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- 1 Writing skills
- 2 Writing: A class or company newsletter
- 3 Writing skills: advertising
- 4 Writing skills: Cause and effect
- 5 Writing skills: Fables
- 6 Writing skills: formal and informal writing
- 7 Writing skills: Letter of complaint
- 8 Writing skills: Mini saga
- 9 Writing skills: news story
- 10 Writing skills: statistical report
- 11 Writing skills: Thinking about writing
Writing skills: news story
By Jackie McAvoy
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To help students produce writing with a higher occurrence of lexical variation, complex sentences and appropriate use of passive structures.
Time: One hour plus homework
- Your Own Version - Worksheet
- Original News Story - Worksheet
- Language Analysis – How to write a good news story - Worksheet
- Complex Sentences – a chart - Worksheet
- Answer Key
If you’re teaching this as a “one-off” you may want to provide some form of introduction. Give a quick warm up/ orientation to newspapers. Depending on your style of teaching you might consider one of the following:
- Collect together six newspaper headlines. Black out one word in each. Put the class into two teams and one by one hold/flash up the headlines. The team who guesses the closest word gets the point etc.
- A quick discussion on the merits of newspapers versus television or radio.
- Scramble the short sentence in step one on the board and let the students unscramble it to make the story.
- Write the short sentence from the worksheet Your Own Version ' on the board ( A youth was sentenced for driving a stolen car ). Tell students that this is a news story and and ask how it could be more interesting. (Elicit the answer “more detail!”)
- Give out ‘ Your Own Version ’ and allow 15 minutes (more if necessary) for answering the questions and writing the story. Emphasise that they will be making the story more interesting by adding detail. You could give the option of doing this in pairs.
- Change the pace by getting pairs to tell each other their versions. They can use any means necessary to keep their audience’s interest, but hopefully they will do it by including relevant details and animated telling.
- Give out the ‘Original News Story’ and allow time for them to compare for differences. Round off this step by sharing some of the differences in an open class discussion and then move on to asking open class questions about the language used in the original news stor.
Notice the following:
- The variety of vocabulary;
- The use of some passive sentences;
- Long complex sentences – sometimes one sentence for a whole paragraph.
- Tell your students that these features (a,b,c) help make a good news story. Give out the ‘Language Analysis’ (2 sheets) and explain that working through these will help them identify the language you are talking about. Monitor and check as you desire and get students to compare their complex sentences to answers in the original news story.
- You can give out ‘Complex sentences – a chart’ either to help with step 5 or afterwards for future reference for their homework.
- Give out their Homework.
- British English
- Integrated Skills
- Language / Skill
- Printable Worksheet
- Sentence structure
- Up to 60 mins
- Whole Class
Writing: A class or company newsletter
Writing skills: advertising, writing skills: cause and effect.
Writing skills: Fables
Writing skills: formal and informal writing
Writing skills: letter of complaint.
Writing skills: Mini saga
Writing skills: statistical report.
Writing skills: Thinking about writing
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Only registered users can comment on this article., more from writing.
By Karen Richardson
In this lesson by Karen Richardson, students work collaboratively to produce a class newsletter.
By Adrian Tennant
This lesson looks at a few techniques for ‘thinking’ about writing. There are 3 tasks: brainstorming, loop writing and speed writing.
To enable students to break down the different features of formal and informal English by working through a step-by-step text transformation at their own pace.
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ESL Writing Practice Worksheet: Newspaper Articles (Intermediate-Advanced)
Free worksheet to practice writing with newsletter articles for ESL teachers and students. (Free download available.)
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Introduction: Writing Newspaper Articles
Students often read newspapers for a wide variety of reasons, not least of which is to keep informed in English. As you know, newspaper writing style tends to have three levels:
- leading phrases (intro, teaser)
- article content
Each of these has its own style. This lesson focuses on calling students’ attention to this type of writing style on a deeper, grammatical level. It ends with students writing up their own short articles, with a follow-up listening comprehension opportunity.
Aim: Improved writing skills and understanding newspaper writing style Activity: Writing short newspaper articles Level: Intermediate to upper intermediate
Article: FAKE VAN GOGH SELLS FOR $35 MILLION
A fake painting supposedly by Vincent van Gogh has been sold for $35 million in Paris. (Paris, June 9, 2004)
Imagine this: It’s the chance of a lifetime. You have the necessary cash, and you have the opportunity to buy a Van Gogh. After purchasing the painting and placing it on your living room wall to show to all your friends, you discover that the painting is a forgery!
That’s what happened to an anonymous telephone bidder who purchased Sunflowers in the Wind at the Peinture Company in Paris, France. The first (supposed) Van Gogh painting to have been auctioned since last year’s record sale of $40 million, the forgery was sold for $35 million. The painting had also been reported to be the last ever offered for sale, Britain’s Daily Times reported Thursday.
Unfortunately, shortly after the masterpiece had been transferred to the buyer’s home, the Academy of Fine Arts released a statement saying that Sunflowers in the Wind was a fake. Upon further investigation, the report proved to be true. The unlucky buyer was forced to recognize that he or she had indeed purchased a forgery.
Exercise 1: Analyze the Article
Use the provided example newspaper article, or take a newspaper into the class.
Ask students to read the newspaper article and summarize the contents.
Have students analyze the difference between the headline, leading sentence and article content in terms of tense usage and vocabulary in small groups (3-4 students).
As a class, check that the differences between headline, leading sentence and article content are clear. Here is a short guideline to the main differences:
- Headline : Simple tenses, idiomatic, flashy vocabulary, no use of function words
- Leading sentence : Present perfect tense, often used to give general overview.
