What? When? Whom? Why?
News stories naturally raise questions. They are designed that way. At the top, in large print, you get the main facts of the story from the headline. This is followed by a one- or two-paragraph introduction, known as the lead, which repeats the main facts and adds a few more key details. By this time you will know if you want to read the rest of the story. If you do, you almost certainly have some questions that you want the story to answer.
For example, recently everybody wanted to know why the young couple – strangers to each other – committed suicide (killed themselves) by jumping off a building. And we all wanted to know how the parents of that poor young girl named "Cat" could have abused her so badly. Just last Wednesday, everyone was asking about the mob violence at the Summit Auto Parts company in Samut Prakan.
Having your own questions makes your reading much easier because you have a purpose for reading. Let’s take an example. Here is the beginning of a story that recently appeared in the Bangkok Post. Does it create any questions in your mind?
Officer arrested on extortion charges
A police sergeant-major and another man have been charged with conspiring to extort money from people at bus terminals.
Since you are learning English, some of your questions might involve unfamiliar vocabulary like extortion or conspiring. That’s fine. But what about some other questions, like:
- What did the two men do to extort money from their victims?
- Were they successful in getting any money?
- If so, how much?
- Whom did they try to get money from?
- How were they caught and who arrested them?
- Where were they caught?
Now read the rest of the story and see if these questions were answered. Also, see if you can figure out the meanings of extortion and conspiring. From the story, which do you think is the best choice for each?
a. taking money from someone when they aren’t looking
b. trying to get someone’s money by cheating them in some way
c. forcing someone to give up their money by threatening to hurt them
a. planning to do something bad
b. pretending to do something
c. failing to finish something
The story continued
|Pol Sgt-Maj Montri Prommanee, 49, of the Economic Crime Investigation Bureau and 42-year-old Prasitchai Paesuwan of Pathum Thani were arrested outside the Tang Hua Seng branch of Thai Farmers Bank in Bang Plad.|
The arrests follow a tip-off that the suspects had tried to extort money from Krisanapol Jirasootsakul, a silver merchant from Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Mr Krisanapol was approached by Montri and Prasitchai at the Southern Bus Terminal. The two men asked for tax payment documents from Mr Krisanapol and later claimed the documents were not in order.
They seized his goods and took him to Bang Kho Laem police station, where he was asked to telephone Somchai Peerapiromrat to pay 200,000 baht in exchange for the release of his silver.
Mr Somchai, a silver businessman, asked the two suspects to get the money outside the bank and alerted police.
This week’s stories
This week I have chosen three stories which should raise and answer many questions. Below are the headlines and leads for all three stories. Read them and then do the following for each:
- Make a list of questions that you think the complete story will probably answer. Some of your questions might be about vocabulary, but most of them should be about content.
- Then read the full story.
- Find out which of your questions are answered and which are not.
- What additional information does the story contain?
24 foreign girls rescued from sweatshop
Beaten, deprived of food, and never paid
Fourteen Burmese and 10 Khmer girls aged 14 to 21 were yesterday rescued from a sewing factory in Bangkok Yai after being forced to work without pay for three to four months.
Go to full story
Texas woman deserves chance: campaigners
Say reformed killer should be spared
Pressure is building on United States authorities to spare the life of 38-year-old Karla Fay Tucker, scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas on February 3.
Go to full story
Poison suspected in fish deaths
Contaminated carp could be put on sale
Thousands of fish were found dead in the artificial lake at the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly yesterday because of what officials believe was lack of oxygen or poison.
Go to full story
This week I haven’t given you much help with vocabulary, but hopefully that hasn’t been a big problem because the stories are quite clear. Because of this, you could probably guess the meanings many of the unfamiliar words from context (the words and sentences around them). Below is a little quiz to see if that is true. Choose the most appropriate meaning for each of the words below. Use the stories to help you.
Story 1: 24 foreign girls rescued...
1. deprived of
a. not given enough of
b. charged a lot of money for
c. given a lot of
a. teaching how to do something
b. paying money for
c. forcing to stay
a. persuaded to take a job
c. given money
Story 2: Texas woman deserves chance...
a. not to destroy
b. to get rid of
c. to delay for a long time
a. containing medicine
c. causing death
b. killed as a punishment
c. kept in a prison for life
c. extremely bad
8. in vain
a. very good
Story 3: Poison suspected...
a. people who live in an area
a. organs for breathing
c. outside covering
a. lets water in or out
b. adds oxygen
c. takes away poison
This is another classic lesson which you can use year after year with your Bangkok Post. It takes advantage of both how news stories are written and how good readers read. Think about your own experience with the newspaper. Many times, you have undoubtedly been attracted to a story through its headline. The headline immedately raised questions in your mind which you tried to answer in your reading. Chances are you were successful, too, because news writers consciously try to provide facts to answer their readers’ questions.
This is the kind of purposeful reading we are trying to promote in this programme. I suggest that you spend some time with the first story in the introduction. Before your students even open their newspaper, you might want to write its headline and lead on the board. Discuss with your students what questions they have about the story. Then, let them read it to see if their questions were answered. Also point out that the main ideas at the top of the story are repeated in the body of the story, giving them a chance to guess the meanings of unfamiliar words.
The main activity – forming and answering questions about three news stories – is best done in small groups. Here, you might have your students use scissors to cut off the first column of the lesson so they won’t be tempted to look at the complete stories right away. It is much more useful and much more fun to begin by looking at only the headlines and leads.
Incidentally, one of the stories – the second one – is likely to be in the news again shortly and your students might want to watch for it. As the story points out, Karla Fay Tucker is scheduled to die on February 3rd and as that date approaches, pressure will increase for Governor Bush to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. The international news media is following this story closely and the Bangkok Post will probably run another story on it as the execution date approaches. You might also want to find out what your students think about the death penalty – both for this case and in general.
•This lesson was prepared by Acharn Terry Fredrickson, BA Stanford, MA (TESL) University of Minnesota, Manager of the Educational Services Department at the Bangkok Post and general editor of this programme. This week Acharn Terry also had the help of an energetic group of university teachers plus a group of university students.