At the beginning of each class, I give my students about a half an hour to look through a newspaper[er to find out what’s going on both locally and nationally. I then use the Today’s Issues teaching guide with the Experience TODAY lesson plan to discuss a topic such as risk-taking.
I have students look through the paper for examples of people in the news that are taking risks or placing themselves in difficult situations. We have been talking about Topic 2: HIV, AIDS and other STDs this week, and we use the paper and the case study from Today’s Issues to determine what a person could have done differently to avoid taking the sort of risks that result in negative repercussions. Students discuss what they would have done differently, or where a person could turn to, e.g., a state health agency, for help or support.
Basically, I’m trying to tie what they read in the paper to their own lives in order to show them that the news is affecting real people in the world. I want them to get away from the “It-can’t-happen-to-me mentality.” The paper helps them make the important and meaningful connection between what’s happening in their lives and what’s happening in the world around them.
What I really value about newspapers in class is that my students’ interest level is piqued and their level of self-esteem is increased. I see it raised when they increase their knowledge base and are able to carry on a more intelligent conversation about what is happening in the world. The more we use a paper, the more I notice my students talking about current events and other stories in the news. When students feel knowledgeable, they feel powerful, and therefore more confident in their ability to communicate and to succeed. It’s all about the real meaning of education, isn’t it?
We get the paper and start by going over some vocabulary words and discussing the headlines or captions appearing in that day’s newspaper. I have students scan the paper and pick out an article, read it and then share it with the class. Most of the time each student chooses his/her own article. However, if two students choose the same article, after they have both given their summaries to the class, we evaluate how their analyses differed and ask them why they each felt different points were the important aspects of the article.
Sometimes we have contests where each group of students chooses one particular article, reads it and then compiles a list of 10 questions for the other group. Then we establish a time limit for the other group to search through the opposite groups’ articles to seek out the answers. This is a very motivating activity that everyone works hard at and enjoys.
We also have scavenger hunts, where I write down 10 items found in the paper and have students search for the items throughout the paper.
I use newspapers in my English and reading classes to help students pass the science, social studies, math and English exams. If they pass three of their four exams, students are able to earn an eighth-grade local diploma, rather than staying in an IEP, Individual Education Program. This is very important to my students because a local diploma increases their chances of success in high school and their likelihood of receiving a high school diploma.