- Article content : Proper tense usage, including a change from present perfect to past tenses to give detailed, specific information about what, where and when something happened.
Exercise 2: Write Your Own Newspaper Article
Have students split up into pairs or small groups (3-4 students).
Small groups should write their own newspaper articles using the headlines provided or come up with their own stories. They should write the leading sentence and an at least three paragraphs long article.
Headline 1: TRUCK CRASHES INTO LIVING ROOM
Headline 2: LOCAL COUNCIL: ACTION NOT PROMISES
Headline 3: LOCAL FOOTBALL PLAYER WINS BIG
Have students read their newspaper articles aloud, allowing you to incorporate some listening comprehension into the lesson.
Download this worksheet in PDF format.
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Exercise 6: Writing an article (Ultimate Guide)
Exercise 6 of the Reading and Writing paper of the IGCSE English as a Second Language (ESL) exam (0510/0511/0991/0993) is always a formal or semi-formal writing. It can be an article, a report, or a review.
In this article, you will discover how to write an almost perfect article that impresses the examiner and gets you the highest band.
So, what is an article?
An article is a piece of writing written for a large audience, e.g., a magazine or newspaper, on a particular topic, which is meant to be of interest to the reader. It will express a certain viewpoint or perspective — this can be positive or negative depending on the topic.
The purpose of an article is often to inform and persuade the reader. Articles give information about a certain topic and can either persuade the reader that a certain viewpoint is correct (one-sided article; also called opinion article) or provide a balanced argument that lets the reader make up their own mind about the topic (two-sided article). You have the option to choose between writing a one-sided article or a two-sided article.
The Tone and Register of an Article
In the exam, the article is often for your school magazine or your teacher and rarely for the local newspaper.
If it’s for your school magazine, then the audience of the article is the students at your school and possibly the teachers or parents. The tone and register required, therefore, is rather semi-formal .
If, on the other hand, the article is for your teacher or the local newspaper, then the tone and register required is formal.
So, generally, the tone and register of the article should be more formal than exercise 5 but should be engaging.
Now, let’s discover the ideal format for both types of articles.
The format of a one-sided article
Paragraph 1: Introduction (including your opinion)
Paragraph 2: First point supporting your opinion with an explanation
Paragraph 3: Second point supporting your opinion with an explanation
Paragraph 4: State a counterargument (an idea from the opposing viewpoint) and counter the counterargument (i.e., explain why this counterargument is invalid). In other words, state a point made by people who have a different opinion from yours and explain why they are wrong.
Paragraph 5: Conclusion (including your opinion again but in different words)
The format of a two-sided article
Paragraph 1: Introduction (without your opinion)
Paragraph 2: One side of the issue either in favour or against
Paragraph 3: The other side of the issue either in favour or against
Paragraph 4: Conclusion (including your opinion)
The purpose of the introduction is to inform the reader about the main point (topic) of the article and engage the reader to make them interested in the topic and read the rest of your article.
The main components of an effective introduction are:
- Topic sentence
Start your article with a topic sentence that introduces the topic to the reader and explains its importance in today’s world. Give forceful statements rather than “I think that”, “maybe” or “perhaps”. For example: “Nowadays, music plays an indispensable role in our lives.”
To write an effective topic sentence, you might use adverbial time phrases and generalizations . Here are some examples of each.
Adverbial time phrases
- Nowadays/these days/currently
- Every day/week/year
- Recently/for many years/decades
- In the past
- 10 years ago
- In the last (few/five) (days/weeks/months/years/decades)
- A large number of / The vast majority (of)
- Not many/hardly any/ few
- In almost all cases
- In the majority of cases
- In a large number of cases
- In most cases
- In some cases
- On the whole/ Overall
- Rhetorical question(s)
Use rhetorical questions (questions that don’t require an answer but make your reader think) to get the reader interested in the topic and encourage them to read on. For example:
- How would you feel if you had two hours of homework every night?
- How much longer do animals have to suffer?
- Could you live with yourself if you missed out on this opportunity?
- How could we possibly stand the …?
- What would happen if …?
- Could your conscience cope with …?
- Is it really worth …?
- Do you want to be part of …?
- Have you ever thought about the positive impact you could have on the world by becoming vegetarian?
- Your opinion (if it is a one-sided article)
If you are writing a two-sided article, DO NOT give your opinion in the introduction.
If you are writing a one-sided article, give your opinion (whether you support or oppose the viewpoint expressed in the statement).
Here are some opinion phrases to help you express your opinion.
- In my opinion
- I concur/agree
- I believe that
- It seems to me that
- I am in favour of
- I am against the idea of
- I am strongly opposed to
- I disagree / I cannot accept
You may also kill two birds with one stone and begin your article with a rhetorical question that introduces the topic to the reader, thus acting as a topic sentence. Here is an example.
“Have you ever thought how school life would be if the school day started later? In my perspective, this will have countless benefits.”
The structure if you are writing a one-sided article:
Body paragraph 1: First idea supporting your opinion with an explanation
Body paragraph 2: Second idea supporting your opinion with an explanation ( should be different from the first idea )
Body paragraph 3: State a counterargument (an idea from the opposing viewpoint) AND counter the counterargument (i.e., explain why this counterargument is invalid). In other words, state a point made by people who have a different opinion from yours and explain why they are wrong.
When introducing the opposing argument in the 3 rd body paragraph, use any of the following phrases.
