Remember the cry of the newspaper vendors? “Extra, Extra, read all about it!” It’s not something we hear much anymore as more and more newspapers migrate online. But the old-school, hard copy newspaper is a valuable resource and powerful tool for learning. So perhaps we should start crying “Extra, Extra, learn all about it”.
While advances in technology mean the online newspaper has grown in popularity, the original hard copy newspaper remains a valuable resource and powerful tool for learning. It can be a teacher, a source of entertainment, even lexicon.
An unlikely teacher
For parents and teachers, the newspaper is a valuable resource and powerful tool for learning, just like a living textbook. There is something new to read, look at, think about and discuss every day. Newspapers can add to the lesson in a classroom, form part of a child’s research material and generate interesting ideas to daily discussions. As in a school day, a newspaper will typically cover a variety of disciplines, from business and finance to politics, entertainment and sport. Through the journalist’s knowledge and understanding of the subject matter coupled with their flair for language and communication, children will be introduced to new words, terminology and concepts by reading the newspaper.
While 10-year-old Sadie was eating breakfast with her mom, she happened to pick up a section of the paper and read about how a government official used the opening of a hospital as a platform to talk about alcohol issues in the community. “Mom, what does platform mean?” Without trying to, the newspaper article raised the bar for Sadie and got her thinking about a word she likely would not have come across in her daily life.
How to use the newspaper as a valuable resource and powerful tool for learning
Most newspapers feature crossword and sudoku puzzles, while some may offer easier games for younger children. Children can also make their own crossword from words they find in the newspaper, and you could make it more challenging by giving the crossword a theme or telling them to only use verbs. Other word games include word searches, cryptograms – use a key to solve the puzzle – and word polygons, which is the use of set letters to make as many words as possible.
Get children to search for different letters or words in an article. Older children can learn to identify words from word classes by being asked to highlight all of the nouns or adjectives on a page.
Ask children to find and cut out the letters of the alphabet from headlines. They can then find words or pictures that start with each letter and create an alphabet chart.
Children are likely to come across ‘big’ or unfamiliar words when reading articles. Encourage them to find out the meaning of such words by looking them up in a dictionary, again let’s keep it old-school and use a hard copy dictionary, rather than an online one.
Full stops and commas
When it comes to punctuation, a newspaper is a valuable resource and powerful tool for learning. Children can use the paper to identify different types of punctuation. A useful activity is to give children a rewritten paragraph from the newspaper with all the punctuation removed. They can then punctuate the paragraph themselves. Compare this to the original, see if the meaning has been changed anywhere and give them feedback.
Create a class newspaper
This class activity will task children with exploring newsworthy events in their class, school and community. Interviews, columns, cartoons and entertainment news can all be included.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Children who can’t yet read can have fun looking at the pictures, “shopping” from adverts or looking for different items, shapes or colours. They could also make collages from pictures they find, illustrating things like meals they like or things they enjoy doing. Schoolgoing children can tell a story from what they see in an article’s photo. Political cartoons and caricatures often offer social commentary that older children can learn to appreciate.
This is another area where a newspaper is a valuable resource for learning. Most newspapers will cover national and international news, so find articles from around the country or the world and mark these places on a map. This will also give children a better understanding of current affairs in other places.
Talk about it
Newspapers offer plenty of discussion points, from current affairs to how headlines use certain words. You can look at why popular sports, entertainment or celebrity figures are always making headlines. Also, discussing the advertising and how it works will make for an interesting conversation.
Adopt a pet
Use the classifieds as a resource too. Children can find a pet they want to adopt, a house they want to “buy” or a career they would like to pursue. This gives children a chance to learn about themselves and their goals.
And while we’re talking old-school, let’s add some good old-fashioned pen and paper games to the mix.