This free ESL lesson plan on the news and media has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.
The function of the media is to provide us with the factual information we need to make important decisions in our lives and to hold the government to account. It plays such a vital role in a democracy that it is sometimes described as the fourth pillar of government. Yet these days, so many news networks do not take these responsibilities seriously. Instead of holding the government to account, they will only criticise if it happens to be the wrong party. Look at CNN and Fox in the United States for a perfect example of this – CNN will hold President Trump to account, and Fox will hold President Biden to account, but rarely the other way round. But is this the fault of these media companies, or is it the fault of an audience that demands the news confirms what they already believe to be true? In this ESL lesson plan on the news and media, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as where they get their news from, important news stories and the role of the media in society.
This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Press Freedom Day, which takes place in May. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.
For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):
BBC | BBC World News celebrates 25 years – five things that have changed news in the last 25 years
In this article, the BBC takes a look back at five major changes to the news over the last 25 years including technology, audiences, citizen journalism, social media and globalisation. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any other ways the news has changed over the years?
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.
The video for this class is called “But Wait: How DOES The Media Tell You What To Think?” by PBS Idea Channel which examines whether the media really does influence how we act and think.
The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.
This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including what news stories the students have been following recently, memorable news events from their lives and why there is so much ‘bad news’ these days.
After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with the news and media such as biased, sensationalist and mainstream media. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.
If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.
Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about the news and media. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the purpose of the media, how much influence the media has over us and how the news will be different in the future.
After the class, students will write about their opinion of the news and media. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.