- Opponents of this idea claim/assert/argue that …
- Those who disagree/are against these ideas may say/insist that …
- Some people allege/argue that …
- Some people may suggest/point out that …
- A common counterargument is that …
- It can be argued that …
When countering the opposing argument in the 3 rd body paragraph, use any of the following phrases depending on the context.
- While this may be true to some extent, …
- While it is true that …, it is important to consider…
- While some may believe that … recent studies have shown that …
- What this invalid argument misses is …
- What these people fail to notice/take note of is …
- The evidence, however, disproves this argument because …
- However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that …
- However, a closer analysis reveals that …
- However, this flawed argument overlooks the fact that …
The structure if you are writing a two-sided article:
Body paragraph 1: One side of the issue either in favour or against (mention 2 different ideas )
Body paragraph 2: The other side of the issue either in favour or against (mention 2 different ideas )
General guidelines for both kinds of articles:
- Read the question carefully and draft a plan for your article in the blank space below the question using a pencil. Here are some steps to follow.
- Separate the blank space into two parts, one for and one against.
- Jot down any points that come to your mind in the correct part, along with any interesting vocabulary or expressions suitable for the task. Remember to write briefly and in bullet points.
- Decide whether you will write a one-sided article or a two-sided article. Weigh up the two sides and see which one has stronger and more convincing arguments. If one side clearly has stronger and more convincing points, write a one-sided article. If you see that both arguments are equally strong or that no side has more compelling arguments, then write a two-sided article and choose four statements (2 for and 2 against). It’s also worth noting that while a two-sided article is easier to write, a one-sided article is the preferred option as it’s more persuasive.
- Consider how you will begin your article and how you will engage the reader at the start. For example, write some variations of the topic sentence and rhetorical questions that you could use.
- Choose the most effective ones and begin writing. Remember to spend no more than 5 minutes on the plan.
- You can use the few prompts given in the question, but it is better to use your own ideas if you want to get higher marks. If, however, you are out of ideas, use the ideas in the question and make sure to paraphrase them (write them in different words) and develop them well.
- Support your ideas with reasons, evidence, or examples , and use persuasive language features . Remember that you should not just describe the problem but should be convincing in getting the audience to choose a side. Also, the examiner knows that the evidence or examples will be made up and doesn’t expect these to be correct.
- Keep to the topic (don’t wander away from the main subject of the article). Remind yourself constantly by looking again at the question.
- Use a variety of linking words and cohesive devices (mainly formal) to create a smooth and logical flow in your writing. Here are some examples.
When presenting the first point (used in the 1 st body paragraph of both one-sided articles and two-sided articles)
- The main argument in favour of/against is
- The main point/reason is
- The most important point/reason
- The first point/reason
- First of all
- First and foremost
- In the first place
- On the one hand (used only when writing a two-sided article)
When adding more points (used in the 2 nd body paragraph of a one-sided article and both body paragraphs of a two-sided article)
- In addition,
- Not only … but also…
- As well as.
- Another noteworthy point is …
- Apart from that
- What is more
When contrasting ideas (used in the 2 nd body paragraph of a two-sided article)
- Even though
- In spite of
- On the other hand
- On the contrary
- By contrast
- In comparison
- Another option could be
When giving examples
- For example
- For instance
- One clear example is
- To illustrate
- In other words
- Results and consequences: as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, hence, for this reason, as a result (of), which means that, etc.
- Reasons and causes: owing to, because (of), on account of, due to, since, as, etc.
When highlighting and stressing
- In particular
The purpose of the conclusion is to sum up what you have said and express (or re-express) your opinion.
In the conclusion:
- Sum up your main points concisely using concluding phrases. Here are some examples.
- In conclusion
- To conclude
- To reiterate
- On the whole
- All things considered
- After weighing the benefits and drawbacks
- It can be concluded that …
- I believe that …
- Thus, I am of the opinion that …
- Given these points
Remember to use different words from those used to express the points in the body.
- Give your final opinion (regardless of whether it’s a one-sided or a two-sided article) and any solution or suggestion if applicable.
The solution or suggestion might be part of your opinion if you’re writing a two-sided article and want to take a balanced view on the issue rather than siding with one side. For example, “In conclusion, it is evident that fast food is a double-edged sword; thus, I strongly believe we should strike a balance between eating fast food and incorporating other healthier options in our diet to mitigate its negative effects.”
Use the opinion phrases stated earlier in the Introduction section to express your opinion, and if it’s a one-sided article, make sure to use different words from those used in the introduction.
- Include your audience by any of the following ways:
- Using pronouns like we, us, and you (this is the easiest). Notice how this was used in the previously mentioned conclusion example (bold and underlined)
- Using rhetorical question(s). For example, “To conclude, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should pursue higher education. Why not embrace this invaluable opportunity to fast-track your career, build your confidence, and broaden your social circle?”.
- Leaving the reader with something to think about. For example: “After weighing the benefits and the drawbacks, it is apparent that convenience food, while palatable, may negatively impact other areas of your life. Think about this before you reach for your next snack!”.
Points to keep in mind
- Organize your article into 4-5 paragraphs (4 if it’s a two-sided article and 5 if it’s a one-sided article). Leave a line between paragraphs or indent the first line of each new paragraph. Don’t do both!
- Take care of spelling, punctuation, and grammar . This is important as the examiner will look at the accuracy of your language.
- Use a combination of simple, compound, and complex sentences . A series of long sentences will make your writing difficult to read, and a series of short simple sentences will make your writing boring to read. Balance is the key.
- Use a wide range of formal vocabulary, including some advanced and less commonly used ones .
- Use a wide variety of formal linking words. Examples have been mentioned earlier.
