Quick Tip Tuesday: Engaging ELLs with a “class news” activity

March 22nd, 2010

Putting together a classroom newspaper with a group of first grade ELL students may sound like an all-day project. But Brad Buhrow and Anne Upczak Garcia do a “class news” activity nearly every morning and it takes less than 30 minutes. In their book, Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies: English Language Learners Discover Their World Through Inquiry, Buhrow and Garcia explain how the newspaper format helps them use personal stories and shared writing to teach ELLs  things like language structures, grammar, and syntax:


Part of what we do to learn about each other is encourage the telling of stories about ourselves. Both teachers and kids share stories from day one. We do this a number of different ways, and we begin the journey within the supportive structure of shared reading and writing. Shared writing is an excellent way for ELLs to practice language structures orally and see conventional grammar and syntax modeled. We have been using a format called Class News. As a class we create daily news almost every day from day one. This routine allows the kids to contribute to a writing, reading, listening, and speaking activity that is all about them. 


Often we write our news early in the morning and find it a good way to start the day.  First we write the title of our news, for example, “First-Grade News” or “Second-Grade News” or something more exciting such as “The Class Adventures for [date].” We ask the kids to think about what news we have that we can write.  After giving them a couple of minutes of quiet time to think, we let them tell someone next to them what they are thinking.  Next, as we hold the pen we ask someone to share.  Often they like to start with the weather.  For example, “Today is hot and sunny.” We first draw lines to represent where words will go, usually using a yellow or light-colored marker.  Drawing lines for each word emphasizes spaces for words and makes a connection between voice and print.  Then we ask, “What goes at the beginning of a sentence?” We choose someone who has a thumb up. As we write, we stop sometimes to talk about letter sounds, coloring in some of the letters.  For a word such as Thursday we would talk about the beginning sound and color in the Th to make it stand out—a brief graphophonic lesson.  We also stop before the end of a sentence and ask, “What is the next word?” This gives the kids practice with semantic cues.  They need to put in a word that makes sense.  When we come to the end of the sentence, we ask, “What do writers put at the end of a sentence?” Sometimes we say, “Tell someone next to you what goes at the end of a sentence.” This gives everyone a chance to talk, and we write what they say. With this shared writing we are able to teach in-context conventions, English syntax, vocabulary, graphophonics, semantic cues, and more.  We also point out differences and similarities between English and Spanish, such as cognates and letter sounds, as a way to show the students the relationships between the two, because we have a large number of Spanish-speaking students.  Each day we choose a couple of colors such as blue and green and alternate colors for each sentence. We also draw small pictures to represent some of the words. In the sentence “Today is hot and sunny,” we might draw a sun above the word sunny and a thermometer above hot. The pictures help make the text more comprehensible to our new English learners. When we are finished, we take turns reading our news together. In twenty minutes we have already written and read a newspaper!


Entry Filed under: Differentiation & ELLs,Quick Tip Tuesday

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mrs. V  |  March 23rd, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    This sounds like a great promising practice. I like how it is a good foundation for students to realize that their everyday life is worth writing about.

  • 2. stella Villalba  |  March 25th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Absolutely! I agree with you Mrs. V. The practice describe above send the message to our young readers and writers that we all have a story to tell. Plus it lays the foundation of important writing skills for life.

  • 3. stella Villalba  |  March 25th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    The practice describe above send the message to our young readers and writers that we all have a story to tell. Plus it lays the foundation of important writing skills for life.

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