Teachers Network
Translate Translate English to Chinese Translate English to French
  Translate English to German Translate English to Italian Translate English to Japan
  Translate English to Korean Russian Translate English to Spanish
Lesson Plan Search
Our Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Popular Teacher Designed Activities
TeachNet NYC Directory of Lesson Plans TeachNet NYC Dirctory of Lesson Plans

Teachers Network Leadership Institute
How-To Articles
Videos About Teaching
Effective Teachers Website
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Teacher Research
For NYC Teachers
For New Teachers

TeachNet Grant:
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
Other Grant Winners
Math and Science Learning
Impact II
Grant Resources
Grant How-To's
Free Resources for Teachers
Our Mission
   Press Releases
   Silver Reel
   2002 Educational Publishers Award


The Native Language and English Newspaper Project: Making a Difference in Our Communities

Subject:Humanities, Art, Math, Chemistry, ESL

Grade Level: 10-12

Description: Brooklyn International High School, a school for newly immigrated students, aims to help those students become proficient in English through project-based learning while providing opportunities to stay connected with their native language communities. The students represent many different countries and speak Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Bangla, Urdu, French, Fulani, Russian, and Arabic.

To support and sustain our goals, seniors began the year by studying the Progressive Era with a focus on social activism. During that era, there was an influx of immigration, and cultural communities supported each other by producing native language newspapers with current events and opportunities. One such newspaper was the German “Zeitung.” In order to help their native language communities, students created bilingual newspapers replicating those from the Progressive Era, both in content and purpose. Furthermore, the newspaper was developed into an interdisciplinary project that includes articles from Chemistry, Art, Math, American Studies, and Government. Students produced an article from each class and then chose which articles to submit to the newspaper based upon community need.

How it Works: The students meet in their native language groups and produce a survey with questions about what their communities would be most interested in reading about. The students then disseminate those surveys to community members. Thereafter, in Math class, students analyze the survey results and during a group meeting, they choose the article ideas they want to submit for inclusion in a student-created newspaper. Thus, the newspapers meet the needs of native language community members by informing them of household products, political issues, human-interest stories, transportation information, and museums they might like to visit. Additionally, some students write supplementary articles that may further attract community readership. In the last stage of the project, students visit local community centers to distribute their native language newspapers. This, in turn, helps students connect to the community services that these community-based organizations offer.

Final Project/Product: The final product is a bilingual newspaper with articles from each class.

1. Participation in Government (Humanities) - how we can inform the community about voting and the upcoming Presidential elections?

2. Chemistry – how to use household products safely (consumer chemistry)

3. Art – inform communities about museums and current art exhibitions around the city based upon observations and reactions to field trips

4. Math – transportation permutations and analyzing surveys; the history of transportation, and which MetroCard will save you the most money based on your route

5. American Studies (Humanities: English and History) – the process of interviewing and writing a human-interest story

Overall Value: By creating a service-learning project that connects classroom learning to students’ communities, we create an experiential unit that allows students to work together in their native language groups and in heterogeneous language and skill level groups. Additionally, students learn about the principles of social change through community action. After this unit, they have the tools to learn about community issues, which we hope they will use throughout their lives.

One way technology is incorporated into this project is when students produce their newspapers. After finishing their articles, they use the Pages program on Mac laptops to publish their bilingual newspapers. As a group, students import their documents into one newspaper for their language group.

To strengthen language learning, we work with other 12th grade teachers to design interdisciplinary units, which helps students make thematic connections between content from class to class, as well as to help them strengthen their English language skills. This newspaper is the culminating project for one interdisciplinary unit.

We believe that the students’ native language skills should continue to be strengthened while they learn English. Ultimately, it is our goal to help students maintain a balance between their native culture and language and adapting to U.S. culture and the English language, and this project fulfills that goal.

English Language Learners: We teach through a project-based curriculum, and we find there are a few important ingredients to facilitate a successful ESL classroom. The first is heterogeneous learning groups. In each unit, we try to change the students’ learning groups. Each learning group has four to five students from different language backgrounds and at various skill levels. Students are grouped this way in order to support language learning through a collaborative model. We believe that through this interaction, students not only advance their language skills, but also learn how to be better critical thinkers by examining material together and sharing various perspectives. Second, projects are designed in such a way that students can access similar content at differentiated levels. Third, we try to create a curriculum that fosters experiential learning for students to participate in the school community, as well as the community outside of the school. This is important because immigrant students often feel excluded from the “American” community. This is why service learning projects are such a natural fit for ESL students. Lastly, we teach language through a content area. We believe that language is learned best when students are engaging naturally in the context.