- Use advanced punctuation sparingly (1-3 in the whole article), for example, colon (:) and semicolon (;).
- Aim to complete towards the maximum word limit (approximately 200 words for the current syllabus and 160 words for the new syllabus). Exceeding the word limit slightly (15-20 words) is fine as long as you write accurately and complete the task within the correct time. If you exceed the word limit by any number of words, be it even 100, no marks will be cut directly, but you increase your chances of making more mistakes and spending more time than required for this exercise, which may affect your mark indirectly. If you write towards the lower limit or below, you are highly unlikely to achieve the highest band for Content as your content is not well developed.
- Spend about 30 minutes on this exercise : the initial 5 minutes for planning and the last 2-3 minutes for checking your work for simple spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes.
- Include your audience throughout by using pronouns such as we, us and you.
- You could give a suitable attention-grabbing title (first letter of each word capital), but it’s not necessary. In fact, many students waste a lot of time trying to come up with a title and end up with their own version which does not match the rubric. As a result, the content is not always focused correctly and tends to follow the direction chosen by the student, rather than the specific requirements of the topic, thus affecting the content marks.
- Passive voice could be used but not too much.
- Write legibly
- Avoid contractions . However, if the article is for your school magazine, you can use contractions (not recommended).
- Avoid abbreviations and slang (texting language) such as how r u, OMG, BTW, etc.
- Avoid using informal vocabulary
- Avoid listing (firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.). There is no problem in writing “firstly”, but avoid writing “secondly” and “thirdly”.
- Avoid repetition of vocabulary and beginning your sentences with the same words . Sometimes, students write 3 or more sentences in a row starting with “The”!
Practice a lot of past papers and get feedback on your writing. If you don’t have a teacher, reread these notes and check for what you have done right and what you haven’t. Read some of the samples on the samples page to see what you have just learned effectively used and incorporated in an article.
Good luck! Go get that A*!
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How to use newspaper articles in language class, by rachael roberts, 10 march 2014 - 17:01.
philhearing, licensed under CC BY 2.0 and adapted from the original .
How should teachers use 'authentic' texts like newspapers in class? Author, trainer and teacher Rachael Roberts gives advice on the example of newspapers.
Back in 1981, Vivian Cook wrote:
‘One of the words that has been creeping into English teaching in the past few years is 'authentic'. It has a kind of magic ring to it: who after all would want to be inauthentic?’
Teachers and students are naturally attracted to authentic texts (by which I mean any text which has not been produced for the purpose of language-learning). Finding that you can read something designed for a native speaker is motivating, and developing ways to deal with ‘real’ texts enables students to read more confidently and extensively outside the classroom.
But, as Cook goes on to say, we also need to consider just how helpful the authentic text we choose actually is for our students. Many of the features of authentic texts, especially newspaper texts, are far more complex than we might realise at first glance.
First challenge: Text organisation
For example, how clearly is the text organised? This can be a real headache with newspaper texts, which often have very short paragraphs, not necessarily linked clearly to the surrounding text. I remember an activity where the students had to order the paragraphs of a newspaper article. It was virtually impossible, because the links weren’t clear enough and because the students weren’t made aware that the first paragraph of a newspaper article usually sums up the whole story.
Second challenge: Headlines
Newspaper headlines can also be hard to decipher. They often use puns or cultural references. This is particularly true of tabloid newspapers, which you might think would use simpler language, but are in fact about the hardest to decipher. Look at this headline, for example, which appeared on the Mirror website not long ago:
It's Bradley Zoo-per! LEMUR grabs keeper's camera to join the selfie craze
To understand this headline, we need cultural knowledge – in this case, the knowledge would be that someone called Bradley Cooper took a ‘selfie’ (a popular form of self-portrait using a camera, often a mobile phone) at the Oscars (film awards) recently. We also need to know what a keeper is (a zoo-keeper, who looks after the animals) and we need to be able to understand the syntax of the headline (A lemur took his keeper’s camera and used it to take a self-portrait).
Understanding the genre
If we are going to work with news articles, students need some help and training in understanding the features of the genre. For example, the headline is frequently confusing, but there is often a subheadline to makes things clearer, e.g.:
After actor Bradley Cooper's Oscars snap went viral, London Zoo's lemur Bekily gets in on the act
And then the first paragraph usually summarises the story:
This ring-tailed lemur didn't want to miss out on the selfie craze – so he snatched his keeper's camera and took his own.
This first paragraph nearly always contains what journalists call the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why). Getting students to try and find the 5 Ws (or as many as possible), just using the headline and first paragraph, is a way of leading them into the rest of the text, which usually just adds detail to these main points.
Third challenge: Identifying what certain words refer to
Another common feature is the use of reference devices. Obviously, we find these in all texts, but because of the concise way newspaper texts are written, it can be particularly hard to follow the chain of reference. For example:
Bekily, 12, was watching Tegan McPhail photograph animals at London Zoo at feeding time. Perhaps inspired by Bradley Cooper's mega-selfie with fellow stars at the Oscars he decided he wanted to pose for one himself.
I think a lot of students would assume that the highlighted ‘he’ referred to Bradley Cooper, because he has just been mentioned (or even Tegan McPhail, mentioned in the previous sentence) when it actually refers right back to ‘Bekily’. To help students with this, we could ask them to underline the reference words and then draw arrows to what they refer to.
Fourth challenge: Idioms
And, as you will have noticed, there are also a lot of idioms, especially in the tabloids. With a short article like this one, you can ask students to underline any idioms they find (go viral, get in on the act, mega-selfie) and look them up. They could then try and rewrite the article (or a section of it) without any idioms, putting the original idioms in a list below. If the students have read different texts, they could then swap and ask their partner to try and rewrite the article using the list of idioms given.
