By Karen Stanley
I suggest trying out the New York Times "Learning Network".
It's a free website for teachers. Although designed for teachers in the American public school system teaching grades 3-12, many many activities are highly adaptable to ESL students.
I tend to use the daily lesson plan archives the most. Each day there is a news article with a wide range of activities planned to accompany it.
One of my favorites is an article from December, 2000: "Be That As It Maya" (You can find the particular article & lesson plan by using the "search" feature at the site and typing in MAYA.)
The article is about new discoveries at a Mayan ruin. There are warm-up activities and comprehension questions. My favorite part comes next:
Students break into groups and each group is assigned a Mayan city. They investigate the city via the internet (or other means), then write up a travel brochure as if the city were a current tourist destination. They also make postcards with a picture from the internet (I imagine they could draw one if there's limited internet access) on one side, and a message on the other mentioning something they might actually have done or seen.
There are also discussion questions, and "extension activities."
There are also archived lessons specifically for working with the newspaper. For example, in one lesson, "students explore the function of letters to the editor for both a newspaper and its readers. Each student then selects a current event about which he or she feels strongly, reads a related New York Times article and responds to it in the form of a letter to the editor."
The site also includes news summaries, a daily news quiz, the word of the day, the test prep question of the day, and more...