Tips for the Teacher: This unit can be easily replicated even when limitations exist. For example, if you are unable to work with other teachers on an interdisciplinary unit, the newspaper can be created in one class with articles that contain various content. Furthermore, the newspaper can be multilingual if native language groups are difficult to create. Additionally, students can be encouraged to work with family members when they have no native language support in school. If technology is limited, the newspaper can be created in Word or handwritten.

Allowing students some choice might make the project more meaningful. For example, in the human-interest story, students were allowed to choose whom they interviewed, and in the voting article, they had a choice of three different topics for their articles.

Another important facet is allowing enough time for community needs assessment for students to feel empowered by this service-learning project. They should understand what the community needs in order to feel that they are able to make social change. For example, students not only need time to create, distribute, and collect surveys, but also need time to analyze the surveys in order to fully understand their importance.


 Standards Addressed
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for information and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment, and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for critical analysis and evaluation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for classroom and social interaction.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL

Day 1: Assessing Community Needs
Students understand why it is important to assess what a community wants before designing a service-learning project.
Students learn how to design effective survey questions in order to gauge community needs.
Students choose a sample group to administer surveys.
Students analyze survey results.
Students choose newspaper article topics based on survey results.
Flip chart paper and markers
Laptop computers to type surveys
Laptop computers to analyze and graph survey results on Excel
service-learning, community service, representative sample, random, biased
Procedure 1
What is service learning?
a. For this lesson, students are grouped according to their native language and brainstorm how they think service learning is different from community service.
b. Students discuss in their small learning groups of 4-5 students and record their responses.
c. They share out to the entire class.
d. The teacher makes a list on the board.
Procedure 2
Identifying Community Issues
a. The teacher asks students why it is important to know what a community wants before creating a service-learning project. Students report back.
b. In small learning groups, students are asked to brainstorm a list of community problems or issues and then share with the whole class. This is done for each subject area.
c. After the teacher lists the brainstormed topics on the board, students narrow down this list to four topics.
d. In their native language groups (no larger than 10 students), students write multiple-choice survey questions using their brainstormed topics. One survey question is created for each subject area article (Math, Science, English, Government, and Art). Students type surveys in both their native language and English and the teacher photocopies 10 surveys per student in each native language group.
Procedure 3
Distributing Surveys
a. The teacher discusses with students safe places to distribute their surveys.
b. Students distribute surveys.
Procedure 4
Analyzing Surveys
a. Students work in native language groups to analyze surveys by counting and recording their responses on a master sheet.
b. After counting responses, students discuss if they gave their surveys out to a representative sample or not. The teacher facilitates a discussion on why it is important to have a representative sample versus a biased sample. (Optional – we had a Math teacher facilitate this lesson.)
c. Students create tables tallying their survey results and graph the results on Excel using pie charts or other appropriate graphs.
d. In their native language groups, students determine the topic of each article based on their survey results.
Students are responsible for giving out 10 surveys. They have one week to gather their data.
Students are formally assessed through a quiz interpreting graphs and on survey method (optional for a Math lesson).

Day 2: Learning How to Organize a Newspaper
Students will understand how a newspaper is organized by looking through the sections of a newspaper.
Students will learn about headlines and by-lines by looking at a newspaper.
Students will appreciate effective layout design by studying it in a newspaper.
Copies of a newspaper; we used the New York Times
Scavenger Hunt
Prizes (optional for whoever finishes the scavenger hunt first)
headline, byline, caption
Procedure 1
Distribute newspapers to each student or group.
a. Ask students what they will find in the newspaper.
b. If you want to re-use the paper, discuss proper ways to handle it.
Procedure 2
Create a scavenger hunt to focus students on how to read a newspaper.
a. Include questions that lead to organization in terms of sections.
b. Include questions about layout and design (column, headline, etc.).
c. Include questions about the first page (index, cover story, etc.).
d. Allow students to complete the scavenger hunt.
Procedure 3
Discuss results of the scavenger hunt; share out from groups.
a. Clarify any misconceptions.
Procedure 4
Students look at a model of a bilingual newspaper.
a. Because of its ties to the Progressive Era, students look at The Jewish Daily Forward.
b. Students look at the types of articles it contains.
c. In groups, students make connections between this newspaper and the one they will produce.
d. Groups share their ideas.
When students meet next time to work on the native language project, they organize their newspaper. They should think about this prior to the meeting.
The scavenger hunt will give you an idea of whether or not the students know how a newspaper and articles are organized. The newspaper itself is the final assessment. You will need to judge from the scavenger hunt whether or not it is necessary to do another activity to supplement understanding.