Either of these activities could be used with any news text, thus saving preparation time. But what about comprehension questions? Teachers often spend a lot of time thinking up exercises to exploit news articles. And, because they date, the material can rarely be used again.
One solution is to provide a generic task, such as the '5Ws' task outlined above. Other possibilities:
- Ask learners to choose, say, no more than five sentences that seem to carry the main points of the article. This can then be checked by a peer (while you monitor).
- Ask learners to rewrite a short article, changing some of the information to make it a lie (as outrageous as they wish. For example, Bekily might take photos of the keeper... A partner then reads it and spots the lies.
- Ask learners to write their own headlines, and talk to decide on the best one (which will involve discussing the content of the text).
While there are certainly some pitfalls, up-to-date and topical news items can be very motivating for learners, and ways of helping learners to deal with them are a useful tool in any teacher’s toolkit.
Rachael will be delivering a live-streamed presentation from Belfast on writing effective classroom materials, 11 March 2014.
Find more seminars for teachers on our TeachingEnglish site.
You might also be interested in:
- We shouldn't teach Shakespeare to learners of English: false
- Prepare English language students for academic listening
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View the discussion thread.
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Using news articles
Topical news stories are a great source of teaching material. This article presents different ways to exploit news reports in the classroom and focuses on raising the level of involvement and participation that the students have in the lesson.
- Selection criteria
- Before reading
- First reading
- Second reading
- Language focus
Selection criteria It is important that you choose your news article wisely. You should consider the following criteria.
- Appropriacy of topic Will your students be interested in the topic? Will it be upsetting for some students? Is it suitable for the age group?
- Length Be careful to avoid articles that are particularly long. Reading a news report in a second language is demanding, and if the article is too long it will discourage students. If the news report is lengthy, do not be afraid of editing. The style of news articles often means that entire paragraphs can be omitted without affecting the overall sense of the piece.
- Language content Besides the general interest in the topic, this may well be the most important selection criteria. Does the article contain a useful lexical set (crime, money)? Are there some good grammar exponents (past perfect, reported speech) or interesting syntax and sentence style? These will provide the basis of your language work on the text, how can the language be exploited?
- Generative? Can you think of a good way to follow up the basic textual work? Does the topic lend itself to discussion or role play? Can you practise the language further?
- Task suitability When working with authentic material there are issues concerning the authenticity of the tasks. The most authentic task is for students to simply read the article. Although we usually look to exploit the text a little more in the classroom, it is important to keep tasks as realistic as possible.
Before reading There are many things to do before students begin reading to generate interest, build confidence and to facilitate comprehension. Introduction exercises These are used to raise awareness of the topic, activate knowledge and current language. The following activities could be used.
- Students discuss questions related to the topic
- This can test their knowledge of the topic or people/places featured in the article
- Describing or discussing pictures that relate to the topic
Pre-reading Activities These are activities that are directly related to the text, rather than the topic in general
- The students may need dictionaries and you should be careful of puns and double meanings. Students should work in pairs, and feed back ideas to the board/teacher.
- Students predict the story from a picture accompanying the article
- Once students know the topic of the article, they predict words that they think they will read. Again, feed back these predictions to the board. As students read, they should tick the words they find. Which pair predicted the most words?
- In this activity, the students are given a group of words, some of which are from the article, others are not. The students decide which ones are from the article. Obviously, they need to know the topic of the article.
- This is the same as vocabulary selection, but students sort sentences instead.
First reading The first reading activities should avoid a large number of detailed questions. By the end of the reading the students should be able to give a brief summary of what the article is about, what the main points are.
- Check pre-reading ideas (story/vocabulary prediction)
- These questions should focus on the main point of the article
- Students are given the article which has been cut into sections. Working with a partner they have to reassemble the article. Be sure to make sensible cuts, so that either the sense of the piece or the language syntax can be used to put the story in order. News texts can often be put in several possible orders, so be careful - utilise dependent prepositions, pronouns and clauses.
- Remove lexis or clauses from the text. Students try to put the words in the correct places
Second reading The second reading should lead to a detailed understanding of the article.
- True or false
- Choose the best answer, a, b or c
- Which paragraph says…
- What do these numbers refer to?
- What do these people think?
- Students complete a table or chart with information from the article
- Students read the article and write comprehension questions for other students to answer. This is best done in pairs.
Language focus This is the time to exploit the article for its language content. News articles are rich sources of vocabulary, and also provide good grammar exponents.
- An article may provide vocabulary associated with particular topics - money, crime, politics. Students either search the article for members of a given lexical set, or you could provide them with a sorting activity which uses words from the text.
- This is a key skill for students to develop. Either ask students to give definitions of certain words or you could give them choices or a matching exercise (match the word to a definition) students can then check their ideas with a dictionary (if there is time)
- News articles often use vocabulary that may be referred to as journalese, and the students' understanding of this register needs to be developed.
Grammar Often a news article provides good examples of grammar - for example the past perfect. In this case, asking students to put particular events in chronological order leads to further work on this verb form. Sentence structure/style Draw students attention to well-crafted sentences, or ask them to find sentences that they think are good or interesting examples. Follow up There are lots of opportunities to extend the work done on the article, and to use a different skill such as speaking or writing. This gives students a chance to use the language they have learnt from the text.
