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How To Use Articles To Teach English

Updated on January 29, 2016
prairieprincess profile image

Sharilee obtained a degree in secondary English education from the University of Calgary. She has taught in Canada for ten years.


Articles Are Good Lesson Materials

As an English teacher, you are always looking for new materials to share with your students: material that is relevant and appropriate for their life situation. As a teacher or tutor trying to relate to your students, the old textbook from 1990 just doesn't cut it. You need fresh material that is well-written and will help in reaching the learner goals.

Have you thought of using hubs? Hubpages offers a variety of topics and writing styles. The material is fresh and always changing, and there are a variety of level of writing to be found.

I presently work as a self-employed tutor for ESL students, and have been looking for suitable articles for one of my students. She is an advanced student and is seeking to improve her vocabulary, reading and writing skills. While doing my daily hubbing, I thought, "why not try some Hubpages articles?" Here are some tips for using hubs for your teaching or tutoring situations.

1. Have the Student Read the Article First

To use a hub, or another article for your teaching session, I find the best strategy is to give the article to the student beforehand, so they have a chance to read it first before you discuss it together. As a tutor, I give the article to the student in the session before and the student has a chance to read it over as homework. In the case of a classroom situation, you may assign the reading as homework, to be read and highlighted the night before. Depending on the student, and your goals, you may or may not have the students look up the definition themselves.

2. Highlight Potentially Difficult Vocabulary

To prepare for the lesson, you should also go through the article and highlight/underline phrases and words that you believe will be problematic for the student. Transfer these words down on a separate piece of paper, with a definition to match. Often, a word, such as condition or match will have several different meanings. Only write down the meaning that is relevant to the context, but be aware that there are several different meanings and that may be confusing to the student.

3. Read the Article Together, Paragraph by Paragraph

Now, together as a class or as a tutor and student, read the hub over together, paragraph by paragraph. With each paragraph, discuss any unknown words or phrases. If the student has come up with the meaning, confirm if they are right or wrong. Give a meaning if necessary. If there are multiple meanings or usages, discuss the different possibilities and clarify why this specific context requires this particular meaning. Take turns reading, so the student(s) has a chance to both listen and voice the words. The teacher should read as well, to act as an example to the students, in proper pronunciation. Depending on your situation, you may also choose to hand the students a copy of the words you have highlighted the night before, with the meanings.

4. Encourage Discussion as You Read Through

Encourage discussion about the actual content of the article -- your goal is that they are reading for meaning and interest, not simply to increase vocabulary. Teaching this way will help the words and vocabulary to be relevant to them and not simply another boring exercise. Plan for discussion time, as well as time to simply to read. When the student has read something beforehand, they will be more confident to read and discuss, than if they have been given a piece to read fresh, without time to prepare.

Step by Step Lesson Plan

So, in conclusion, here are the steps for using hubs for teaching or tutoring ESL/EFL:

  1. Have students read the hub the night before, highlighting any words/phrases they don't know.
  2. You, as a teacher, read the piece beforehand and write a list of words/phrases you think will be new to your students.
  3. In class, or in the tutor session, read through the hub paragraph by paragraph, talking about any problematic vocabulary. Take turns reading, with the teacher reading as well.
  4. Encourage discussion as you go through.

How To Choose The Articles

There are several things to consider when choosing which pieces to use for your session or class. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. The level of the students. You must be aware of the level of your students and choose something that will challenge them but not overwhelm them. They should be able to understand at least 70-80% of the article or it will be too much.
  2. The interests of the students. Choose hubs that you think will be of interest to the students. If they are children, don't make it too serious. Consider their gender, life situation and country of origin. Don't pick items that may be potentially offensive.
  3. What else you have taught. Consider how this fits in with everything else you are doing. If you are doing a theme, make it fit into the theme. If you are doing simple tutor sessions, try to get a good variety of articles so the student does not get bored.
  4. The writing level of the writer. Read through the article to make sure the writer uses proper grammar. Not having good grammar would be counterproductive to your efforts! You will recognize certain writers as being competent, largely by their reputation and other efforts.

Get Talking English


Use Other Resources

As a tutor, I have had success using hubs as teaching tools in my sessions. Other sources that I have used include Readers Digest articles and newspaper articles. The idea of using articles can also be adapted to teaching English at the high school or elementary level. As a former high school English teacher, I used articles regularly to help teach reading skills to at-risk students.

Be creative and don't be afraid to use other resources within your teaching materials repotoire. The textbook just isn't enough!

I have also written several more teaching articles, including how to use graphic novels in teaching Shakespeare, a guide on how to use movies in teaching Shakespeare and many other teaching articles.

The hubs that I have used recently in my tutor sessions were one about silk scarves by Julie-Ann Amos and one by Patty Inglish on sleep-talking. Both articles went over well with my student.