Day 3: Article Descriptions: Brief Overview from Non-Humanities Classes
Students will explain the various MetroCards that are available, and calculate how much each ride costs to determine the best type of card to purchase for a given route, and then write an article describing the advantages and disadvantages of the various types (Math).
Students will research electricity, food energy, or glue, and write an article to inform the public of their chemical properties and uses or dangers they present (Chemistry).
Students will visit four museums and write a museum review, including location, hours of operation, and a critical review of at least one piece of art, or exhibit to inspire community members to take advantage of New York City museums (Art).
Computers with Internet for research and for typing articles.
Field Trips to Museums (can be done virtually with the Internet)
Procedure 1
Each teacher teaches lessons surrounding their article in their own classroom.
a. The final product of the lesson is the article.
b. Each teacher marks the article and returns it with feedback.
The article counts as a grade for each class.

Day 4: Voting & Elections Article
Students will understand that voting is a responsibility, by reading a poem about voting and investigating the Amendments that gave voting rights to women, African-Americans, and created the voting age.
Students will understand that they should vote based on a candidate’s views and actions rather than reputation and looks.
Students will understand that they need to analyze the media rather than accepting information.
Students will understand the traditional differences in party platform between the Republicans and Democrats.
Voter Registration Cards
Three Little Pigs and “The True Story”
Campaign Commercials (video)
U.S. Constitution or computers to access it online
Procedure 1
Explain to students that voting requires filling in a voter registration card.
a. Go over the requirements of voting.
b. Fill in cards together for practice.
c. Offer to send any cards for those who qualify.
d. Explain that after sending in the card, voters will get information in the mail with directions on when and where to go to vote.
New York State Board of Elections (for voting requirements) http://elections.state.ny.us
Republican, Democrat
Procedure 2
Read The Three Little Pigs and “The True Story”.
a. Ask students which story they believe and why. You can use a T-Chart for evidence for each story.
b. Create a ballot and have students vote.
c. Ask students why they voted the way they did. You can create a list on the board. If its not mentioned, discuss the idea of evidence and how media portrays the wolf and the pig. Also, discuss reputation; often students say the pigs are cute, while the wolf is known to be scary or cunning.
d. Relate this back to “real” elections and ask if this is how we should choose a candidate for public office.
HotChalk’s lessonplanspage.com http://lessonplanspage.com/SSLAImportanceOfVoting-UsesTrue3LittlePigsK2.htm
Procedure 3
Discuss types of campaign ads: negative, warm & fuzzy, humorous, scary.
a. Watch campaign commercials. (I recorded them but a teacher can see some on www.youtube.com or on the Living Room Candidate site.)
b. In groups, have students answer questions about the key message, type of ad, effectiveness, limitations of time/money, candidate’s looks in the ad, music, color, etc.
c. Share out with groups.
d. Discuss the affect media has on voters.
The Living Room Candidate from the American Museum of the Moving Image: Presidential Campaign Commercials from the 1950s to the present http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/
Procedure 4
Ask students which political party they think they identify with most.
a. Create a chart with the big issues and agree/disagree. Ask students to complete the chart individually (gun control, abortion, etc.).
b. Discuss answers to make sure students understand the issue.
c. Ask students how each political party feels about each issue. You may need to give students supporting documents if they have no background knowledge.
d. Explain that these are generalizations and everyone is an individual, but, traditionally, this is the way each party feels. Ask each student to trace his/her foot, write his name on it and place it along a continuum with Democrat on the left and Republican on the right (on a wall or bulletin board). Remind students that they don’t have to vote for a candidate based on political party, but sometimes it’s a way to help us when we don’t research the candidate fully.
Procedure 5
Look at the Constitution, Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26, and ask students what each Amendment means in their own words. (I create a chart.)
a. Ask students the history behind each Amendment.
b. Ask students whether or not they agree with the voting age.
c. Read the poem “Voting is Our Civic Duty” by Von E. Weeks.
d. Discuss its message and whether students agree/disagree and why.
The U.S. Constitution Online http://usconstitution.net
1. Research one candidate who is running for President in 2008. Complete the handout (Name, Political Party, This candidate says/thinks….I agree/disagree because….Source of information)

2. Look up any other party besides the Democrats and Republicans. Find one and list at least five issues and what the party believes in. Two popular parties are Libertarian and Green in case you need help researching.

3. Newspaper Article

Students have a choice in which article they want to write:

1. What is the process of voting? Create a chart to document the process.

2. Why is it important to vote? Write a persuasive letter.

3. What do the candidates say? Create a chart with at least 2 Republican and 2 Democratic candidates running for Presidents in the 2008 election. Include at least 2 issues and what each candidate thinks about the issue.