- e.g. an interview with a protagonist from the story
- Discussion of topic/ideas/argument of the text
- e.g. following an article on a new housing initiative, students plan a dream house
- e.g. following an article about Homelessness in UK, what is the situation in the students' own country
- e.g. the next day's story, someone involved in the news event writing to a friend
- A comparison with the same subject in the students' own press
- A comparison with radio or TV reports on the same event
- A comparison between different newspapers e.g. a quality paper and a popular paper.
- English language newspapers are available worldwide. Most papers also provide an online service
- BBC Learning English
- The BBC World Service has schedule and frequency listings
- Satellite TV
Gareth Rees, teacher and materials writer, London Metropolitan University
Are there online ready to use texts from latest news with tasks?
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Very Practical Ideas
Useful practice for reading, i found your article very helpful.
I found your artilce very helpful! News articles keep students in touch with the latest use of language! Students seem to know what to expect from textbook articles. A news article, selected according to the criteria you mentioned would attract students attention, which is the our aim after all.
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Dear Gareth Rees,
In my opinion, your article is really worth reading. I think that the way you suggested, that is, to use topical news stories as teaching materials, is an effective method in teaching English. In addition, you are right by mentioning that the articles should be chosen according to the recommended criteria. I agree that learning English through news articles may enlarge students’ vocabularies.
On the other hand, I tend to disagree with the idea that often a news article provides good examples of grammar. Newspaper language is sometimes difficult to understand for the teachers due to their grammatical structure, so I do not think that students are able to comprehend it. I also do not share your opinion that students can use the language they have learnt from the articles, because there are lot of idioms and phrasal verbs that are used only in journalism and it is difficult to use them in everyday life.
From my point of view, the articles should be chosen according to the level of English that students have. What’s more, to spend time for predicting the headline and the words of the article according to the headline is an activity done in vain. Because as far as I know, journalists try to find headlines that attract readers even though they are not related to the article.
Personally, I believe that your article is useful as a methodical approach to teaching English, but at the same time, you should consider that in general, articles contain exophoric, that is, “outward” references so that sometimes it is impossible to understand sentences and segments of articles, sometimes even the idea of the article. That is why in most cases, students without cultural backgrounds cannot understand about what the article is. Therefore, the students will need to consult some sources of encyclopedic information or asking an informant. But what if none of them is available???
All in all, teachers may get something useful for their classroom activities from your article. I hope that you will give some attention to the points I mentioned and make some changes in your method.
Probaby this is the great way to capture and keep student attention. So would like to try this in practise. Also I admit that you cannot grab attention if you are not smart enough in what you are teaching.
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How to Understand Newspaper Headlines
This Lesson Helps ESL Students Understand Newspaper Headings
- Resources for Teachers
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- Business English
- TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London
- M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music
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Take a look at any newspaper or magazine headline and you are likely to find incomplete sentences full of action-packed verbs. Headlines live in a linguistic bubble all by themselves because they ignore grammar conventions such as the use of helping verbs and so on. Of course, this means that newspaper headlines can be confusing to English language students. This is because newspaper headlines are often incomplete. For example:
Difficult Times Ahead Under Pressure from Boss Mustang Referral Customer Complaint
This lesson focuses on helping make sense of the strange forms used in newspaper headlines. You may want to review some of the most common grammar exceptions found in newspaper headlines before you take this lesson into class.
Lesson Breakdown and Outline
Aim: Understanding newspaper headlines Activity: "Translating" newspaper headlines into more understandable English Level: Intermediate to higher levels
- Find some headlines in old newspapers or on the internet and cut them out. There should be at least two headlines per student.
- Pass out one of the headlines to each student. Give them a few minutes to think about the meaning of each headline.
- Ask students to read their headlines aloud and give an explanation of what they think the article in question concerns.
- As a class, brainstorm on possible structural meanings behind the "strange" grammar found in headlines (refer to grammar exceptions found in newspaper headlines).
- Ask students to fit the following headlines into the correct categories on the worksheet. You may want to have students pair up to do this.
- Correct the exercise as a class.
- Pass out the headlines you have left to the students. Ask each student to "translate" each headline into "proper" English and give an explanation of what they think the article in question concerns.
- As a homework option, you may want to ask students to find some headlines on their own and repeat this exercise. A further challenge might be to ask students to find headlines, read the articles, and then ask other students to interpret their headlines in small groups.
Newspaper Headlines Exercises for Students of English
1. Match these newspaper headlines with the following categories (some headlines fit two categories):
Difficult Times Ahead Forgotten Brother Appears James Wood to Visit Portland Landscaping Company Disturbance Regulations Man Killed in Accident Mayor to Open Shopping Mall Mustang Referral Customer Complaint Overwhelming Response of Voters Passerby Sees Woman Jump President Declares Celebration Professors Protest Pay Cuts Tommy the Dog Named Hero Under Pressure from Boss Unexpected Visit Widow Pension Pay Committee
- Noun Phrases
- Noun Strings
- Simple Tenses instead of Continuous or Perfect
- Auxiliary Verbs Dropped in Passive Form
- Articles Dropped
- Infinitive to Indicate Future
2. Try to "translate" the meaning of each of the headlines.
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Flood protection plans for English homes cut by 40%
Quarter of new flood defence projects will also not go ahead, NAO finds, as Environment Agency blames cuts on inflation
The number of properties that will be better protected from flooding by 2027 has been cut by 40%, and 500 of 2,000 new flood defence projects have been abandoned, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The number of homes forecast to be under enhanced flood protection by 2027 has been slashed from 336,000 to 200,000. This means 136,000 more homes will be at risk of flooding since plans were drawn up in 2020, figures from an NAO report show.
