I have found that Media Professional Department students are very interested in the latest news from around the world but they are not sure how to access and make use of it. Therefore, the “Words in the News” section of the BBC Learning English website, which is constantly being updated with new stories, is a very valuable resource for them. Not only is it useful for studying about foreign news, but it is also very interesting when there is a story about Japan because in such cases students can see how the media in another country, in this case Britain, reports on their own country. This often surprises them because they are generally only familiar with Japanese media and the ‘angle’ taken and the way of reporting are often quite different.
I must admit that I am not very familiar with modern educational technology but I do at least make use of email to notify students a few days in advance of each class about which particular story from “Words in the News” I am planning to discuss in the lesson. Since the materials are available online, students can study them wherever and whenever they like before coming to the lesson. This ensures that we make good use of in-class time for discussion and presentations about the chosen topics.
For each story, I also try to provide students in advance with some relevant background materials relating to the story in order that they can get a better understanding of how the story fits in to the broader social, cultural, political, economic and historical contexts. I find that popular sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia often provide useful and motivating materials for this purpose. In the case of the latter, although it seems that it is not yet widely known, in addition to the main English version of the site there is also a Simple English version (http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) which, like the “Words in the News” stories, are specifically intended for non-native speakers. I would recommend all learners of English to try searching for information on this site.
Finally, I would like to mention something about the Extensive Reading component of the course. In addition to the somewhat intensive approach to the study of media English that we take in our lessons, as an on-going background task students are also required to do quite a lot of reading from special books called “graded readers”. Fortunately for us, these are plentifully available in the library of Nagoya University. If you are not familiar with these wonderful little books, I strongly recommend you to seek them out because they offer an incredibly enjoyable and effective way of improving your English ability. The key point about graded readers is that they are produced in series with varying degrees of difficulty, in terms of grammar and vocabulary, and students can choose to start reading books which match or perhaps just slightly exceed their current reading comprehension ability level. The lowest level books are written in extremely simple English, and indeed are often in the form of comics with lots of pictures and few words per page. But as you progress up through the levels the difficulty increases so that, at the highest levels, there is little difference between them and books written for native speakers. An enormous range of such books, produced by several publishing companies, are available, so you are sure to be able to find something at your level that will interest you. Some of the books have been newly written for the series, but many others offer simplified re-writings of famous works of English literature, even Shakespeare! There are also many non-fiction books including a lot of biographies of famous people. For you own personal study you can just read and enjoy these books, but for the students taking this course I ask them to write a very short, simple report, in English, about each one just to give them a chance to express their impression of the book in English and to receive some written feedback from me about it. One measure of the popularity of these books is that I have often seen students absorbedly reading them on the underground coming to or from Nagoya University, and indeed several students have told me that they have sometimes missed their stop on the underground because they were so absorbed in reading the story!
Here is a useful link (http://extensivereading.net/resources) for further information on Extensive Reading. There are plenty of other sites in the internet too.