“Watching” (Interpreting) the news while keeping your students engaged

Watching the news is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the world and increase our global competence. However, watching the news in a language that is not your native tongue is a daunting task. There are at least three main barriers to a language learner interpreting the news:

  1. Language barrier : Speed and sophistication of the language
  2. Cultural barrier: Topics your students may not be familiar with
  3. Interest barrier: Content that does not relate to your students’ lives and personal interests

As a result, the Affective Filter of our students is usually high when attempting to watch the news.

Keeping these three barriers in mind, I have developed a process for watching the news with my AP students, using “Le journal télévisé de 20h sur France 2“. This typically takes a whole period and we do it every week starting second semester.

  1. We watch the headlines as a class, which have three built-in scaffolds:
    • simpler “catchy” language
    • visuals
    • captions
  2. We discuss the headlines as a class. I make sure everyone understands what the headlines are about and I may write down key words on the board for each headline.
  3. Based on our understanding of the headlines, students choose a news topic they are interested in. I typically recommend a topic that is not connected to the US but I don’t prohibit it. This is really important because students get a chance to learn about something they want to learn about.
  4. Students grab technology and headphones and fast forward the video to their news topics. They can view/listen to it as many times as they want but I encourage them to get the main ideas within two viewings. While this does not remove the language barrier, it reduces it by allowing students to stop, think, and listen again as many times as they need.
  5. In the meantime, I view as many news topics as I can (I am obviously faster than my students so I can typically view 2-3 while they are focusing on theirs)
  6. We split into groups:
    1. First, students who viewed the same news topics share and compare what they interpreted
    2. Then, students go sit with others who have viewed different news topics and share
  7. I circulate among the groups, supporting them as needed.

I use this graphic organizer to structure the activity.

Are you watching the news in your class? I would love to hear how you do it and I would welcome feed-back on the process outlined above.

Teaching Novice students? Have them read comprehensible news in French here.

image credit: http://www.francetvinfo.fr/replay-jt/france-2/20-heures/


  1. Thanks for sharing! One thing – how are you able to view the videos? When I click a topic, it says “non disponible depuis votre position géographique.” Any ideas?

    • Mademoiselle, Which “topic” are you trying to click? If you click on any of the “JT de 20h”, you should have no problem viewing them, you can even sign-up to receive it in your mail box.

  2. Love this! It seems like a great thing for me to do with my level 4 students. It will be a good break since I teach it as a combo 3/4 class. Do you teach traditional 50-60 mins periods or on the block? I want to get an idea of how long I should plan for this activity.

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