I spend most of my work days helping students try to get abroad to university though the International Foundation Year (IFY) Programme at Language Link. Something I’ve noticed from the students I encounter is their lack of awareness of world news.
To help them with this, I implemented a current events summary assignment. Each week students have to do the following:
- Find an article that interests them (politics, sports, fashion)
- Condense (summarise) the article into 150-200 words
- Submit it to me for lexical and grammatical feedback
The real purpose of the assignment was to create general awareness in this ever-expanding global world. If you’re going to study abroad, you need to understand the world you live in.
Preparing for Foreign Cultures
And that is part of our aim on the IFY Programme. We prepare students academically, but we also prepare them for the cultural differences they’ll encounter. For example, students gain a better understanding of Western behaviour. That is, they learn to appreciate that what might be seen here in Vietnam as impolite, is sometimes perfectly acceptable in other countries.
Besides teachers explaining the cultural differences, it’s important for students to investigate these differences themselves. This is why we ask students to write a summary for each article they read. It’s a great way to learn about another country and its customs.
When students eventually go abroad or meet foreigners here, they’ll be able to engage in various topics of conversation through understanding other cultures. In a classroom or social setting, the students will have the knowledge and confidence to share their views.
Benefits to Students
The academic skills that students develop are incredibly beneficial to them. Some examples are included below:
- As they read, they’re improving their vocabulary range;
- During the summarizing part, their writing is being assessed; and
- Their grammar is refined with each article they read and each summary they complete.
When I first approached students with this assignment, it wasn’t very well received. I think that newspapers are seen as “old-fashioned.” So I allowed them to use the Internet or magazines they like. It didn’t matter to me as long as it was in English.
The outcome of this was great! Besides improving their English skills, students even started to read the newspaper once the assignments were completed.
What Do You Think?
Do you ever read the news in English? Do you think reading English-language news can help you learn about the world while you improve your English? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!