How to Use Newsdle to Teach French and Spanish
Effective language teaching requires high-quality material in the target language. Modern language classrooms have moved away from heavily grammar-based instruction, towards more communicative and immersive methods. Getting students excited about reading and listening to interesting material is one strategy that French and Spanish teachers can use.
Reading and listening are powerful ways for language learners to get input in the target language, which strengthens comprehension skills and lays a solid foundation for the students’ output (writing and speaking). Interesting material motivates students to engage with the target language more, initiating a virtuous circle for their learning. The purpose of Newsdle is to provide such interesting material so that Spanish and French teachers can save on preparation time while keeping students engaged.
Why use Newsdle to teach French and Spanish?
There are numerous reasons why Newsdle is a perfect platform to teach French and Spanish. Here are some of the main ones:
News-based lessons are interesting
Newsdle was created to harness the power of news to accelerate language-learning. News is generated daily, is relevant to people’s lives, and never stops evolving. Even the best language textbook could never keep up with the fast pace of current affairs, and exciting new developments in fields such as science and technology. In contrast, many textbooks feel dated within a few years of their publication.
A Newsdle French article about ChatGPT, the AI which dominated news headlines early in 2023.
Familiar topics give students a way into the language
When it comes to stories of global significance – such as technology, climate change, environmental issues, and world sporting events, to name a few – students get the opportunity to study topics that are already familiar or relevant to them, in the target language. Thus, they have the advantage of understanding at least some of the vocabulary and contextual information in advance, which can be motivating.
Cultural immersion is powerful
As well as global affairs, Newsdle includes plenty of material pertaining to culture, history, politics, and contemporary life in Hispanic and Francophone countries. Spanish and French teachers love that they can find Newsdle articles on universal subjects such as food and entertainment, which deepen cultural understanding and complement the curriculum.
Cultural immersion: A Newsdle Spanish article about a Brazilian food festival.
Newsdle is feature-rich
The features of Newsdle have been designed to make life easier for teachers AND students of French and Spanish. Those features make Newsdle interactive, enjoyable and efficient to use. Let’s take a closer look at some Newsdle features and how teachers can start using them in their classroom practice.
(Further Reading: The Value of Using Authentic Materials in Foreign Language Teaching)
How teachers can use Newsdle features to teach French and Spanish
First we will summarise some key Newsdle features which are most important for teachers of French and Spanish. Subsequently, we will explore the practical applications of those features.
One of the best things about Newsdle is that every language level is catered for, from Beginner to Advanced Higher (~CEFR A1 to C2). It’s always going to be easy to find suitable material for your students and you won’t have to spend extra time adapting it.
Furthermore, every Newsdle lesson comes with these features:
- A one-click Spanish-English / French-English dictionary
- Audio recorded by native speakers
- A vocabulary list
- A list of grammar points
- Complete verb conjugation tables (click on any verb in the text)
- Reading and listening comprehension quizzes (results can be saved and exported to your LMS)
👉 How it helps: Students are less reliant on the teacher, physical dictionaries, and internet searches to help them understand unfamiliar words in a text. Encountering the same words repeatedly in different contexts, over time, helps students enlarge their vocabulary. The ability to save words to a user’s personal vocabulary bank for later review, is also advantageous.
☝️ Teacher tip: Challenge students to identify a number of new words in the text – five new words, for example – and write original sentences using those words to demonstrate their understanding.
Native speaker audio
👉 How it helps: Users have the ability to read and listen to the material simultaneously, while training their ear to native pronunciation. Teachers save time on finding separate listening activities, because both skills are integrated into one platform.
☝️ Teacher tip: Have students practise pronouncing key words and phrases from the text. Hearing and practising the same sounds repeatedly, as students can do with Newsdle articles, helps improve their pronunciation over time.
👉 How it helps: There is a vocab list accompanying every Newsdle article, which translates key words and phrases that are likely to be unfamiliar to students of that level. The list also includes idioms and proper nouns, where applicable.
☝️ Teacher tip: Ask students to learn all the vocabulary from one Newsdle lesson in preparation for a test in the following lesson. You can even try exporting the vocabulary list into a spreadsheet, and then import it to your preferred quiz platform, such as Quizlet.
List of grammar points
👉 How it helps: Students not only get an explanation of the grammar, they also get to see how it is used in the context of a news story. Contextual examples help to transform grammar from abstract concepts into a practical communication tool. Being able to recognise a grammatical structure is the first step to being able to use it in one’s own writing and speaking.
