Letter from a teacher in Hyattsville, Maryland
I have two classes – one of the 5th-7th graders and one of the 8th-12th graders – in which I use newspapers to strengthen the speaking and reading skills of my students. We do a shared reading activity where each student chooses an article of interest, summarizes it for the entire class and then shares his or her opinion on it. The other students give their input and add their opinions. This is a great exercise in strengthening their speaking and listening skills.
To strengthen their writing skills, I give them the opportunity to write creatively. They select an article to read, and then they write a ledger, a short story or an essay about it. Other times I cut out appropriate headlines from the paper and give them to my students, challenging them to write a short story based only on the headline.
We have designated DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) for the last 10-15 minutes of class. I have a collection of newspaper articles for the students who find reading a book too intimidating. They are free to read as many articles as they can in the time allotted.
One reading teacher was chosen to receive the class set of USA TODAY and the weekly Experience Guide; I am the chosen one! Coming from a background of journalism, I am honored to incorporate the news into my curriculum.
Even when I am not using the newspaper, some students who finish their class assignments early, choose the paper instead of a novel; which means, they are rereading or finishing that week’s paper. About 98% of my students had never read USA TODAY until I started to use the paper in my classes. For them to choose your newspaper over materials they are more familiar with speaks volumes.
Newspapers in the classroom
First of all, I have used the paper in the classroom with success with an exercise I made up called “phrasing.” Small groups of ninth-grade students sit down with the newspaper, and we decide on an article to read.
The students take turns reading a paragraph, and I then ask the reader to pick one phrase from the paragraph that he or she read. An example of a phrase might be, “on the other side.” Each of the students selects a phrase, and when we have about five phrases, they must be used by the group to write a paragraph that has nothing to do with the topic of the article that they read. It is enjoyable to watch the hard thinking that goes into making up a paragraph that must be coherent and make sense from those phrases. Some of the resulting work is quite good, and very rarely do I have to intervene to be sure that it is coherent.
All of this also includes a peripheral discussion of the article itself and how it is topical for the day’s news in the context of what is going on in the world.
Thank you for sending the newspapers to our students. Many of their families do not have an English newspaper in their households. My advanced reading group finds Greek/Latin root vocabulary words as an exercise. My language arts classes study punctuation marks like commas, quotations, colons, and semi-colons at the same time they are reading content.
Realizing the importance of reading for real-world situations, the School-Based Management Team of Hyattsville Middle School decided that students should read newspapers on a regular basis to form exemplary life-long learning and reading practices. Therefore, USA TODAY newspapers were purchased and disseminated to all students. Each teacher utilized the paper to teach a content area reading lesson.
The practice of using the paper continued for two years. Then, concerned with two different issues: having students examine local news and saving money, the School-Based Management Team decided to purchase a local newspaper. Teachers and students utilized this newspaper for one school year. During this year, the teachers aired concerns about the periodical: there was not enough color; the students were overwhelmed with the size; the feature sections of the paper changed daily; the articles were too long for the students, and the reading level was too high for our struggling readers.
Listening to teachers concerns, the School-Based Management Team agreed to return to using USA TODAY newspaper as a learning resource for all students.