As we all know, finding authentic resources that are level-appropriate for novices can be very difficult. Back in January, I came upon two articles in French newspapers online that I thought would be great to use in class. This article from Futura-Sciences is about the polar vortex causing extreme cold temperatures in the northeast United States this past January, something my students could certainly relate to, having had to suffer through those low temperatures! This article, from Ouest France, is about how, at the same time, parts of France were having record high temperatures for winter.
These two articles were great because in class, we were learning about weather. Since they are on a similar topic, I could have students compare and contrast these articles, tying in nicely to Common Core. Their content of the articles, however, was too difficult for my first-year students. Then I realized that the headlines and first paragraph, which summarize the story, might be all I need to use! Maybe it's obvious, but I hadn't really thought of it before. Reading headlines (and summary paragraphs - the paragraph with the larger text that precedes most articles) seems like a great way to expose novice students to authentic news stories that would otherwise be too difficult to read. Obviously we don't want to rely solely on this method, but it's another tool to add to the mix.
Before showing the articles, I introduced some of the vocabulary they would need. Then we read the headlines and the summary paragraphs together. Afterwards, I asked students to turn to their neighbor and summarize what they had just learned. Then I asked a couple of yes-or-no basic comprehension questions to the students (Il y a record pour une température minimale en hiver en France ou aux États-Unis ?).
While I probably won't share these same two articles again next year with my students since they will be a little out of date, I'm going to keep looking for headlines for students to compare and contrast. An improvement for next time might be to have the students read the headlines and summary paragraphs without me first (keeping it more student-centered and having them do more of the work on their own), then read it with them to reinforce pronunciation before moving onto the comparing and contrasting.
I took some of my ideas for using these articles from Martina Bex's wonderful blog post about using authentic resources with novice students.