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    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 2 years ago from Canada

      Thank you so much, @sandeep15r! Have a great day,and I apologize for the delayed response.

      Thanks, @Blond Logic! Yes, there really is a wonderful variety of topics here at Hubpages, many of them very well-writtten. Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the delay!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 years ago from Brazil

      An excellent idea. I briefly taught English here in Brazil. With so many topics here on Hubpages I can see that would be suitable for so many different interests.

    • sandeep15r profile image

      Sandeep Rathore 3 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks for such an informative hub.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      DDE, thank you so much. I truly do appreciate your kind comment and votes. Take care!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      @Rich, I love your comment. It is SO true that using our HSP creativity really does help us to be excellent teachers. It comes naturally and I thank the LORD for the gift he has given us. I actually just started a regular teaching job, so am not doing freelance tutoring anymore, but I am always interested in new teaching ideas, and will check it out. It's always wonderful to hear from you! Take care.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have mentioned brilliant ideas thanks for the helpful Hub voted up!!!

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Wowsers, not only are we both HSPs, but we are also freelance ESL teachers! We really do have lots in common.

      It is funny that I found this article right now because I 'just' started using articles in my classes and I was about to use my hubs or other hubs as the lesson content in exactly the way you explained and taught above! It is great fun teaching English as a second language isn't it. I absolutely love it and have about 8 private classes going at the moment.

      I remember back in the early days, (only 6 years a go) I would scour the bookshelves looking for the teaching book or activity book that would turn me into a brilliant teacher! hahah How I laugh when I look back. The answer was always right in front of me.

      "How do I make my classes fun as well as educational?" Easy peasy, "Use my HSP creativity to create teaching aids that have never been see or heard of and use techniques like the one you described here. I'm also currently experimenting with a technique for vocabulary right now and you have inspired me to write about it.

      Take a look soon Prairieprincess and see what you think of the technique I now employ to help with teaching vocabulary, especially for freelancers like us!

      Great hub, interesting, useful and up my friend!

      Peace. :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      @Joan, that's great! Actually, the woman I was tutoring just recently was studying for her TOEFL and this was a great strategy. I am so glad to hear that it's working for you, too. Have a good night and happy teaching!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      @Brett, I appreciate the comment and it's great that you use this as a resource, too! It's great to be able to use so many materials, besides the textbooks.

      And I love your idea of whiting out words to discover context. Brilliant! Have a wonderful night.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, I enjoyed this read, as I am doing something similar! I liked the lesson plan, very coherent. I teach a lot of ESL students who plan to take the TOEFL, the IELTS, the GMAT, and other entrance tests for graduate courses. They need articles to practice for the real items they will get on these tests, and a well written article can be a very useful tool in many ways. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Online articles are great for teaching EFL. I often let the student choose the topic, so that it is one that they are interested in. Then use the activities you mentioned. Whiting out words will also help them to think about usage, especially if the difficult words are whited out of new text.

      Shared, up and useful.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      DDE, that is so true. Articles are good for anyone to improve on their language skills. Thank you so much for the comment!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Articles are a great way to improve ones language

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      @Christy, it works very well and there are so many different articles out there that you can never run out of ideas. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      @Denise, I am glad you appreciated the article. I started out with tutoring when I was in university, too, and just recently got back into tutoring. Thanks for the comment and take care!

    • denisevirostek profile image

      denisevirostek 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks for sharing this. I helped ESL students at my university. I have since graduated, but it is still an interest of mine.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I really like the idea of using hubs to promote discussion and teach language. That is a very inventive idea!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Dream on, you are so kind! I am so thrilled that you found useful information here. You have a wonderful day, too! Nice to meet you!

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 6 years ago

      I love your ideas and the students are very lucky to have you.I love teachers who go beyond the traditional guide lines and stretch your imagination and dreams.Sign me up I want to be on the next waiting list.I know it must be a year wait but I am here to learn and so excited to join in all the fun.I could easily be your oldest student. At forty seven I can give you many reasons why for me it is do or die.Loved your hub and I am about to tackle a few more of your wonderful stories and go on my personal quest for answers I could not find anywhere else.Have a great day.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Brian, thank you so much. I appreciate the positive feedback. Yes, for us, that would be very useful! Ha ha! I'd love to have someone finding my keywords for me. Have a wonderful night.

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 6 years ago from England

      What a good hub this and all the more credit to you for using a hub based tutorial.

      I have even a better use of their time though, give them some topics and ask them to come up with rich keywords for low competition. It's a win/win situation. voted up :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @MissOlive, thank you so much! I do value your teacher input. That was a great idea to use the fashion magazines for your young girl.

