HOW TO TEACH THE PARTS OF A NEWSPAPER
Teach Your Students to Love the Daily News!
For some students, especially reluctant readers, glancing at the daily newspaper over their morning coffee might be the only reading they do as adults. Here are some tips on how you can help them be more critical readers, even if all they're doing is finding a movie showtime or looking for an apartment for rent.
Generally the first section in any major daily newspaper, the news section is often split it several parts--national, state, and local or regional. There are many pertinent elements of the news section you can teach your students, such as:
- Tell them to look for the 5Ws and the H in the lead paragraphs (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How)
- Have them recognize that the paper is split into parts called "above the fold" and "below the fold," meaning stories that appear either above or below where the paper is naturally folded in half
- Tell them that there should be no editorializing (opinion or commentary) in a hard news story. It should be all fact. Have them see if they can find opinion words in a straight news story
The editorial section of the paper is where writers are allowed to present their opinions and persuasive pieces of writing. They most often take the forms of:
- Staff Editorials. These are pieces written by staff writers and published unsigned, signalling that they should be perceived as the collective opinion of the newspaper itself
- Signed editorials. These pieces are written by individual reporters and published with a by-line. They are meant to be taken as the opinion of that individual reporter
- Op-Ed (reflective) pieces. These stories--either reflective or persuasive--are meant to give insight, depth, or reflection on a specific issue or to outline the author's specific point-of-view
- Letters to the editors. These are letters written by readers of the newspaper who feel compelled to comment on issues they've read in previous issues
In this section, you could ask your student to identify a writer's major thesis or claim, copy powerful pieces of supporting evidence, or analyze the author's use of rhetorical devices (is the writer appealing to our sense of logic, our sense of morality, or our emotions?). You could also have them write their own letters to the editor, while teaching proper business letter format. You could alo have them work with vocabulary and identify effective sentence structure.
Sometimes called "soft news," this section contains more light-hearted pieces intended to to entertain, inform, or instruct readers on things they will enjoy. Such pieces include:
- Entertainment. These stories might concern how movie ticket prices are increasing, what movie studios are merging, or how the local symphony is doing financially
- Human Interest. These are the "my pet dog got lost and found his way home from 200 miles away" and "People who met on MySpace match for bone marrow transplant" type stories. If someone has interesting coin collection or Civil War memorabilia, you'll find that story here
- Movie, television, music, plays reviews. Staff writers give you a heads up on what to catch on the tube, at the local cinema, concert venue, or regional theater
- Celebrity interviews. If a famous person has a new movie, CD, book, or television show to plug, chances are you'll be able to read an interview that star did in this section
- Social column (parties, fund-raisers). In these columns, staff writers follow the local goings-on among the hoi polloi. They might cover the local hospital fund-raiser, the political $1,000/plate dinner, or new restaurant opening
- This section also covers movie times, advice columns (Think Dear Abby), celebrity gossip, obituaries, and comic strips
In this section, students can write their own movie, music, or TV reviews, pull out interesting quotes from a celebrity interview, or write an article about a friend's hobby after conducting an interview. There are many opportunities in this section for the use of bubble charts, dialectecal journals (aka: T-charts), and other graphic organizers.
Although I am very poorly informed when it comes to sports, this will be some of your students' favorite section. This section includes:
- Columns. Daily or weekly signed columns will appear that give reflection, insight, and depth to current sporting issues
- News. Has your team just made a trade? Do you have a new coach. You'll read about it here
- Features. Did a local town boy or girl make it to the big leagues? Did a player overcome great adversity to continue to play? These kinds of human interest stories can also be found here in sports
- Box Scores. These are the little teeny boxes that list the scores and stats in the sports section. For some of your students, this is all they will care about
For this section, your students could use their math skills to analyze the box scores and statistics, even to predict the outcome of the season. They could write journal entries commenting on the current skill level of the hometown team. They could write a reaction to the columnist's critique of the pro quarterback. Finally, they could tackle (pun intended) a sports story of their own.
In some ways, this is the most fun section to teach. This section includes:
- Big ads for local stores
- Classified ads for items, services, roommates, and residential rental
- Help wanted ads (jobs, etc.)
Personally, I have enjoyed looking at the ads with my student and talking about word choice, graphic placement, and audience. When I saw an ad that said "Prices Slashed!" I asked them why the writer chose the word "Slashed" and we talked about connotation (The prices weren't just lower or reduced or even "cut," they were slashed--implying an absolutely violent and . approach to price reduction. Furthermore, we like to play the "Who has the weirdest thing for sale?" game. Be careful, though, during one of these games one of my students found something for sale called a "marital swing." I mumbled something about backyard B-B-Ques and moved on. You can also ask them to look at the want ads and evaluate possible job opportunities and write journal entries about their future careers.
The daily newspaper provides a wealth of information and, assuming that they are not completely supplanted by on-line news sources at some point in the future, will offer an informative, thoughtful, even entertaining way to find out what's going on in the world for years to come.
With the aforementioned tips, then, you can help your students learn to appreciate what a newspaper does and how it does it.