4 Ways to Learn from Headlines

A learner asked me about the grammar in news headlines. Indeed, it can be confusing when words are omitted:

Prison Escape Fails — Did it already happen? Why is the verb in the present tense?

Mayor in Hot Water — Is this happening now? Where’s the verb?

Local Team Gets New Coach — Can they write that without any articles? Why?

It’s not the first time I’ve explained patterns used in titles for the sake of brevity. The question I ask is, “Do we have to stop there?” I haven’t. Not always. I like to go beyond the explanation and when possible offer some language practice based off of headlines. I’m sure I’m not the first to do this. What activities have you come up with?

1) Do you ask students to rewrite titles into complete sentences? This is a good way to test their comprehension. It can be a prediction activity at first. Then after scanning the article, changes can be made for greater accuracy. I suggested this in an older post.

2) You can also do the reverse: Hide the title. Then after reading the article, students can suggest a title. See how close they are to the original.

3) Have you ever played a matching game? Scramble three titles and then present the three articles. Students can scan the articles and make the matches. It’s even trickier if the articles are on similar topics.

4) Do you want to see if students are following current events? As a warm-up activity, write three headlines on the board. Omit one word from each one, but make all the omitted words the same part of speech. For example, the ones above could appear as:

– ____ Escape Fails

– ____ in Hot Water

– Local Team Gets New ____

Providing the answer choices is up to you (coach, prison, mayor). You could prompt students to guess the missing words, e.g., did you hear about the mayor and his problem? Which expression refers to being in trouble? Using light topics such as sports and entertainment news might work best as a warm-up. Students are likely to know about sports events that took place over the weekend and newly released movies. You could also choose longer headlines and create a word gap, omitting whole phrases. Then in pairs or small groups students can discuss possible ways to complete the titles.

Got ideas? Feel free to share them.


Photo credit: Newspapers, Leeuwarder, Courant, Press by Andrys. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/newspapers-leeuwarder-courant-press-444448/

One Comment Add yours

  1. FYI: I created a tutorial on news headlines for students on Simor. It’s free to join.
    “Can you understand news headlines in English?” https://simor.org/post/5185

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