Using Journals and Magazines to Teach About Audience

Today I’d like to share two simple activities that can help second language writers apply the concept of audience. The first activity is suitable for students of intermediate and higher levels of proficiency; the second one is designed for beginners (but can certainly be used with advanced students as well).

Activity 1

Class time: 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the class and the number of the samples)


  • Journals from various fields of study, such as psychology, engineering, medicine, sociology. You can find a variety of journals through online databases or in a local library.
  • Student Worksheet (PDF)


This activity requires that students move in class, so you need to set up the classroom in the way it is described below.  However, if your teaching context does not allow for reorganizing the classroom space, modify this activity as you see fit.

  1. Reorganize the desks and chairs in the classroom: Each desk will represent a “station” that the students will work at. Therefore, the reorganization will depend on your classroom space, but you should make it possible for several students to work together as a team at a desk.
  2. On each desk, put a journal face down, so that the students won’t be able to see its cover. If you had prepared several journals from each field, you could “assign” a certain field of study to a particular station. For example, you may have a psychology station, a linguistics station, a medicine station, etc.
  3. Divide the students into small groups. Give each group the student worksheet.
  4. Each group will start at one station and work for about 5-7 minutes. The assignment for this activity is the following: The students will examine a journal (or a set of journals) and as a team they will discuss the type of readers for that particular journal. Encourage them to examine the images, titles of the articles, graphs, and other visuals. The students will also fill out the worksheet. Remember: The students are not allowed to look at the journal cover!
  5. After the students are done with their first station, they will move to the next “station” (clockwise, for example).
  6. After the activity is completed, discuss the results as a class. Allow the students to look at the cover pages of the journals and check if they made correct guesses.


If you work in a computer lab, you can turn computers into stations, with each computer displaying an electronic version of a journal (of selected parts of it). In this case, the students can work individually as they move from one computer to another.

Activity 2

Class time: 20-30 minutes

Materials: Magazines and newspapers. For this activity, the students will cut the magazines and newspapers; make sure you bring the ones that you no longer use. Some of the examples of newspapers and magazines are: Times, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic, Taste of Home, Woman’s Day, People, AARP The Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Daily News. However, the choice of the magazines and newspapers is up to you.


  1. Divide students into small groups or pairs.
  2. Pass out the magazines/newspapers and scissors. Depending on the class size and the number of the magazines or newspapers you prepared, each team may receive up to several magazines or newspapers.
  3. Explain to the students that they will have to “sort out” the material from their magazines and newspapers according to the audiences. Assign four audiences:
    1. business people
    2. politicians
    3. college students
    4. sport fans
  4. Once again, the types and the number of audiences may vary.
  5. Ask students to scan through the magazine(s) or the newspaper(s) and look for the images, company or product advertisements, logos, inspirational messages, article titles, etc. that will correspond to the types of audiences you assigned. Have students cut those parts from their magazines and newspapers and organize them into four piles, each of one of the four audiences.
  6. After the activity is completed, ask students to share their findings with the class. Since the magazines and newspapers for each team were different, it will be interesting to see what students have found for the four audiences in their magazines and newspapers.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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One Response to Using Journals and Magazines to Teach About Audience

  1. Kenny says:

    Activity 1 seems like a good way to incorporate English for Academic Purposes–was that the intent of the activity as you designed it? I would definitely like to implement this in my class.

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