Making Choices

Anything in the news that involves choices – what you buy, what you eat, even going to the movies – is about making choices. Economics is really about people making choices – not merely about making money. The definition of economics is the “science of choice.”

Most importantly, I want my students to know that when you make a choice, you give up something else. For example, when you purchase something, you have to give up money or another product or activity because of your choice.

I like USA TODAY’s features on lifestyles and food in the newspaper’s LIFE section, and the entire SPORTS section because they highlight stories involving choices that children are interested in. The stories on food involve making several choices to determine how much it costs to create a meal.

The lifestyle material is effective because we can talk about, for example, which movies they like. We read the reviews and compare them to other opinions, or write our own reviews. We also discuss why kids and adults like different movies.

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Reading newspapers in class

Fifth-grade reading levels are not high enough to completely comprehend a newspaper, yet students have thoroughly enjoyed and been able to learn from what we do with papers. By the end of the year, they are comfortable using the paper and look forward each week to having their own copy.

I have a math activity where we look for fractions, percentages, whole numbers and statistics in articles. Students cut out graphs found in, for example, USA TODAY, write a summary paragraph and then display it all on a chart.

We have a set of over forty reading and phonics activities that require cutting-edge examples from a newspaper. I use newspapers often to illustrate or write about phonetic and structural analysis. With a partner or individually, students practice the skill of skimming and choosing a favorite article, summarizing it on a 3 x 5 card, and then giving an oral report to the entire class. This is a favorite activity of my students, and many of them end up discussing the articles at home with their parents, and having a copy for each child really makes a difference.

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Teaching Current Events

Recently I read an article on monuments in the USA and how Americans have become engrossed in monument building. I had my students design monuments that would be good on our school’s campus. They drew pictures of their monuments and then wrote dedications to the school. They used reading skills to read the article and writing skills to create the dedication.

I also have my students write a weekly journal. In a recent editorial in a newspaper, the debate was about starting the school day later. This couldn’t have appeared in the paper at a better time because we were discussing study skills and learning styles. I had the kids write in their journals their opinions on starting school later.

Another uncanny link was the science section article about the peregrine falcon. We had just done a unit on animal survival. In terms of tying a newspaper into my math class, about three weeks ago, there was an article on the median income in the USA. The article lent itself to teach the students all about median and what it means. The children were amazed at the poverty level in the USA.

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Teaching students to READ

First and foremost, I am just trying to get students to read. I am trying to get them to find out that there are interesting things in a newspaper. Because newspaper articles are often relatively short, I want students to be able to pull out the main idea of a story and elaborate on it so I know that they understand the entire article.

Sometimes I’ll take words from an article that I think will interest the kids, and we’ll use them as vocabulary words. We’ll talk about the article and how the words are used. When we’ve finished, I take the words and put them into a word find. Then I give my students the word find with the meanings of the words below, so that they not only find the word itself, but also can match it with its meaning.

I teach lower-level students, and they need to have the ability to stick with something that is hard for them so that they feel that they are accomplishing something. If it seems like every time they’re attempting something someone is always better than they are, they’re not always going to want to put forth an effort.

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A lesson on plagiarism

I teach my students about plagiarism and how to cite sources, paraphrase and use quotes. We study how USA TODAY cites sources and keeps from plagiarizing. The students learn from a reliable source.

I also have my students read an editorial in the paper. I then teach persuasive writing and writing for a purpose. We look at how the newspaper’s writers set up arguments and format their thoughts. For instance, the cigarette smoking debate was featured, so we read the writers’ arguments and debated the issue.

Every day, the kids have a quiet time to do their homework or read. Many students ask to read the paper, they find it to be very friendly. They have told me that when they are on vacation, they are drawn to the racks to get the paper because they’re familiar with it. They know the layout.

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Teaching with newspapers

I want to thank you for suggesting the use of newspapers in our classrooms. From the first day of class many of m, students have been carrying and reading the paper, even without my prompting.

On several occasions, I have used the Experience Today lesson plans available on the Internet. Each time I have used the prepared lessons I found them to be clear, concise and easy to use. The discussion questions really help my students see to the heart of the news story and encourages them to form their own opinions and comments.

I especially like the early availability of the Experience Today lesson plans. Being able to pull up the lesson plans the day before the newspaper is printed is a great convenience and a time saver!

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