How to Use Newspapers to Teach Reading & Writing Skills

Newspapers are an inexpensive and valuable learning tool.
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Many people tend to think of books when it comes to teaching children how to read and write, but newspapers are equally as valuable. The main benefit to using newspapers to enhance literacy instruction is that they are current and provide up-to-date information. Newspapers are also full of rich, authentic text, which is a must when you're trying to boost your students' reading and writing skills.

1 Word Hunts

Give your students age-appropriate newspaper articles and send them on a word hunt. You can instruct the students to find as many of their spelling words as possible. Alternatively, you could ask them to hunt down as many nouns, verbs or adjectives as they can find. You can use the same concept to practice punctuation. Ask your students to find periods, commas, question marks and quotation marks within a newspaper article. Once your students are finished with their word hunt, you can then use the article as a prompt for creative writing. Ask your students to choose five words from a newspaper story and incorporate them into a fictional story that they write on their own.

2 Finish the Report

Use newspapers to help build your students' handwriting, spelling and fluency skills. Choose several age-appropriate stories and cut them in half. Give each student one half of the story and ask them to write the beginning or end of the report based on the section they've received. This will require your students to read for detail and to write with verbs, nouns, adjectives and other creative language to make their prose more interesting.

3 Vocabulary

Because newspapers are full of reflective, intellectual and authentic text, they have enormous educational potential when it comes to vocabulary. Select several age-appropriate articles and hand them out to each student. Ask them to read the selection, circling any words they don't recognize or understand. Then have the students use the dictionary to look up each word and write the definition. In addition to improving your students' reading comprehension skills, it will also build their verbal vocabulary and teach them the essential skill of using a dictionary.

4 Picture Activities

Newspaper pictures are valuable learning tools and shouldn't be overlooked. Give each of your students an age-appropriate picture that you've clipped from the newspaper and ask each to write a news report that would fit the picture. Have the students share their reports when everyone is done. Do the same with pictures of items posted for sale in the newspaper. Ask your students to read several "For Sale" advertisements in the newspaper and then write their own ad to accompany a picture you've given them.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.