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Developing Comprehension and Research Skills with the Newspaper

By: Sherrye Dee Garrett
Introducing elementary-aged students to local and community news through the newspaper can help them strengthen comprehension and research skills. Community news keeps it relevant to the kids, enhancing motivation to discuss and learn more about what they are reading. Classroom activities are included in this article.

The newspaper has always been, and remains, an important resource in our lives. While the delivery format has varied and now includes electronic editions and websites, newspaper content reflects people's needs and interests.

The newspaper is a natural choice to help students develop and apply reading skills because:

  • The reader is already familiar with the content because it refers to local people, places and events.
  • The newspaper contains linguistic and nonlinguistic texts to inform the reader.
  • the newspaper includes a variety of genres, discourse structures and visual elements.
  • Newspaper activities encourage thinking at many different cognitive levels.
  • The sociocultural context is familiar because it reflects the reader's daily life and experiences and serves the reader's needs, making the newspaper a highly motivational text.

Formal/informal instruction

Infuse newspapers into your classroom in formal and informal ways. Show students how newspapers connect to their interests and needs.

Here are simple and easy instructional ideas that you may want to try:

1. At least once weekly, take a few minutes to tell students about something you enjoyed reading in the newspaper, such as:

  • a comic strip that made you laugh
  • a movie review that makes you want to see a particular film
  • a television review that makes you think differently about a particular program
  • a sports story that revisits a game you saw on television or tells you about a game you missed
  • weather information that caught your attention
  • a letter to the editor that made you smile or think differently about the topic
  • a graphic or image that made a news story more meaningful
  • a map that helped you understand more clearly where a story took place

2. Ask students to tell you about something that caught their attention in the newspaper. Ask them casually as they enter the classroom and get settled.

3. Collect interesting headlines, especially those using a pun or a play on words. Post them on a bulletin board and regularly share new ones.

Used with permission from the Newspaper Association of America Foundation. Copyright © 2009 NAA. All rights reserved.

Garrett, S.D. (2009). Newspapers Now: Developing Comprehension and Research Skills with the Newspaper. Newspaper Association of America Foundation, 2009.

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