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A step by step approach on how to gather information on current events and stories and be able to write opinions and express personal points of view


Ajarn Willard Van De Bogart - TESOL Certificate May 2003-SIT


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The History of the course which prompted its developed at Nakhon Sawan Rajabhat University:


During the semester (Nov. 03-Feb 04) I taught the course 1551104 "A Discourse Approach to Reading" to BA 1st year English International students. The course objective for the students was to be able to read an essay, short story, or news clipping, and be able to write about the content and/or comprehend the content.

News items passed out in class were:

The final exam had two news clippings:

Developing reading comprehension skills was a top priority in this course.

Several approaches were taken to help develop reading comprehension:
1. In one assignment the students were required to read short stories and write about what they had read.
2. Another assignment I had the students read newspaper clippings (Listed Above) to see if they could understand the main idea in the news story.
3. A third assignment was to have the students read a story and then have a selection of multiple choice questions relating to the story. (Bird Flu article)

Of these three types of reading comprehension assignments the most difficult for the students was trying to read news clippings and then being able to write about the main idea in that same news story.

In the assignment with the news story "Press Freedom" I only circled one paragraph in the news story and then asked the students to explain the meaning of the circled paragraph. What I discovered was the students could not or had a great deal of difficulty in explaining what they had read in that one paragraph.

When the student was presented with a phrase such as "Press Freedom" the concept was completely foreign to them. Even when the meaning of the two words were explained the ability to associate the word "Press" and then the word "Freedom" to create the concept of "Press Freedom" was not possible for the students.

Due to this special situation I then focused on phrasal verbs.

What I found with my students is they could not develop original ideas, nor could they form an opinion because an opinion is another step advanced from an original idea.

During the course I repeatedly presented news stories of high profile items in Thai society such as the tennis player ParadonŐs love life and how the press would write about his personal life.
I intentionally placed a short news story in the final exam and even with multiple choice questions students still had difficulty in answering the questions based on the news story.

With the final results analyzed from the Final Exams I could clearly see that students have a gap between reading and comprehending, and to take it another step further they could not express an opinion due to the fact they do not understand what they had read.
This is not true in all cases, but there idefinitely was a problem on at least one of the stages in reading comprehension.

Because of these perceived problems I have developed a comprehensive approach to collecting news clippings or stories from the Bangkok Post, The Nation and other news sources from newspapers and sources of news on the internet.

World events and National events as well as regional events can have a great impact on our personal lives. It is important that students can approach the news as a very real window to the world to learn what is happening in the world. On a larger scale this means developing a sense of social consciousness or social awareness.

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