Level: Intermediate+
Length: 90 min +
Focus: speaking (discussing news that matter); listening (gist, detail and decoding practice); time expressions to talk about the future
Materials: Worksheet

Stage 1. To introduce the topic of news, board a few words that collocate with ‘news’ and ask the students to guess the missing word (one collocation/one guess); start with less obvious ones, e.g.

  • old ______
  • two pieces of ______
  • get the ______
  • unwelcome ______
  • keep up with the ______
  • a ______ story
  • break the ______  to someone (if the students haven’t got it by now, find more here: (http://www.ozdic.com/collocation-dictionary/news)

Stage 2:  Once the students have come up with ‘news’, ask them do discuss the following questions:

1. How do the people you know keep up with the news?

watch the evening news on TV
read newspapers/get the local paper
go on their favourite online news source/research some news stories online
hear the news by word of mouth
see the news on social media in their news feed

2. What about you – how do you get the news? What kind of news and what for? Are your news sources reliable? 

3. Is it really important to keep up with the news, or is that a waste of time? What are the benefits you personally get from keeping up with the news?


Stage 3: Board ‘The Long News’. Tell the s/s, ‘We’re going to watch a video about a project called ‘The Long News’. Come up with one or two ideas what might be the central idea behind this project.’ Give the s/s time to discuss and board their suggestions. The s/s watch the first part of the video (until 01:21 – ”sooner or later this particular recession is going to be old news’) and decide which prediction was the closest.

NB I’m embedding the video here, but it’s much better to play it from the TED.com site because there you can load the transcript (show transcript > English) to click the sentence you want to re-play:  http://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_citron_and_now_the_real_news.html

Pair-check/ class feedback.

Stage 4. Hand out the mindmap and tell the students that the presenter is going to mention several pieces of ‘long news’ in each category. Ask the students to work in pairs and predict which events that have happened over the last decade might have made it to the list – make sure that they do write their predictions down as they will need them for the discussion task later on. Allow around 10 minutes.


Stage 5. Ask the students to listen to the rest of the video (it’s better to turn off the projector at this point, as the stories are summarized on the screen) and
(optional step 1) count how many news items there are in each category
(step 2) check whether some of their ‘long news’ has been mentioned
(step 3) add these items to their mindmaps

Stage 6. [optional] If the students are having trouble with detailed understanding (my strong intermediate+ students could not catch anything in the ‘science’ section), use the TED.com feature that I mentioned above that allows users to replay separate sentences and give the s/s listening decoding practice, e.g. decoding these two sentences:

‘Someday, little robots will go through our bloodstreams fixing things. That someday is already here if you’re a mouse.’ 

Tell the s/s that in speech some syllables are more prominent (louder/higher pitch / longer) than the others; tell them that you’re going to replay just two sentences; ask the s/s to close their eyes and count how many prominent syllables they hear; FB; ask the s/s to take an A4 sheet, listen again and write down these prominent syllables (but spread them out on the sheet); FB: board the syllables the students have caught; replay again – the students try to fill the gaps; board all suggestions they’ve got (aim to put every single version in the class onto the board and do not comment on the versions just now); replay again – s/s decide which of the versions on the board are correct (if they still can’t catch it, one useful technique is for you to repeat after the speaker mimicking their speed and pronunciation, and then repeat the utterance several times more and more slowly; once the students catch it, reverse the process: repeat it faster and faster several times). Finally, ask the students to listen again and mouth only the prominent syllables with the speaker (replay a few times); after that ask them to mouth the complete utterance. 

I learnt this technique from Nick Hamilton, one of the incredible teacher trainers at IH London under whose guidance I had the privilege to study last summer.

Stage 7. Replay the rest of the video bit by bit to help the students catch and write down the rest of the news.

Stage 8. Refer the students to the transcript (page 3 of the worksheet) and ask them to predict what should go in the gaps. Replay the beginning of the video for the students to fill the gaps. Ask the students which of the expressions refer to more distant future.

We are drowning in news. Reuters alone puts out three and a half million news stories a year. That’s just one source.

My question is: How many of those stories are going to matter __________? That’s the idea behind The Long News. It’s a project by The Long Now Foundation, which was founded by TEDsters including Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand. And what we’re looking for is news stories that might still matter 50 or 100 or _________________?. And when you look at the news through that filter, a lot falls by the wayside.

To take the top stories from the A.P. this last year, is this going to matter _________________?? Or this? Or this? Really? Is this going to matter in 50 or 100 years? Okay, that was kind of cool. (Laughter) But the top story of this past year was the economy, and I’m just betting that, _________________, this particular recession is going to be old news.

So, what kind of stories might make a difference for the future? Well, let’s take science. ___________________, little robots will go through our bloodstreams fixing things. That _________________is already here if you’re a mouse. Some recent stories: nanobees zap tumors with real bee venom; they’re sending genes into the brain; a robot they built that can crawl through the human body.

Elicit and board the answers:
in the long run
10,000 years from now
in a decade
sooner or later

Ask the students to draw a timeline and put these time expressions on a timeline; with a stronger group, ask them to suggest more time expressions (alternatively, suggest a few more yourself and ask them to put them on the timeline:
in a couple of years
within the next 15 years
in a decade or so
in our lifetime

Stage 10.

[option 1] Take a few minutes to board all the ‘Long News’ items that the s/s came up with during Stage 3. Ask the s/s to discuss, either in the same pairs or in new pairs, what these events might lead to in the future – in order to encourage the use of target language, ask them to put these ‘consequences’ on their timelines.

After that ask the students to choose, individually, five events that they consider the most important and then agree on the list of top 5 events in new pairs.

[option 2] The same but without boarding: label the students A and B and have the As hold on to the mindmaps they produced during stage 4 while Bs migrate from partner to partner once every 5+ minutes, discussing and adding more and more potential consequences to their timelines; monitor to notice bits of topic-related language that can be upgraded

Content FB; language FB.

For Homework, you could encourage the students to do more decoding practice with this clip.

Stage 11. [optional] If you have a lot of time, do  a more detailed language focus: hand out the mindmap on page 4 and ask the students to put the time expressions on the map. After that, s/s do the task at the bottom of the page in writing; Language FB, then discussion in pairs.


  1. silvia says:

    what can we do with students that don´t read news or are not interest in news ?

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Hello Silvia,

      Thanks for the question! Yes this is a legitimate concern, but I’ve found it not to be a problem (so far): first, the conversation is not really about ‘news’ in the sense of latest events (I don’t really follow that myself) but rather about the few events that happened over a decade that are likely to change the world, and people tend to know about such things even if they don’t follow the news (my teenage students, for instance, came up with lots of stuff).

      And also, in those pairs in which some students were less informed, others just briefly described what had happened and they proceeded to discussing whether this will matter or not. So in general I’d say the topic is quite safe.

  2. j3ssm3ss says:

    Nick Hamilton was my tutor to!

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