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Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies to Understand News Articles

The author as an English teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2009.

The author as an English teacher at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand in 2009.

Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies

Strategies for teaching reading comprehension to EFL and ESL students were suggested in my past published article. Effective reading comprehension strategies are necessary for improving the reading proficiency of all students. This article examines how to apply my reading comprehension strategies to understanding of news articles in the classroom.

Applying Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies in the Classroom

Usually, at the beginning of the school year, I choose a fictitious news article that I have written especially for middle school EFL students in Thailand. My students are just beginning to read news articles, so I choose the topic of a traffic accident that happened in Bangkok. This is purposely done so that students can draw on their background knowledge for comprehension of the article. The news article for this lesson is as follows:

Samut Prakarn Man Killed in Head-on Crash

A 65-year-old Samut Prakarn man was killed in an accident opposite the Emporium Shopping Center in Bangkok yesterday.

A Chonburi woman was charged with vehicular homicide after a head-on collision on Sukhumvit Road that killed James Jones of Samut Prakarn but left his dog unharmed, Bangkok police said. Traffic police said that Supansa Boonmalert, 27, was driving east at about 10:20 p.m. when her pick-up truck jumped a traffic island and struck an oncoming car driven by Jones. Jones, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene; his German shepherd in the passenger seat was unhurt, Sergeant Tawatchai Seemuang said. Boonmalert was also charged with driving to endanger.

Tawatchai said Supansa, who claims not to remember hitting Jones's car, was taken to Bumrungrad Hospital with minor injuries. Witnesses told police investigators they saw Supansa's pick-up drive onto the center island without warning and head toward Jones's car. Tawatchai said police were trying to determine whether Jones, who suffers from epilepsy, was having a seizure at the time of the accident.

Pre-reading Activities

Eliciting Background Knowledge

Before the students even begin to read the article, I will explain that the article they will read is about car accidents. I will show the class pictures of traffic on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok and also different pictures of car crash accidents in Thailand. These pictures will include witnesses at the scene of the accidents, paramedics, and police investigators. Next, I will elicit from my students any personal or background knowledge which they have about car accidents.

Following this, the teacher stresses the need to identify the factual elements of the story which are answered by "who," "what," "when," "where," "how," and "why" questions.

Reading Activities

Identifying the Main Idea and Answers to Key Information Questions

At this time, the teacher tells the students to look at the headline and asks for volunteers to answer what the article is about. Some students will say that a Samut Prakarn man died in a car crash. This is correct, and the students have identified the main idea of what happened in the article.

Next, the teacher instructs the class to chorally read the first sentence of the article while reminding them that a summary of the news story is found here. The summary answers the questions of who the actors are, what action took place, when the action occurred, and where the action happened. After asking for the summary, most students should be able to answer that a Samut Prakarn man (who) was killed in a car accident (what) yesterday (when) opposite the Emporium Shopping Center in Bangkok (where).

First Reading of the Article

For the next step in the reading process, the teacher has the class read the remainder of the article without stopping to look up words. While reading, the teacher tells the students to make a list of all the "whos, whats, whens and wheres" they encounter in the story, The teacher will write the words on the whiteboard, and a student's list might look like this:

Listing of "Whos, Whats, Whens, and Wheres" in the Article

"Whos" - Samut Prakarn man; Chonburi woman; James Jones; Bangkok police; traffic police; Supansa Boonmalert; Jones; Sergeant Tawatchai Seemuang; Tawatchai; Supansa; witnesses; police, and investigators

"Whats" - vehicular homicide; head-on collision; dog; pick-up truck; traffic island; oncoming car; seatbelt; German shepherd; passenger seat; minor injuries; center island; epilepsy; seizure, and accident

"Whens" - yesterday; 10:20 p.m.

"Wheres" - Samut Prakarn; Emporium Shopping Center; Bangkok; Chonburi; Sukhumvit Road; east; Bumrungrad Hospital

Second Reading of the Article

Mapping Associations of "Whos"

A second reading of the article next follows. During the reading, the students map the associations of all the "whos" in the article. By doing this, students are guided to associate Chonburi women, Supansa Boomalert, and Supansa as being the same person. Similarly, students should be able to identify Samut Prakarn man, James Jones, and Jones as being the same individual. Next, the relationship between Bangkok police, traffic police, police, investigators, Sergeant Tawatchai Seemuang, and Tawatchai can be shown.

Diagraming the Scene of the Accident

Before mapping the sequence of actions, the teacher must diagram or draw a picture of what is happening on the whiteboard. A simple diagram of Sukhumvit Road opposite the Emporium is drawn. The diagram should note directions and the traffic island as well as show the locations of both Jones' and Supansa's vehicles. Erasers are a good aid for representing the two vehicles and their movements.

Explaining Action Verbs

Next, in explaining how the accident happened, the teacher makes sure the students understand the action verbs of "driving," "jumped," and "struck" by demonstrating the actions with two erasers which are vehicles. "Pronounced" can be explained as saying the "doctor said," and "charged" as the police saying Supansa did something wrong.

The sequence of Actions in the News Article

After this is done, students should be able to list the sequence of actions in the reading as follows:

1. Supansa was driving her pick-up east on Sukhumvit Road at 10:20 p.m. yesterday.

2. Across from the Emporium, Supansa's pick-up jumped a traffic island.

3. Supansa struck the oncoming car of Jones driving west.

4. Jones is pronounced dead at the accident scene.

5. Police come and investigate and ask witnesses about the accident.

6. Police charge Supansa with vehicular homicide and driving to endanger.

7. Supansa goes to the hospital with minor injuries.

Third Reading of the Article

By the third reading of the article, students should be able to answer the questions of "how" and "why" the accident happened. After the teacher reviews from the second reading how the accident occurred, the instructor should introduce cause and effect to suggest why the accident happened. For example, the teacher should suggest that because Supansa has epilepsy, she probably had a seizure that caused her to lose control of the vehicle and hit Jones. The instructor can also suggest that Jones died because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt which caused him to violently strike his head on a part of his car.

During the third reading, through established associations and context, most students should be able to figure out the meanings of any unclear words. For example, the class can easily figure out that a German shepherd is a kind of dog because a dog was in the car with Jones. Many students should also be able to guess that endanger means to make dangerous, claim means to say, and injuries are associated with hurt and the hospital, Undoubtedly, some words like minor, epilepsy, and seizure will have to be explained to the students.

Reading for a purpose by eliciting a student's background knowledge and directing them to look for answers to information question words like "who, what, where, and when" is the first part of a wise, effective reading strategy. Other parts such as associations, sequencing, and figuring out words from context are essential for an excellent reading strategy. Hopefully, they have been demonstrated in this article.

More on Reading Comprehension

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 08, 2012:


Thanks for reading this article and your great encouraging comments. I really appreciate them.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on December 08, 2012:

Paul, this is a great article for teaching articles, and many of these techniques would be also be useful for teaching language arts to middle school students. I love your idea of creating a "fake" article and then getting students to do critical thinking around it. Brilliant and voted up and more. Wonderful job!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 04, 2012:

Marcy, Thank you very much for the favorable comments. I hope to have more on this topic in the future.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on March 04, 2012:

This is very helpful information for anyone dealing with an EFL or ESL population. Using news articles as education tools is an excellent idea! Thanks for all the details you've provided here. Outstanding hub - voted up, useful and interesting.