Taped to the whiteboard in Sara Wendt’s third-grade classroom is a Wednesday edition of The Journal along with the question: “What is a newspaper?”
Wendt gathers her students into small groups and asks them to write their own definitions of a newspaper in one sentence. Answers varied.
“A paper with news?” one student suggests.
“News, recipes, games, coupons and advice,” one group answers.
“A newspaper is something that has stuff on it that tells us what has happened,” another group replies.
“A newspaper is a paper out on Saturdays and Wednesdays,” yet another group suggests.
Newspaper in Education
After defining what exactly a newspaper is – while ‘a paper with news’ is technically correct, the class later settled on a more substantial definition – students were asked to identify sections of the newspaper, and identify types of words within its pages for a scavenger hunt game.
The class set off in search of verbs, words with prefixes, compound words and adjectives.
The activity is a part of the Newspapers in Education program, or NIE, which provides local teachers and their students the opportunity to implement the use of newspapers as an educational resource in the classroom.
The last time Wendt utilized the NIE program for her classroom, she requested one newspaper per student, but all of the papers were too much to manage with her third graders, she said.
This year, she requested just two copies of The Journal for her classroom, which has been helpful in meeting one of her classroom’s learning goals: Working in teams.
“Our focus this year throughout the Falls School district is teaming with kids, getting them excited about working together and sharing ideas,” she said.
Wendt has the learning targets for her class for the 2019-20 school year posted on the wall, and she points out how working with newspapers helps to meet many of them.
“About 50 percent of what we teach in reading is supposed to be informational text, so (the newspapers) really help with that,” Wendt said.
“This is a real-world skill that they need, so this is a nice thing for them to be exposed to,” she added.
More than just the parts of speech and reading comprehension, younger students can learn numbers and percentages in real-world situations from advertisements, and older students can learn about current events affecting them on a local and global scale.
Not just for elementary
At Falls High School in Katie Hamer’s 10th grade English class, students are completing a similar activity.
Students were asked to read two articles in the newspaper, and then choose one to respond to questions about.
“Do the ‘Happy Birthday’ ads count?” one student asked jokingly while selecting his article.
“No, you took the words right out of my mouth,” Hamers said, “you have to choose an actual article, or an editorial, or coverage of a sports game or event. Anything that says ‘briefs’ or any ad doesn’t count.”
Students were identifying the ‘five Ws’ – who, what, when, where, why – of their chosen article and also looking to determine where the information came from, such as, who wrote the story, and who were the sources interviewed.
Hamers said this activity will tie into the next book the class will read together, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, a classic book which deals with issues surrounding access to information.
“The entire thing that you will read and discuss tomorrow has to do with the fact that the author predicted that nobody in our current society is going to value information, newspapers or actual facts. They weren’t going to care or read it. You are reading it today, so it works out perfectly, because you’ll have more of an opinion tomorrow” she said.
While some of the third graders aren’t so keen on the idea of reading the newspaper yet – one third-grader remarked, “only grandpas would find this entertaining”– many of the 10th graders admitted while they don’t often pick up a physical copy of the paper outside of the classroom, they try to keep up with current events online.
Who provides the newspapers?
The NIE program that involves The Journal is a part of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, of which The Journal is a member. The program serves classrooms all over the world. The local NIE program is run by The Journal in partnership with Falls Elementary and Falls High School with support from local sponsors.
The program provides local schools copies of the newspaper to use as instructional tools to teach a variety of subjects and learn about the local community.
There are 10 classrooms participating in the program this year, along with the high school counselor’s office, the Falls Elementary Library and the Falls High School library.
Some teachers choose to receive just the Wednesday edition of the Journal while some elect to receive both. On Wednesdays, 156 newspapers are delivered to classrooms and on Saturday, 59 newspapers.
The papers sent to schools are discounted by 40-cents apiece. The weekly cost is $62.40 for Wednesdays and $23.60 for Saturdays.
For the 2018-19 school year, the total program cost was $2,951. This year, the cost is estimated to be around $3,100, depending on how many days per month the newspaper is printed. This year, $1,800 was donated to help cover the cost of the program.
This year’s business sponsors were the Packaging Corporation of America, Stewart’s Super One, City Drug and Rainy Lake Medical Center. And some program support comes from when a subscriber to the Journal dies, and their family opts to donate the remainder of their subscription to the NIE program. More sponsors are always welcome, and interested individuals may donate as well.