Guest Blog: Using Newspapers in the Classroom

frontpages

Visitors look at the front pages display in the Newseum. (Sam Kittner/Newseum)

The following lesson plan is from Andy Cunningham, an academic reading teacher at Park Forest Middle School in State College, Pa. He was a participant in the 2014 Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute. There’s still time for you to participate virtually in this summer’s advanced institute July 22-24. Get more information here

The Need

The idea for my lesson started back in the summer of 2014 during the ANEW Summer Institute.  I was thinking of ways for my eighth-grade students to connect to newspapers — both print and digital — in the classroom on a regular basis in order to stay engaged with current events and the pulse of the world outside of our town. Being informed and up to date about the world helps students make connections between what we study in my Academic Literacy 8 course and their own lives.

 The Background

At the ANEW institute we completed an activity called “Today’s Front Page”. This was an activity where we were able to browse through the plethora of front pages from newspapers all over the country. The most amazing aspect: all the newspapers were current to the present date. In our activity we made observations about the front page, the headlines, and any connections we could see between them. It was an eye-opening experience, because one quickly realizes that the world is huge, and perhaps more importantly, people value different things based on their lifestyles. What is news in one country is not in another, and every metropolis had its own problems to solve and its own successes to celebrate.

The Lesson Plan

Based on the Newseum’s Today’s Front Page display, I designed a user friendly template for the students to use while choosing and reading newspapers.(You can download all of his templates below.) I tapped into the Newseum’s online collection of daily front pages and I always purchased several newspapers the morning before class, to include our local regional paper (Centre Daily Times), The New York Times, USA Today and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When students walked into the room, they had many newspapers to choose from as there were stacks at each pod of four seats. Students also had Chromebooks to access the Newseum’s resources online.

 The Real Story

The first classroom experience was a huge success. Students loved having time to read a newspaper in class, and some students even commented that they had never read a newspaper before.  Many students opted to continue reading articles even after they completed the initial activity, which required that they choose and read at least one article. We completed the first “Newspaper Day” in October of 2014. We continued to have a Newspaper Day a few more times as the year progressed because the initial activity was immensely popular. I did tweak a few things along the way in terms of the template, but largely, the process remained the same. Allowing time for students to read and explore the world on their own through print and digital newspapers remained integral to the process.

 The Results

The activity was a success, and fortunately, the experience I had with “Today’s Front Page” at the Newseum served as a catalyst for planning the lesson in my own classroom. This was the first year for the Academic Literacy 8 course, so I really was creating every single day. Students were able to not only brush up on current events and increase their awareness in terms of the world around them, but also, improve their vocabulary by logging new words as they appeared in their reading. I also believe our Newspaper Days motivated students to seek out news on their own and to stay in touch with the world through digital and print media.

Did you use any Newseum Education resources in your classroom this school year? If so, we’d love to share your story with other teachers! Learn more about how to structure and submit your blog post here.

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