Map
Number four — Voice of America’s Special English TV
Number three — World News Map
Number two — World News Today
Number one — Audio Slideshow Gallery at Reuters (Now Discontinued)
Mapeas provides news videos from around the world. Of course, lots of sites do this. Mapeas is different, though, because the video links are located on a Google Map — you go to the geographical area of the world you want, and you click on the links located there.
The Voice of America has a new Articles section, which has lots of interactive exercises related to engaging news articles.
The Daily What: News For Schools In Scotland provides very well-written and accessible articles about world-wide events, and, in addition, provides interactives (such as quizzes) for each one (look for the red question mark on the right column to find the interactives). The articles have both shorter and longer versions available. The site has a lot of other features, but those are only accessible to Scottish teachers and students.
News in Levels provides several different “levels” of the same news article and provides audio support for the text. The site is clearly focused on ELLs, with the “lowest” level an image annotated with vocabulary words, which also has audio support. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t have interactive activities that students can do, but I guess you can’t have everything…
The New York Times has begun a new feature called the Times Minute. It’s a one minute video regularly updated during the day highlighting news stories. You can find its archive here. Happily, unlike other similar videos, they don’t try to speak very fast so it can be accessible to ELLs. I’m adding it to The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners. Here’s a sample:
50 Ways to Teach With Current Events is from The New York Times Learning Network.
Three Teacher-Tested Ways to Encourage Your Students to Follow Current Events This School Year is from The New York Times Learning Network.