Review of CNN Student News, Vol. 2
Book Review of CNN
Student News, Vol. 2
Authors: Fuyuhiko Sekido, Masato Kogure, Jake Arnold, & Ken Ikeda
by Gary Joe Wolff
Publisher: Asahi Press, Tokyo, 2014,
pp. iii + 87, ¥1,900 (Includes audio CDs)
CNN Student News, Vol. 2
is the second in a three-part textbook series
and is based on CNN Student News, a 10-minute, commercial-free, daily
TV news program that presents current events and issues in a simplified
format, targeting middle and high school students. The show airs
weekdays throughout the U.S. school year and is supplemented by the
program’s website, both of
which are accessible for free.
Each of the textbook’s 15 stand-alone,
six-page units features a two-minute news story which has been
previously broadcast and chosen by the authors to be of interest to
young adult Japanese learners of English, complete with video, audio,
and an array of discussion, vocabulary, and listening comprehension
exercises. The DVD contains only two-minute videos for each unit and is
furnished to teachers at no charge.
The main task of each unit is the
Transcript Completion section, which consists of a cloze (gap-fill)
exercise based on the dialogue from the two-minute news story.
Moreover, there are two sets of audio tracks for this section, one
being the authentic native speed dialogue from the news story, and the
other of the same transcript, but narrated at a slower rate of speed
(~0.75x), excellent scaffolding for lower-level students.
is especially suitable for Japanese university students in view of the
increasing populist trend for American TV news to be more visual and
varied, narrative-based, and dramatically framed as infotainment.
the recent conversationalization and so-called dumbing down of American
TV news discourse has resulted in greater use of anchors and
correspondents who are good sources of high-frequency idiomatic
language. This has made it far more suitable as a pedagogical tool than
other TV news sources and is likely to have beneficial effects for L2
processing (Bell, 2003), for example, by aiding listening comprehension
and media literacy.
The infotainment value of the textbook was
validated by the informal survey of 1st and 2nd-year non-English majors
in my English Communication I classes. They felt that the news stories
were of interest, particularly Unit 3 about eco-friendly cardboard
bicycles and Units 2 and 9 which are directly related to Japan, one on
a famous Japanese chef in Tokyo and the other on the Yokohama Bay Stars
The students rated the textbook as having average difficulty, and
although they found the exercises to match key vocabulary words with
their definitions (written in Japanese) a bit easy, in general they
rated the listening exercises slightly difficult.
Although each unit has a variety of tasks including pre-viewing warm-up
discussion, vocabulary, and pronunciation, my perception is that a
minor shortcoming of the textbook is the somewhat overreliance on
teacher-fronted listening (cloze) tasks and true/false questions.
Perhaps it might be better to incorporate some additional post-viewing
activity like a group discussion, an exercise on American idioms,
multiple choice comprehension questions, or a follow-up homework
The teacher’s manual contains no teaching tips, but I found it to be
accurate and useful, including answer keys to textbook questions and
Japanese translations of the video transcripts. The Preface in both the
teacher’s manual and textbook are written in Japanese, which may cause
some minor inconvenience to teachers without a strong command of the
CNN Student News, Vol. 2
is a refreshing alternative to the
typical EFL textbook, as it not only exposes students to authentic
materials with real-life relevancy, but also helps them become better
global citizens by expanding their knowledge of world events of
interest to young people (Hwang, 2005). Additionally, helping students
become more media literate by developing the critical thinking skills
to understand L2 English news will assist them in more fully
participating in the global community (Isozaki, 2014).
The textbook is already being used extensively in Japanese
universities, and each unit is designed for use in either one or two
classroom sessions. An added benefit of the textbook is that it is
supported by fresh new content added daily to the CNN Student News
website during the American school year, and is also available as a
free podcast on the program’s website and at iTunes. In Japan, the
program can also be viewed on NHK’s BS1 satellite TV station, as well
as on the NHK website.
As ubiquitous as international news videos are these days, easily
accessible from most mobile devices, exploiting this entertainment
medium can prove to be the ideal teaching tool for our students. I can
wholeheartedly recommend CNN Student
News, Vol. 2 as either a core or
Bell, D. M.
(2003). TV news in the EFL/ESL classroom: Criteria for
selection. TESL-EJ, 7(3),
Hwang, C. C. (2005). Effective EFL education through popular authentic
materials. Asian EFL Journal, 7(1),
Isozaki, A.H. (2014).
Critical media literacy for learner-empowering news media courses. The
Language Teacher, 38(5), 6-9.
is a former registered professional
transportation engineer who has worked in Japan since 1991 and taught
both undergraduate and graduate engineering and science students in his
university’s School of Science and Technology for the past 16 years.
His interests include the latest technological advances in online
student forums, student motivation, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) methods, and
fostering global awareness among his students. In
his free time, Gary enjoys mountain climbing and has scaled all of the 25 highest mountains in Japan.
[This article was written in Jan. 2015 and appeared in
the "Book Reviews" section of the Sept./Oct. 2015 issue of The Language Teacher, published
Japan Association for
Language Teaching (JALT).]