☝️ Teacher tip: Encourage students to come up with their own sentences using specific grammar that they have seen in Newsdle articles. Or have them complete the Newsdle quizzes, which include grammar-based questions.
An example of grammar points accompanying an intermediate Newsdle Spanish article.
Verb conjugation tables
👉 How it helps: Verb conjugation can be one of the most daunting and challenging aspects of learning French/Spanish. Having every type of conjugation table available for every verb within a Newsdle text is a very useful reference, and it’s available within a click. This reduces reliance on other external resources and reinforces the different verb forms – especially useful for those troublesome irregular verbs!
☝️ Teacher tip: Choose specific verbs in the text that you would like students to learn. Have them study conjugation tables for those verbs in preparation for a test/quiz. Or group students in pairs so they can take turns testing one another.
This information is available for every verb within a Newsdle text.
Reading and listening quizzes
👉 How it helps: Newsdle quizzes are not only fun (and they are pretty fun to do!), they are also a major time-saver for teachers, as there is no need to spend time creating your own reading and listening comprehension activities. Newsdle activities include questions about vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, and structure of the text. Within the teacher dashboard, it’s possible to create assignments with due dates, a specific number of allowed attempts, and automated grading which can be exported to your LMS (such as Canvas or Google Classroom).
☝️ Teacher tip: Consider allowing students multiple attempts to complete an assignment: having the opportunity to go back and learn from previous mistakes can be a good motivator and confidence-boost for them. Some teachers recommend increasing the difficulty level of texts assigned during the semester, so that students keep being challenged and gain confidence in their abilities.
Other tips to teach Spanish and French using Newsdle
We’ve reviewed some of Newsdle’s key features and benefits. Let’s explore some other ways Spanish and French teachers are using Newsdle successfully in their classroom practice.
Use Newsdle content to introduce a topic
Some teachers like to use Newsdle articles to prepare students for an upcoming activity – for example, watching a movie in the target language, or undertaking some project work.
- Find the topic you want by filtering by category or searching for keywords.
- Assign some reading to students in order to present them with the vocabulary and concepts they will need for the upcoming activity.
Choose from a variety of categories to find Newsdle texts that suit your curriculum topics.
Prepare speaking activities based on Newsdle content
At any language level, it can be frustratingly difficult to encourage students to speak. Role-plays and forced dialogues will only get you so far. In many cases, teachers find that an interesting discussion topic is effective in emboldening students to speak up and express their opinions.
- Have students read a Newsdle article while you write some discussion questions on the board. Being able to see the questions enables students to prepare what they want to say, but they still have the back-and-forth spontaneity of a live discussion. (As extra support for weaker students, write key vocabulary on the board to help them, too.)
- Try assigning one text for half of the class to read, and a different text for the other half to read. Then pair up students across groups so that Student A can tell Student B what they read about, and vice-versa.
(Further Reading: French Conversation Practice Exercises Based on French News Articles)
Newsdle for writing practice
We already suggested some short writing activities using Newsdle articles: getting students to write example sentences using specific vocabulary or grammar they encounter in a Newsdle text. There are other ways to use Newsdle material as a basis for writing practice:
- Students can write a summary of a Newsdle article which includes the main points. That summary could be as short as one sentence, or as long as 200 words.
- Give students a title for an opinion essay, or a creative writing piece, based on the theme of the article.
- Have students write down some thoughtful questions based on the article content. Formulating questions is good language practice in itself, and could also be used as the basis for a speaking activity later (e.g. discuss your questions with a classmate).
- With ChatGPT and an increasing abundance of AI text generators, it’s easier than ever to cheat on written assignments – so if possible, these activities are best done in a classroom setting, using old-fashioned pen and paper!
- Alternatively, if you’re strongly in favour of embracing new technology, how about making students write some questions about the article which they can ask ChatGPT? The chatbot’s response could be a basis for further discussion and/or writing practice.
In this article, we’ve explored the benefits of using news in language teaching, and why Newsdle is a teacher’s ideal source of graded French and Spanish reading material. In conclusion, Newsdle not only saves teachers considerable time by relieving the burden of preparation and assignment grading; it also offers plenty of opportunities for teachers to be creative in how they integrate news content into their lessons, which we expect to result in greater engagement and effective learning outcomes for students.
Daisy Ward is an experienced online English teacher, writer and content creator with a passion for foreign languages and cultures. Her expertise in effective language-learning strategies is derived from many years in language classrooms, both as a teacher and as a student. Fluent in French and competent in Mandarin Chinese, she attributes much of her success in learning languages to the use of apps and other online tools.