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How To: How to Use Newspapers to Promote Standards

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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

How to Use Newspapers to Promote Standards Benna Golubtchik

The newspaper is a continuous source of authentic new teaching material every day. A subscription, even once a week, gets kids excited about reading. Many of the suggestions below dovetail with skills listed in the New Standards.

The first thing I would do is invest in a daily newspaper subscription. A good choice, available nationwide, is USA today. It has clear graphs, visuals, and a middle school reading level. Some kids may start with the sports page, and that's ok. They might follow continuous stories about sports heroes, read summaries of games they saw in person or on TV, and through this, discuss items of interest and learn to critique articles. Comparing stories with differing opinions is a legitimate language arts standard.

Students can learn to interpret data and answer questions based on what they see (Standards). Eventually, they can even create their own questions for others to answer. This activity focuses their attention on detail, since they must identify all the parts of a chart or graph.

Political cartoons are another good source of discussion. Children can learn to identify symbols as representing concepts or ideas. For example, Uncle Sam may represent the United States. An elephant and donkey identifies Republicans or Democrats. Artistic students might create their own messages.

Many enjoy following comics. Comics often have ongoing stories, which builds sequencing skills. A fun activity is to take the dialog out of a conversation bubble, and have kids write in new dialog according to the pictures. They might predict what could happen to a character in upcoming episodes.

Students can keep up with math skills by using advertisements. You can "give" them an amount of money to take to a supermarket to buy enough food for a special meal. They can budget for the family for a week's food. They might plan to go clothes shopping, and can learn to make informed choices between the expensive designer jeans or several, cheaper, good quality items. They can also calculate the cost of a sale item at 25% off original price, for example.

Your students might "inherit" some money from a rich uncle. They can identify stocks according to familiar brand names, and invest on paper. (If available, students could research companies on the internet.) Charting the ups and downs once a week over a period of time informs kids about the economy, and encourages math skills. Tracking those fraction or decimal prices, as well as percent gained or lost, demonstrates a real application of math skills.

Advice columns offer good sources of discussion and many varied opinions. Students might even want to create an anonymous "Dear Abby" format in class, posting questions to a computer screen or suggestion box, and having fellow classmates post their answers.

Movie and TV review columns offer an opportunity to compare ones' own opinion with those of professionals. Since reviews are opinions, the professional's comment is no more valid than the student's, as long as it is backed up with supporting information. As students become more involved, they might write letters to the editor using details from the newspaper to support their arguments. Eventually, they can write their own stories and create and illustrate a newspaper.

As the activities encourage kids to think and discuss, reading comprehension is improving. At the same time, students are finding real life applications for the concepts they are taught in school.


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