Despite the government doubling its capital funding in England to £5.2bn to combat the danger of flooding, a quarter of new flood defence projects will now not go ahead. The Environment Agency (EA) has blamed inflation for the cuts in protection.
Thousands of homes have been flooded during storms this autumn. Storm Babet was confirmed to have caused more than 2,000 homes to flood, while Storm Ciarán flooded more than 1,000. Storm Debi, which is causing havoc in Ireland, is expected to hit the west of England this week. Climate experts say storms are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate breakdown.
The EA has added protection from floods to 59,000 properties in England since 2020. It had a target of protecting 336,000 homes by 2027.
A shortfall in the agency’s finances means it cannot keep enough flood protections in the required condition to prevent destruction to homes. Due to inflation, the EA is £34m short of its expected budget, which means it will be be able to maintain only 94% to 95% of its assets at the required condition, resulting in 203,000 properties at increased risk of flooding. It had aimed to maintain 98% of its high-consequence assets at their required condition.
The flood protection programme got off to a slow start. There was an underspend of £310m in its first two years, which has been deferred by the Treasury to make sure the government meets its target of spending £5.2bn on flood defences by 2027. Because of this underspend the EA will have to spend an average of almost £1bn each year over the remaining four years of the programme. There are fears from the NAO that these pressures will further erode value for money if hasty decisions are made to spend the funds.
The NAO has also warned that the government has not set a long-term target for the level of flood resilience it expects to achieve and that there are no concrete plans beyond 2026 to meet long-term goals, meaning that long-term investment could be inefficient and not sufficiently protect enough homes from flooding.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “Government recognises the growing dangers from flooding and has committed to doubling its capital funding in England in the six years to 2027, as well as doing more to understand flood risk.
“However, the capital funding is forecast to better protect only 60% of the properties that were promised when the programme was launched in 2020, while inflation and other programme risks mean the Environment Agency could deliver even fewer than that. If there are further delays to the capital programme, Defra must work with HM Treasury to make sure it is in a position to switch money quickly into maintenance, where this would provide value for money.
“EA will have to manage a record level of capital investment in flood defences for the remaining four years of the programme. In doing so, it must resist pressure to accelerate projects or initiate new ones too quickly, if this is likely to lead to cost overruns and delays and put value for money at risk.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP, said: “This report should be right at the top of new environment secretary Steve Barclay’s red box, laying bare the scale of ministers’ unforgivable neglect of this flooding crisis. Just weeks after huge numbers of homes were hit by devastating flooding, people are crying out for support and protection – yet this government has utterly failed to provide it. To add insult to injury, thousands more are expected to be unprotected from flooding risk in the years ahead.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long-term decisions for the country. Over the last three years, we have invested more than £1.5bn to better protect more than 67,000 homes and businesses. This means that we have protected over 380,000 properties since 2015, and over 600,000 since 2010.
“As has already been set out in the Environment Agency’s annual report, inflationary pressures and delays brought about by the pandemic mean we must look again at the targets set out in our £5.2bn programme. We will consider the National Audit Office’s recommendations as we continue to deliver our record investment to protect hundreds of thousands of homes from floods.”
- Environment Agency
UK ill-prepared for havoc future storms could wreak, scientists warn
Flood warnings issued for south England amid heavy rain after Storm Ciarán
Storm Ciarán: flood risk remains in parts of UK after heavy rain
More than 4,000 English flood defences ‘poor or very poor’, analysis finds
Reports of Northern Ireland flooding ahead of Storm Ciarán with weather warnings issued
MPs call for review of Environment Agency flood failings in England
UK farmers warn of rotting crops after Storm Babet flooding
‘We can’t live in this’: the tightknit Chesterfield street devastated by flooding
England’s flood warning systems on autopilot again as staff stage strike
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Bella Bledzki: JMU English major at Oxford
by Morgan Lyle Aderton
SUMMARY: Bella Bledzki is a senior English major with a minor in Creative Writing. She is studying abroad in Oxford through the Center for Global Engagement at James Madison University. Bledzki participated in a Q&A with the English Department's public relations and marketing specialist, Morgan Lyle Aderton.
Q: Why is JMU English important to you?
"JMU English is important to me because studying this particular subject in JMU's environment was the first time I felt academically fulfilled and knew, without a doubt, that I had made exactly the right decision in both my major and university. My very first college class EVER was with Dr. Pennington, and the enthusiasm she brought to our lessons only made me more enthusiastic about literature in return. I've been so grateful to have the best professors I could have asked for, who have challenged my academic abilities and invited my creativity in order to succeed and improve."
Q: What made you choose JMU English?
"The answer I tell people is that I've always loved reading and writing, but the answer that is honest is I watched Dead Poets Society as a senior and it changed my life. I had known for years that I would eventually study English, but when I watched that movie, I knew without a doubt it was where I was supposed to go."
Q: What is the largest lesson or skill you will take away from your time here?
"To be as creative as possible, to take risks with thinking critically and questioning the status quo, and to be curious. When you take these three traits and combine them with hard work, you will surpass your own expectations."
Q: Is there a specific book that you would recommend?
"A book that changed my life was the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Even though it is extremely mainstream (which isn't a bad thing!), it has taught me so much about the person I want to be as well as life lessons that have helped me navigate personal battles. Two quotes that live in my mind rent-free are "The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers" from Empire of Storms , as well as "You could rattle the stars...You could do anything, if only you dared" from the first book in the series."
Q: What has been your favorite English class you have taken at JMU?
