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Ten Great Activities: Teaching With the Newspaper

Ten terrific classroom activities that use the newspaper to teach all sorts of valuable skills -- including reading and writing for meaning, map reading, media literacy, sequencing, word meaning, and math.

"The newspaper is the most widely used of the media [as a teaching instrument in the classroom], the direct result of a national campaign by publishers, known as Newspapers in Education (NIE).

Before the advent of NIE, newspapers tended to be used only by secondary school social studies teachers in two-week units or for Friday current events sessions. Now, however, newspapers are used throughout the school year in every area of the curriculum."

Those are the words of Nola Kortner Aiex, author of Using Newspapers as Effective Teaching Tools. Indeed, the news is more a part of the school curriculum than it ever was -- for many reasons. Ten of the reasons teachers find newspapers such effective classroom teaching tools are detailed in the NIE feature "Why Use Newspapers?" which points out that newspapers

  1. are an adult medium that students of all ability levels can be proud to be seen reading.
  2. deal in what's happening here and now, providing motivation for reading and discussion.
  3. make learning fun.
  4. are extremely flexible and adaptable to all curriculum areas and grade levels.
  5. bridge the gap between the classroom and the "real" world.
  6. build good reading habits that will last a lifetime.
  7. can be cut, marked, clipped, pasted, filed, and recycled.
  8. give everyone something to read -- news, sports, weather, editorials, and comics.
  9. are a cost-effective way to educate.
  10. contain practical vocabulary and the best models of clear, concise writing.

This week, Education World offers ten additional reasons -- in the form of ten terrific classroom activities -- for you to use newspapers in your classroom.

More from Education World

When you're done reading this story, be sure to check out these stories from the Education World archives:
* It's News to Me: Teaching Kids About the Newspaper Celebrate American Newspaper Week by teaching students to be knowledgeable and discerning news readers. Explore six great sites that will help you teach about the newspaper -- before you start teaching with it! 9/27/1999
* Extra! Extra! -- Eight Great Web Sites Connect News to Your Curriculum! Discover eight great sites that will help you link the day's news to your curriculum and challenge students to look beyond the news! Connect the news to science, geography, social studies, art, math, language arts, critical thinking, and technology! Included are six online news quizzes for students of all ages. 9/27/1999
* Twenty-Five Great Ideas for Teaching Current Events Looking for ways to work news into your classroom curriculum? Check out these great ideas for connecting current events to all subjects! 8/3/1998


Read and write for meaning. Remove the headlines from a number of news stories. Display the headline-less stories on a classroom bulletin board. Provide students with the headlines, and ask them to match each to one of the stories. As students replace the missing headlines, ask them to point out the words in the headlines that helped them find the correct story. Then distribute headlines from less prominent stories and ask students to choose one and write a news story to go with it. When the stories have been completed, provide each student with the story that originally accompanied the headline. Ask: How close was your story to the original? How effectively did the headline convey the meaning of the story? You might follow up this activity by asking students to write a headline for their favorite fairy tale.

Read a map. Arrange students into groups, and assign each group one international story in the news. Have students explore Maps of the World and choose a map related to their assigned story. Ask students to use the map to answer some or all of these questions:

  1. In what city did the story take place?
  2. What country is that city in?
  3. What is the capital of that country?
  4. What language is spoken there?
  5. What continent is the country part of?
  6. What countries or bodies of water border the country on the north, south, east, and west?
  7. What physical characteristics of the country might have contributed to the events in the story?
  8. What effect might the event or series of events have on the physical characteristics of the country?

Understand the media. Distribute advertisements cut from newspapers, and ask students to list the products in order, according to the appeal of the ads. Create a chart showing how students rated each product. Then distribute a list of the following propaganda techniques:

  • Bandwagon -- the implication that "everybody else is doing it."
  • Plain folks -- the implication that "users of this product are just like you."
  • Card stacking -- distorting or omitting facts.
  • Name-calling -- stereotyping people or ideas.
  • Glittering generalities -- using "good" labels, such as patriotic, beautiful, exciting, that are unsupported by facts.
  • Testimonial -- an endorsement by a famous person.
  • Snob appeal -- the implication that only the richest, smartest, or most important people are doing it.
  • Transference -- the association of a respected person with a product or idea.