      Yes, you are so right! It is an interesting challenge to find appropriate material for different ages and demographic groups. Thank you for such an insightful comment that adds to the content of the hub. Have a wonderful day!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Pamela, thank you so much! I found it works very well. Take care!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 6 years ago from Texas


      Hey Sharilee, this is great! This is an excellent teaching strategy and you have explained it beautifully. It is nice to break away from textbooks and this is a perfect solution. I had a new ESL student that just could not get into the standard lessons. After talking to her mom I learned she was really into fashion magazines. So that is what I had her bring in for her tutoring sessions. Her focus and growth was instant!

      I can see this working across all ages and finding demographic friendly material could make for some fun and interesting research.

      Well done and voted up!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I think this is a great idea that would work well. Voted up and useful.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Audra, sorry for the delay on responding to your comment. That's great that you work with ESL students, too, and I am happy that this is of use to you in your work. Thank you so much for the votes and shares. Have a wonderful evening!

    • profile image

      iamaudraleigh 6 years ago

      I am glad I read this hub. You work with ESL students! This article could benefit me in many ways! It is laid out very well and has information of great value!

      Voted up and shared!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Ruchira, thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your well wishes! Have an awesome day!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 6 years ago from United States

      Very well broken down steps for teaching english.

      did not know you were a teacher, by profession.

      Happy Teacher's week and happy birthday to you :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Vinaya, it is very interesting to hear the perspective of someone that whose first language is not English. Thanks so much for the comment and have a great night!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Chef, I appreciate your comment very much. I also used to teach drama! For your situation, I think the poetry and maybe some of the short humourous essays might be effective. Some of the poems with great rhyme would be very nice done aloud. Cool idea! It's especially difficult to find ideas for teaching drama, isn't it? I'd love to compare notes sometime.

      As far as the correction goes, that is something I have wavered on. If you overcorrect, it can discourage them but if you undercorrect, you can lose out on a teaching opportunity. So, for me, it depends on what my learning objectives are for the lesson and the goals of the student.

      Thanks for a great question and I'd love to hear if you do use this idea. Have a wonderful night!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

      When it comes to English, I'm always a learner. As someone who uses English as a second language, I found this hub very useful.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this it's a neat idea and nicely laid out. As a teacher of drama primarily (which includes a wee bit of voice training and English) I'm always on the look out for fresh material and more often than not succeed! Hubs could prove fruitful. As for evaluation of students - I'm wondering what your approach is to correction - hwo you deal with mistakes or mispronunciations? Are you an on-the-spot teacher, intervening right away? Or do allow some space and time?

      I'd better stop now! Thanks again.

      Bye For Now.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @one2get2know, I appreciate your comment so much. I am glad you approve of the idea, especially as one with your experience. Have a wonderful week!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Kashmir, thank you so much! I hope it's helpful to those that need it. Nice to hear from you and have a fantastic week!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Swiggley, I am thrilled that this was helpful for you. This would work great for helping get them more knowledgeable about their new country, too. Newspaper articles would also work great in your situation. Have a wonderful day and good for you, for volunteering!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Deborah, you are such a kind person. Thank you so much for the comment. I am glad the article was useful and great blessings to you, as well! Take care.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Allie, thank you so much! I appreciate the share. Have a wonderful week.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Jools, that's great! I used to newspapers a lot with my high school students and they loved it. I am amazed at the quality and variety of hubs, too. Thanks so much for the votes and the share. It means a lot. Have a wonderful day!

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 6 years ago from Olney

      As an ESL and EFL teacher and writer of English learning books I like your idea. Voted up!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend,great information,a very well planed and thought out lesson on how to teach English by reading hubs .

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • sjwigglywoo profile image

      sjwigglywoo 6 years ago from UK

      Great hub, I work as a volunteer with women whose first language is not English. You have some really useful ideas here, thanks for sharing them.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is a wonderful informative hub ... a great learning experience.

      I can see you are a great teacher.

      Blessing to you


    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 6 years ago from Scotland

      Good idea. I will pass this on to my colleagues in our university's ESOL department.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      PrairiePrincess, I used to teach ESOL a few years back and I used newspapers and books among other things - HubPages would be an ideal media for study though, great idea.

      Voted up and shared.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      @Billy, I always love to hear from you! I am glad to hear that you approve this lesson plan and hope it is useful for teachers and tutors. Have a wonderful weekend!

      @Nell, thank you so much for coming by and for your kind comment! I have always tried to add fun to classes because I don't want students to be bored. Have a great weekend.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      This is such a good idea! anybody that can make classes original and fun is great in my book! voted up! cheers nell

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Of course I had to read a hub about teaching. Great job, well-conceived, excellent lesson plan.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Robie, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Yes, if the students eventually wrote hubs themselves, that would truly be a success story! Thanks again and have a wonderful weekend.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Excellent idea with so many creative possibilities-- eventually students might even start writing hubs:-)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Sangre, thank you so much! I always hope to have classes to be both fun and educational. Have a great night.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 6 years ago from Ireland

      This is a great idea. I think it would also make the classes more fun for the students.


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