"The Victorian Novel with Dr. Pennington! We read so many intriguing novels, and while each class was filled with meaningful, critical discussions, it felt like a book club because everybody was so excited to talk about the reading material. I made some amazing friends in that class that I still talk to today!"
Q: What made you want to study at Oxford?
"Honestly, just the opportunity itself. It was something I had never considered until I saw it on the JMU Study Abroad website, and after reading the application requirements, I knew I had to apply. Oxford had always felt like a dream, something unattainable that only existed in my head before I'd fall asleep (or needed a distraction from class). So I really don't have words to describe what it's like to be here, because how can you explain a dream?"
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of studying at Oxford?
"The people, from the tutors that I'm working with to the friends I've made in my study abroad program. My tutors have both already helped me improve as a student and a person, and its been amazing to have access to the boundless knowledge that the Bodleian libraries provide. But the friends I've made have also made my experience, I got really lucky to have such an amazing group of people around me that motivate me to be my best self and student!"
Q: Any advice to give current/perspective English students?
"There is so much to explore in the English department, so EXPLORE! Try new subjects, read literature that you might not have read before. Write an essay about fantasy (I did, and it helped prepare me for my Oxford tutorial which is based on fantasy literature). Have fun with it. This is your time to explore your academic interests, surrounded by a supportive staff that wants you to succeed. These skills are so transferrable to other jobs as well (I work in marketing and social media, and my employers LOVE that I am an English major because of the skills it gives you). Take chances and don't be afraid to fail, because you will learn either way and that's what college is about."
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Published: Monday, November 13, 2023
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2023
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November 7, 2023
'ChatGPT Detector' Catches AI-Generated Papers with Unprecedented Accuracy
A new tool based on machine learning uses features of writing style to distinguish between human and AI authors
By McKenzie Prillaman & Nature magazine
A new AI detection tool can accurately identify chemistry papers written by ChatGPT.
Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images
A machine-learning tool can easily spot when chemistry papers are written using the chatbot ChatGPT, according to a study published on 6 November in Cell Reports Physical Science . The specialized classifier, which outperformed two existing artificial intelligence (AI) detectors, could help academic publishers to identify papers created by AI text generators.
“Most of the field of text analysis wants a really general detector that will work on anything,” says co-author Heather Desaire, a chemist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. But by making a tool that focuses on a particular type of paper, “we were really going after accuracy.”
The findings suggest that efforts to develop AI detectors could be boosted by tailoring software to specific types of writing, Desaire says. “If you can build something quickly and easily, then it’s not that hard to build something for different domains.”
The elements of style
Desaire and her colleagues first described their ChatGPT detector in June, when they applied it to Perspective articles from the journal Science . Using machine learning, the detector examines 20 features of writing style, including variation in sentence lengths, and the frequency of certain words and punctuation marks, to determine whether an academic scientist or ChatGPT wrote a piece of text. The findings show that “you could use a small set of features to get a high level of accuracy,” Desaire says.
In the latest study, the detector was trained on the introductory sections of papers from ten chemistry journals published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The team chose the introduction because this section of a paper is fairly easy for ChatGPT to write if it has access to background literature, Desaire says. The researchers trained their tool on 100 published introductions to serve as human-written text, and then asked ChatGPT-3.5 to write 200 introductions in ACS journal style. For 100 of these, the tool was provided with the papers’ titles, and for the other 100, it was given their abstracts.
When tested on introductions written by people and those generated by AI from the same journals, the tool identified ChatGPT-3.5-written sections based on titles with 100% accuracy. For the ChatGPT-generated introductions based on abstracts, the accuracy was slightly lower, at 98%. The tool worked just as well with text written by ChatGPT-4, the latest version of the chatbot. By contrast, the AI detector ZeroGPT identified AI-written introductions with an accuracy of only about 35–65%, depending on the version of ChatGPT used and whether the introduction had been generated from the title or the abstract of the paper. A text-classifier tool produced by OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, also performed poorly — it was able to spot AI-written introductions with an accuracy of around 10–55%.
The new ChatGPT catcher even performed well with introductions from journals it wasn’t trained on, and it caught AI text that was created from a variety of prompts, including one aimed to confuse AI detectors. However, the system is highly specialized for scientific journal articles. When presented with real articles from university newspapers, it failed to recognize them as being written by humans.
What the authors are doing is “something fascinating,” says Debora Weber-Wulff, a computer scientist who studies academic plagiarism at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences. Many existing tools try to determine authorship by searching for the predictive text patterns of AI-generated writing rather than by looking at features of writing style, she says. “I’d never thought of using stylometrics on ChatGPT.”
But Weber-Wulff points out that there are other issues driving the use of ChatGPT in academia. Many researchers are under pressure to quickly churn out papers, she notes, or they might not see the process of writing a paper as an important part of science. AI-detection tools will not address these issues, and should not be seen as “a magic software solution to a social problem.”
This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on January 27 2023.
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The West Should Welcome Gaza Refugees
Europe and the u.s. accepted millions who fled earlier wars..
Nov. 13, 2023 1:58 pm ET
Hamas’s unprovoked terrorist attack on Oct. 7 has endangered not only Israel but the more than two million people who live in the Gaza Strip. Although Hamas won 2006 elections in Gaza and took control of the area from the Palestinian Authority the following year, the group has said that it bears no responsibility for the people living there.
On Oct. 15, Hamas operatives stole food and medical supplies from humanitarian trucks. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported the theft in a tweet, which it later deleted. But U.N. sources confirmed the theft to Israel’s Walla News, and Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians confirmed that fuel and medical supplies went to Hamas.
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