DOGO News is a website with online news, book reviews and suggestions as well as movie reviews for children. (DOGO means young or small in Swahili.) The website was created in 2009 by Meera Dolasia in San Francisco Bay area. As a mother, she wanted a safe but interesting and educative site for her children. The word spread about her creation, and today, the website is used by a million students and teachers around the world.
How it works and features
The DOGO News section presents current news, interesting facts, funny stories, and current events all geared for kids. All of the stories presented are non-fiction articles about what is going on all around the world. Indeed, there is a world map function. By clicking on it, it shows you the location of the news on a world map. Therefore, the students develop their awareness of what is going on around the globe, and the geographical contexts help them to contextualize the articles.
You can browse articles according to the latest news, topics (science, sports, social studies, did you know, green, general, entertainment, international, Amazing, fun, videos, etc.), by grades (K-3, 3-5, 5-8), or by searching a key word in the search box. On every article page, you can leave a comment in the comment section, you can send the article by e-mail, and you can embed the article in a blog. Each article provides a lesson plan that can be used by the teachers, and a word search is also available. Teachers can also log in and create a virtual classroom.
Everything on DOGO News is divided according to the student’s grades. However, some of the ratings are not always appropriate. As stated in a Common Sense Media review of the website, “Although materials are categorized from grade K through 8, younger kids will need an adult to read the material and capitalize on learning resources”.
A very interesting feature is that in every text, complicated words are in bold and in blue. By simply clicking on the different new words, a definition pops up. This allows the student to have a better understanding of the text, and avoids the teacher to explain tons of new words encountered in the different texts.
There is also a “DOGO Books” section. This sections presents recent to older children / teenage books. All of the books have a short description (summary), as well as information pertaining the genre, reading level, the interest level, the word count, the public rating, the reviews, etc. You can also click on a link to see a preview, buy or “wish” the book on amazon.com or to borrow it at a local library, if available in your region. You can search books by titles, ISBN, reading level or genre. Every book presented has a review section for kids to write what they thought about the book and if they recommend it. Students can also join the National Geographic Kids Book Club where they have fun activities, and cool prizes to win. In the DOGO Books sections, there is a “Giveaways and Contests” section where you can win free books from publishers.
For ESL teachers
What is so interesting about DOGO News website, is that it can be used by teachers and students in so many different ways. Here are a few ways to use it:
- You can send students on the website to choose any topic of their choice for a writing assignment. An interesting aspect of this website is that all the news on the site are geared to kids. Therefore, the students are sure to find an interesting topic for them to talk or write about, but also, the articles available assure the teacher that the content will be appropriate for students and school context.
Victoria Santos, a teacher doing a tutorial on YouTube, talks about how she enjoys using DOGO News in her classroom.
“I enjoy using DOGO News with my students because the current events are geared for kids. It is much more interesting than the current events that adults read about. These articles will allow students to become creative and choose fun topics for their writing.”
- You can also sign in with a teacher account and create a class page for your groups. You simply need to invite students to join your class page. On your class page, you can share videos, recommended books, add links to your favourite websites, show a class calendar with the different assignments, etc.
- On your class page, you can create a reading list, and a list of recommended books for your students to read. You can assign students to choose a book from your list to read, and afterwards, you ask the student to make his own book review and post it on the website. The fact that the students’ work will be posted on the internet will surely motivate them to write a good text.
- You can assign an article to read, and use the lesson plan suggested on the website. The lesson plans suggest different areas of activities, like comprehension questions, critical thinking activities, vocabulary activities, speaking and writing activities.
- A teacher could also choose to formulate new comprehension questions about the text, since the ones suggested may not be adapted to the students’ level, or the teacher might want to have more questions, since there are only about 3 for each text.
- The teacher could also assign a critical thinking challenge. For instance, you assign the same text for all of the students, and you have students reflect on what they read, and what they think. They could engage in a debate, where they argue and share their point of view, or a discussion in class where they share their reflection. The students may also be invited to comment on the text’s online page.
- Each text also provides a word search with vocabulary words related to the topic. This can be a nice filler activity, for some students who finish their task early.
- Another idea on how to use DOGO News in the classroom is suggested by Amy Lauren Botula. This teacher weekly assigns articles to her students as collaborative research projects. Every week, they work in group on a new article.
- Finally, Teachers First blog recommends to create a class magazine with all the articles chosen by the students.
These are all interesting ways to use the free website with your kids, and get them hooked on interesting and sometimes unusual topics.
My personal opinion
As a future English teacher, I believe that it is important to develop the students’ critical thinking, and to increase their sense of curiosity and awareness regarding what is going on around the world. This is why I believe that DOGO news is a very interesting website to use in classrooms. It is really simple to use for children, and as mentioned previously, there are many ways to use it in a classroom. After reading a few suggested lesson plans, I can conclude that the ideas suggested are very interesting, and also very adapted to students. The news are fun and interesting. The subjects are always adapted to children’s interests. Indeed, they are even adapted to different school levels.
The only thing to be careful with, is that because this site is created for English as a first language learners, some questions, texts difficulties and vocabulary levels may be more difficult for ESL students than what is graded on the website. So, maybe adapt the chosen text to lower levels. For instance, a group of 6 graders may not be able to read and understand a text graded 5-8, but a 3-5 text would be more appropriate to their level of English.
I find it interesting that using the same website, the 3 MELS competencies can be integrated. For instance, students develop their oral abilities (C1) by discussing or debating a subject. Their reinvestment competency (C2) is developed when they have comprehension questions to answer according to a text they read. Finally, the writing competency (C3) is developed when the teacher asks the student to write about the topic.
There are only two cons about the web site. As stated in Common Sense Media,
“The Maps tab houses a world tour of geo-located one-paragraph articles that feels really cool at first but can’t be paused — a definite source of frustration for the majority of readers who will not be able to read all the text before the tour shoves off again for another spot on the planet.”
It is true that this function could be upgraded. Also, as mentioned in Graphite, the answer keys are not provided. So, the teacher needs to read all of the articles in advance to make sure he knows what the answers are. In a case where the teacher allows the students to choose an article of their choice, this lack of answer key can become problematic.
In conclusion, I will certainly use this website during my practicums and my future career.