4. How do you choose whom to vote for? Choose your format and include advice on how someone should go about deciding whom to vote for.

Day 5: Writing Feature Articles
Students will understand the elements of writing a feature article: a lead, information, body and a conclusive paragraph, and incorporating quotes from an interview.
Students will learn how to write good interview questions.
Students will practice interviewing skills and note-taking.
Students will practice writing lead, information, body and concluding paragraphs.
Students will learn how to self- and peer-edit feature articles.
Guest speaker to practice interview skills
Four examples of feature articles
www.readwritethink.org (for printing press)
feature articles, quotes, lead paragraph, and information paragraph
Procedure 1
Reading Feature Articles and Identifying Parts of a Feature: The students are arranged by homogenous skill level into four groups. Each group reads one feature article from various sources. The reading level of each article should match the table groups’ skill levels. For example, lower-level texts can be found in Parade magazine and higher-level texts can be found in the New York Times. Each group member should complete the Qualities of Newspaper Articles graphic organizer below. Students participate in a jigsaw once they finish reading each article, so they should be encouraged to take good notes.
a. Jigsaw of Feature Stories: After each table group finishes reading their feature story, they should be put into a new group that should have students from all four groups represented.
b. Students take turns sharing their articles and discussing each section of the feature story. Each student should be given a new graphic organizer where they can take notes on each article from their group.
Procedure 2
Guest Speaker Class Interview
a. Students work in learning groups of mixed ability to interview a guest speaker. They are given background on the guest speaker and are asked to write two questions per learning group for the guest speaker.
b. Students brainstorm a list of interview skills on the board together.
c. When the guest speaker arrives, she/he introduces herself/himself and allows students to ask questions. All students must take notes during the interview and must capture at least three-four direct quotes. They record their notes in a teacher prepared graphic organizer.
d. After the guest speaker leaves, students and teachers debrief and clarify questions in their notes.
Procedure 3
Writing a Group Feature Article
a. Students examine examples of leads (found on www.readwritethink.org).
b. Students work together in pairs to practice writing a lead paragraph based on the interview they conducted with the guest speaker.
c. Students work in the same pair to write an information paragraph and a body paragraph including at least one quote from the interview.
d. In pairs, students write a conclusion for their practice article.
Procedure 4
Writing a Feature Article
a. Students identify a person in their community who has something to share about one of the survey topics. For example, if the Haitian community, through the students’ survey, said that education is the most important topic to them, students would find a person who has overcome a challenge in education and interview that person for a feature story.
b. Students create interview questions and get peer feedback on their questions. They interview community members for homework and bring notes into class to begin writing their feature story.
c. Students are given time to write their feature story in class on computers.
d. After students have written their first draft, they self- and peer-edit the articles using the checklist below.
Procedure 5
Revising Feature Articles
a. Students hold peer conferences to discuss revisions
b. Students revise feature articles.
Students interview a community member outside of school, revise their feature articles and complete a final draft.
The students’ feature stories are assessed by the feature story rubric.

Day 6: Common Lessons: Organizing and Putting the Newspaper Together
Students will create a bilingual newspaper.
Students will include content from each class, focusing on community needs based upon the survey.
Students will revise all work prior to submitting it to the newspaper, using proper grammar and conventions.
Students will organize and design the newspaper effectively, using headlines, captions, and by-lines.
Students will use effective graphics and a catchy title.
Computers, word processing or layout software (we used the Apple iWork program “Pages”)
Newspapers for modeling
Tri-Fold Display Boards
Colored Paper for covering boards
Procedure 1
Students Meet in Native Language Groups: Meeting 1
a. The 12th grade team chose a two-hour block and redistributed classes according to native language. In other words, we took our 76 students and made new classes according to language, so all the Spanish speakers were with one teacher, and all of the Chinese speakers with another, etc. (We used days during off weeks when we were interrupted by a holiday or the morning of open school when the schedule would be changed anyway.)
b. Students choose Editors: Native Language, English, Layout, Organizer
c. Students decide who will submit which article based on community need, how they feel about their articles from each of the classes, and teacher given requirements (depending on the size of the group, some subjects could submit more than one article from each class, but had to submit at least one article from each class).
d. Students begin translating their articles.
Procedure 2
Students Meet in Native Language Groups: Meeting 2
a. Students gather all the articles in English and native language.
b. The layout and design editors look at the program Pages for a tutorial with the teacher.
c. Others work on editing in both languages and finding graphics to add.
d. Students put the newspaper together.
Procedure 3
Students Meet in Native Language Groups: Meeting 3
a. Students hand in newspaper prior to meeting. Teachers mark it and gave it back during this meeting. So students look at the newspaper and give it to Editors for revision.
b. Students create a plan for a presentation board to be used at an exhibition.
c. Students create presentation boards that must include:

• A picture of the student group

• Each article displayed on the board directly or in a pocket and labeled

• A bulleted list of the steps of the project typed (can be brainstormed in this class)

• A meaningful title

• A section for their native language and English survey

• A section for what they learned from the project

d. Students print one copy of their newspaper in color, and the electronic copy is sent to a printer to print color copies to distribute to community members.
Students need to translate articles, and revise at home. Editors get extra credit.
The final newspaper is graded with a rubric and students are given a group grade based on content, conventions, organization and design, and creativity.

Day 7: Distribution, Reflection and Exhibition
Students will distribute their newspapers to community members and at community centers.
Students will reflect on the process of doing a service-learning project.
Students will exhibit their work at Teachers College, Columbia University and individually for their senior graduation portfolios in native language.
Copies of students’ native language and English newspapers printed in color (if possible).
Computers to type reflection essays
Procedure 1
Distributing newspapers
a. Teachers and students discuss where and to whom they plan to distribute their newspapers. Students are asked to fill out a survey asking them where they will distribute their newspaper
b. If students would like to distribute their newspaper at a community center, teachers can help them make contact with one and arrange for a time for them to go to there to distribute newspapers.
c. Students distribute their newspapers. Each student distributes 10 newspapers. Some students may choose to distribute newspapers to the people they originally surveyed.
d. Newspapers could also be electronically distributed via a school website.
Procedure 2
Reflection & Fishbowl
a. Students are asked to work in small heterogeneous groups to discuss and write responses to the following questions: 2. What did you learn about your community while you were doing this project? Who do you define as your community? Are they the people you surveyed? What did you specifically learn about your community (i.e. interests, problems)?

3. How did your community members react when you gave them a copy of your newspaper?

4. What problems exist in your communities that were not addressed by the newspaper project?

5. What do you think your responsibility is to your community? How do you think you could help your community in the future?

6. How did you feel about doing a service-learning project? Have your feelings changed from the beginning of the project? Why or why not?

b. Fishbowl activity - Each student will be given a letter (A, B, C, D, E). Four chairs should be set up in the middle of the room. When students’ letters are called out they should come to the middle of the room to discuss one of the reflection questions assigned by the teacher. For example, if a teacher calls out letter A, all four or five letter As should come to the center circle. The teacher then will ask them to discuss question number 1. Questions 1-3 are simpler questions and questions 4-6 are more difficult questions. Questions can be given to each group of student based on their English and skill levels.
c. Students who are sitting outside of the fish bowl (the center circle) should be assigned one student to focus on and give feedback on discussion skills. When a student’s partner enters the circle they should use the discussion feedback rubric for evaluation.
d. After students finish the fish bowl activity, they meet with their student observer and conference on their feedback.

Students write a reflection paper incorporating all six questions. They are given two periods in class to type their reflection papers. A copy of students written response is included on their display board.

Procedure 3
a. Students practice creating a presentation around the six questions.
b. Students exhibit their boards at Teachers College, Columbia University for graduate students and professors where they have the opportunity to discuss the project.
c. Students individually give their presentations during their senior graduation portfolio in June.
Students work on reflection papers at home.
Students will be graded on their oral fishbowl presentations using the student feedback rubric. Additionally, students will be graded on their senior graduation portfolio exhibition. Reflection papers will be graded for content, organization, grammar and conventions.

Laura Berson

Shahzia Pirani-Mellstrom



Brooklyn International High School
49 Flatbush Avenue, Extension
Brooklyn , NY 11201

Laura Berson's travels to Europe during her high school years sparked her interest in global issues and cross-cultural experiences. She earned her B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and spent three years with the Peace Corps in Namibia both as a teacher trainer and as a classroom teacher. Upon returning to the U.S., Laura completed her M.A. in TESOL at Teacher’s College, Columbia University and currently teaches Participation in Government and Economics at Brooklyn International High School.

Shahzia Pirani-Mellstrom currently teaches twelfth grade American Studies to English Language Learners at Brooklyn International. She began her education career in Turkmenistan, as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English Language Learners in both primary and secondary school. Thereafter, she moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for Chemonics International, an international development organization working with USAID. Shahzia returned to teaching by enrolling in the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City to earn her Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Important documents for this lesson plan.



Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.


Journey Back to the Great Before