I recently came across fodey.com, a great site for generating a newspaper image like the one on the right. This can be used in a literature class to allow students to generate newspaper articles about the events in novels or plays, or in the History class to evoke events from a particular period. In the example shown, a student has written about the deaths that occur at the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
What I find very useful about this particular site is that it is very easy for students to generate the image. They simply select a name for the newspaper, a date, a headline, and type in the body text. They click on a button, and a link to the image is created, which they can then download. It is a fun exercise, and is great for group-work as well as individual writing. It is ideal for a lesson which aims at getting different perspectives on the work being covered. I have used writing newspaper articles in teaching Literature and History with some success over the years, but the great advantage of web-generated newspapers is that they look so much more professional than an article scrawled in a jotter would do, or even one typed up in MS-Publisher or Word. You can only add a few paragraphs, so the task is not too onerous for students as to lose its fun factor. It is easily accomplished in a single lesson or as homework.
The fact that the output is generated as a jpeg to me is important. It almost negates the sense that the exercise is part of regular school-work, and that, I believe, heightens the sense of engagement.
The tool is also useful for language teachers. At the heart of the communicative method is the constant use of realia in the target language. As an EFL or ESL teacher you need to be a squirrel, hanging on to anything because you never know when you are going to need it in the classroom. This can be onerous, and ruin your relationships. And, when you need that old newspaper cutting, finding it is a mission impossible! The Internet has made this a great deal easier. Realia can quickly be searched for, almost on the fly. But often you cannot find exactly what you need, and I have often resorted to faking my realia. This tool offers a wonderful way of producing a quick, fake newspaper fragment for a language lesson.