How to Use News to Teach

If I take into consideration all of the programs that I use, including my basic math and reading programs, USA TODAY ranks at the top for stimulating student interest.

The paper enables me to provide students with hard examples of how math, reading, science and social studies affect our daily lives. The paper provides a colorful, organized, current document that students and teachers can refer to, which brings to life, in a dramatic way, our everyday curriculum.

After letting students first skim USA TODAY, I assign them a number of stories to read from each section, e.g., four stories from NEWS, two from SPORTS, etc. The students are allowed to read any stories that they want, and they must tell me the “Five Ws” of each story: the who?; what?; when?; where?; and why? contained in their stories.

I also let students pick a story of their choice to use with Experience TODAY’s page 3. Allowing students the freedom to pick means they can choose stories that interest them which in turn stimulates reading.

My students read USA TODAY to get information about the world, and we’ll often read an article to pinpoint the location of an event on a world map. To further apply their real-world geographic knowledge, students have created a Web site: Tierra Firma Geography is our student-produced and maintained Web site that teaches about geography, environmental and social issues.

On the site, Tejas, an imaginary ice planet, is facing danger from asteroids, comets, and global warming. Tejas is surrounded by heartless villains. I play Wamfu, the Supreme Geography Instructor. Students interact with the site and do as I ask in order to save Tejas. Wamfu sends students on many fantasy adventures, such as saving Tejas from an ecological crisis. This teaches them how to examine uses, abuses, and preservation of nature. If you live in Maryland, you may also want to read this post about the best colleges in that state.

A lesson on achievement and goals

I have my students read through USA TODAY for 10 minutes. Then we do a lesson on achievement and goals. They find people who have achieved certain accomplishments and determine why those people would be good role models. For instance, after Sergio García won the Masters, my students wrote essays on how they thought he was feeling. They shared their essays in class and made posters. Sergio is a great example of someone achieving his goals.

I am very impressed with the paper, I think it’s wonderful. On Wednesdays when I get the paper, I count on the lesson plan to guide me through. I automatically find questions and activities I can use. I especially like the technology activities in Classline Today and use these with my students so they learn about how technology, such as the Internet, impacts their lives. I even save the “best” Classline Todays for future use. The kids really enjoy it, too!

We focus on current events and use the paper’s national and international news coverage along with the local newspaper’s to make comparisons of a story’s style, how it was written, the lead it was given, and the sources that were used by each paper. We talk about the placement of a story, whether leads are appropriate, and how they differ from the local papers. We then determine if front-page stories were selected on the basis of traditional merits such as timeliness, proximity, etc., or some other criteria. We also compare how USA TODAY runs its stories versus other papers, e.g., The New York Times.

From the beginning of the semester, I have my students keep a journal featuring a developing story and have them address the following points as the story unfolds: slant, completeness, sources, timeliness, and relevance. Students also draw out a story’s “5Ws”: Who?; What?; When?; Where?; and Why?

When discussing copy-editing, we’ll look at design and placement of stories, fonts, headlines and white spacing and try to determine why articles are positioned the way they are and what effect these factors have on a story.

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