Free EFL Conversation Lesson Plan: Is it News and What’s Your Opinion?

teaching kids in thailand
This is a reprint of a story I wrote several years ago, when I used to teach English in Thailand. It is still relevant.

As an EFL teacher in Thailand, I’m always looking for interesting ways to get my Thai students speaking more English.

Introducing news topics into the EFL/ESL classroom can be a great way to get EFL/ESL students talking and can encourage them giving opinions to. Where they might not want to give an opinion about something at work or in their personal life, they’re often more likely to give an opinion about a news story they read about.

EFL/ESL students also often say they don’t know what to talk about when they meet a westerner, so getting them reading news stories is a great way to give them an interesting topic of conversation.

If your EFL/ESL students are also struggling with what to talk about, try this free EFL/ESL conversation lesson plan on news – you might be surprised how fast they start talking.

Expected Outcomes – Students will be able to read a short news story, understand what it’s about and be able to hold a short conversation about the story, giving any opinions they may have.

Materials and Resources – Short news story printed from CNN or Yahoo, whiteboard markers.

Teaching Procedures

Step One: Handout the news story/stories you have chosen from CNN or Yahoo. I usually choose two stories, one that’s a serious news story and one that’s a silly or funny news story. Ask your students to spend 5-10 minutes reading through the story, underlining any vocabulary they don’t understand and try to figure out what the story is about.

Step Two: Ask students for any vocabulary they don’t understand. As each word is said, ask other students if they know the meaning. If they don’t, explain the meaning to them for each word not understood. Once vocabulary from both articles has been discussed and explained, ask students to tell you what they think the story is about.

Correct any misunderstandings or add any extra information that’s relevant for them to be able to truly understand the news story and why it is news.

Good conversation topics for Thai EFL students

Step Three: Ask students which of the two stories they liked the most and why. Then, go around the room and ask their opinions on the stories. Do they agree with them? Disagree with them? Don’t care (a reasonable answer, honestly!) If it’s an event, ask them if they think the same thing could happen in their country?

When you start to ask opinions from many EFL/ESL students, they are reticent to answer but, I’ve noticed if I use a news story, they will answer more readily as they’re not giving an opinion about something personal – news is far removed from most people’s reality, so it’s an easier and safer thing to comment on.

Explain to students that, in most news stories, you can figure out the general idea of the story from just reading the headline, the first two paragraphs and the last paragraph. So if they’re short of time but still want an interesting story to talk about, they can just glance at a newspaper and be able to hold a short conversation about a news topic outside class.

Step Four: Now, put students into pairs or trios and ask them to come up with a short role play (1-2 minutes) talking about one of the news stories they just read about. Make sure they also use some of the vocabulary from the news story that they didn’t understand. Give students 10-15 minutes to prepare the role play, then ask each group to come up to the front of the class and act out their role play.

Step Five: When each group has performed their role play, ask the class what they liked about each one and what they thought could be improved then, as the teacher, you should briefly also critique each role play but still concentrating on the positives more than the negatives.

Evaluation and Assessment: 1) EFL/ESL students should be able to understand a short news story, 2) Students should be able to give their opinions on the story, and 3) Students should be able to perform in a short role play using vocabulary from the news story and correct grammar.