Classroom sparkler - the newspaper

The writer outlines a series of language activities ranging from comprehension and grammar to vocabulary and précis – skills which can be developed using just the newspaper.

Are you a language teacher? And tired of the unchanging routine of teaching from textbooks? Then consider the newspaper your ally, and make arrangements for it to add sparkle to your classrooms on a regular basis.

This can be achieved at a nominal cost in several ways, two of which are:

(1) Make arrangements with a local paper’s circulation manager or distributor to give you, say, 40 unsold copies of Monday’s paper every Tuesday at a reduced rate;

(2) Ask students to bring the Sunday paper from their homes every Monday morning. Children could work in pairs or groups, but it would be ideal if each one had his/her own copy.

The day of the week needs to be settled in advance so that all students can be expected to come prepared. This gives the teacher enough time for lesson preparation too.

Now what do we do with these papers? How do we use them to extend horizons beyond the blinkered confines of texts and tests?

Here are a few ‘starter ideas’ mostly for English teachers (or vernacular teachers with vernacular newspapers).The rest is up to you, the level of your class, and your local situation.

1. Spelling: A prize to the student who spots the maximum number of printer’s devils. Actually, this is a ‘tricky’ but effective way to get kids to pay attention to spelling.

2. Changing tenses: Ask the class to rewrite a report of an event as if it were happening now.

3. Direct/Indirect Speech: Ask your students to rewrite a report about what happened (for example, to a hostage/a prize-winner/a passenger on a bus etc.)as a dialogue with a reporter.

4. Style of writing: Make them change a news item into a composition/short story.

5. Vocabulary Development: Have them underline 5 words on a certain page or in a particular article. Be sure they comprehend the meanings of these words as they are used in the news item. Then ask them to use the words in sentences of their own.

6. Comprehension/Getting the main idea:  First, turn off the ceiling fan! Then have students work in pairs or groups to

(a) cut out a wide variety of articles.

(b)label the back of each one ,with a number or letter of the alphabet(once on the back of  the article and then the same on the back of the headline),

(c) cut off the headlines,

(d) mix up the headlines and articles and put them in an old envelope,

(e)exchange envelopes and

(f) race to see who can first make correct pairs of the articles and headlines. With further exchanges, this may be repeated two or three times.

7. Identification of Parts of Speech: Have your students underline all the proper nouns in a particular article. You could repeat this exercise when teaching common nouns, adjectives, verbs etc.

8. Proper Sentence: Go through the classified columns and pick out a few from each category. Ask your students to rewrite the ads in full-sentences.

9. A picture Is worth a thousand words: Cut out a cartoon (you could pick a political one for older students and comics for younger ones). Paste or staple it to a sheet of paper and have the children write in a paragraph or two what the drawing conveys.

10. Precis: Get your students to condense a given article to 1/3 of its length.

11. Outlining skills: Make the students outline the main points of a major news item, like the Prime Minister’s speech, a political report or a lengthy account of the World Cup Football Tournament.

12. Persuasive Writing: Cut out ads for two different brands of the same item (T.V’s/refrigerators/long-term deposit banking schemes, etc.) and attach them to a sheet of paper. Using the points mentioned in the ads, ask students to write a paragraph persuading the reader to choose one rather than the other.

13. Letter Writing: Encourage students to write individual or class letters about current events and items of local interest and send them to the editors. If it is a class letter, it is both courteous and correct to send it through the school principal.

As you can see, with a little creativity newspapers can transform your language classes and make even grammar come alive! The students will enjoy the classes and you will too!

This article, by Mary Ann Dasgupta, first appeared in Teacher Plus, Issue No. 10, January-February 1991 and has been adapted here with changes.


Shwetapandit's picture

This is really a wonderful and readily available as well as a cheap source .Thanx Mary

Deepti Prasad's picture

Great idea! Especially the one for comprehension. Looking forward to try it out!

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