Discuss each ad, and determine the propaganda technique(s) used. Ask: Which techniques were most effective? Which were least effective? What factors, such as gender, geographic location, or age, might have influenced the effectiveness of each technique? As a follow-up to the activity, you might ask students to design their own ads using one of the propaganda techniques studied.

Arrange in sequence. Cut up some popular comic strips, provide each student with one complete strip, and ask students to put the comics back in the correct order. Or arrange students into groups, provide each group with several cut-up strips from the same comic, and ask them to separate the panels into strips and arrange the strips in the correct order. Then introduce older students to a series of stories about an ongoing news event, and ask them to arrange the stories in the order in which they appeared. Encourage them to use the stories to create a news time line.

Expand your vocabulary. Assign each student a letter of the alphabet. Ask students to browse through the newspaper, find five unfamiliar words beginning with the assigned letter, and look up the definition of each. Then have each student create and illustrate a dictionary page containing the five words and their meanings. Combine the pages into a classroom dictionary. In a variation of this activity, you might ask students to look in the newspaper for any of the following:

  • words with a particular suffix or prefix
  • words containing a particular vowel sound or consonant blend
  • compound words
  • words in the past, present, and future tenses
  • possessives
  • plurals

Older students might look for examples of similes, metaphors, irony, hyperbole, and satire.

Explore geography. Ask each student to search the newspaper for stories that illustrate each of the five themes of geography -- location, place, human interaction and the environment, movement and communication, and regions. Display the stories on a classroom bulletin board labeled with the five geography themes.

Hunt for classified math. Ask students to use classified pages of the newspaper to do the following:

  • calculate the average price of a 1985 Cadillac
  • find what fraction of the newspaper is composed of classified ads
  • figure out the cost of running a 30-word ad for one week
  • estimate the total number of classified ads (based on ads per column and columns per page)
  • compare bank interest rates and determine the most and least interest $100 would earn in one year in your area
  • find what percentage of job openings start with T. As a follow-up to this activity, ask each student to create a classified ad and exchange it with a classmate. Ask: Was all the necessary information included? If not, what was missing?

Sort and classify. Label each of seven shoe boxes with one of the following newspaper categories: News, Editorials, Features, Humor, Advertising, Sports, and Entertainment. Ask students to cut out the newspaper stories they read each day and put each one in the appropriately labeled shoe box. At the end of the week, have students skim as many of the stories as possible and write an adjective describing each on index cards attached to each box. You might suggest adjectives such as factual, sad, inspiring, opinionated, misleading, silly, serious, and biased. Discuss and compare the adjectives. What conclusions can students reach about each category based on those words?

Play a current events game. Make a list of five categories that might be created using the newspaper, such as Countries, Weather Events, Mathematical Symbols, Movies, and Technology Terms. Ask students to search the newspaper for information related to each category and to write a question based on the information they find. (Remind students to make a note of the answers to their questions.) Arrange students into teams, and use the question-and-answer combinations to play a Jeopardy type of current events game.

Make papier-mâché. Finally, when you've done everything else you can think of with your newspaper, don't throw it away. Make papier- mâché! Here's how:

  • Make a paste by mixing together 1/2 cup of flour and 2 cups of cold water. Add the paste to 2 cups of boiling water and return to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Let the mixture cool and thicken. You can also make a quick no-cook paste by simply adding water to flour until it forms a soupy mix. (Since flour-based pastes get moldy over time, you might want to use powdered wallpaper paste mixed with water for a longer-lasting creation.)
  • Tear newspaper into narrow strips, and dip the strips into the paste, coating them completely. Squeeze out excess paste and drape the strips over a mold, such as a balloon or shaped chicken wire, overlapping the edges.
  • Apply as many layers as necessary, allowing each layer to dry before putting on another layer.
  • Decorate as desired.


KidBibs Learning Tip #40: Newspaper Activities Support Children's Learning in Many Ways
Joyce Melton Pagés, Ed.D, president of KidBibs, provides many activities that demonstrate how newspapers support language and literacy development, stimulate an interest in current events, support learning across the curriculum, promote higher level thinking skills, stimulate independent reading and writing, support character development, and more.